No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories

No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories

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Overview

For readers of Jhumpa Lahiri and Rohinton Mistry, as well as Lorrie Moore and George Saunders, here are stories on the pathos and comedy of small-town migrants struggling to build a life in the big city, with the dream world of Bollywood never far away.

Jayant Kaikini’s gaze takes in the people in the corners of Mumbai—a bus driver who, denied vacation time, steals the bus to travel home; a slum dweller who catches cats and sells them for pharmaceutical testing; a father at his wit’s end who takes his mischievous son to a reform institution.

In this metropolis, those who seek find epiphanies in dark movie theaters, the jostle of local trains, and even in roadside keychains and lost thermos flasks. Here, in the shade of an unfinished overpass, a factory-worker and her boyfriend browse wedding invitations bearing wealthy couples’ affectations—”no presents please”—and look once more at what they own.

Translated from the Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana, these resonant stories, recently awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, take us to photo framers, flower markets, and Irani cafes, revealing a city trading in fantasies while its strivers, eating once a day and sleeping ten to a room, hold secret ambitions close.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

05/11/2020

In Kaikini’s tender collection, strangers encounter one another with indelible consequences in Mumbai, a city “like a mother watching wakefully over all the children asleep on her lap.” Kaikini’s talent lies in his ability to simultaneously capture the humdrum routine of his characters’ lives and plumb the depths of their desires. The opening story, “Interval,” follows two strangers seduced by their love of movies, who dream of running away together in search of their happy ending. As their plans take shape, each realizes the fantasy of their adventure would be “filled with a pleasure that the actual meeting did not have,” and in the end, the fantasy itself is enough to push them toward brave, new lives on their own. Other standouts include “Inside the Inner Room,” in which a wife helps her husband’s girlfriend through an operation and recovery, and “Toofan Mail,” where an uninsured stuntman explains why he named himself after a train. In “Crescent Moon,” a disgruntled bus driver steals a double-decker bus and drives it to his village for the annual Ganesh festival. The story brilliantly captures the “battle for dignity” faced by many of Kaikini’s characters. These stories poignantly express the characters’ feelings of triumph amid the limitations of circumstance. (July)

From the Publisher

Praise for Jayant Kaikini



Winner of the Atta Galatta–Bangalore Literature Lifetime Achievement Award for writing in Kannada

Praise for No Presents Please



Winner of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature

Joint winner of the Atta Galatta-Bangalore Literature Festival Book Prize

Paperback Paris, 1 of 29 Works of Translated Literature That’ll Whisk You Away

"In Tejaswini Niranjana’s attentive and sure-footed translation, Kaikini’s deliberately plain Kannada is adorned with Mumbai’s hybrid public language, producing a distinct sense of place, a 'territorial realism,' as she puts it in her translator’s note. Language––heard, overheard, and misheard––acts as a form of map-making, and remaking, across these sixteen stories." —Varun Nayar, A Words Without Borders Favorite International Read of the Year


"I was stirred by No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini, a surreal collection of stories about various denizens of Mumbai, all of them outsiders in some way, and their off-kilter attempts to make their way in the unforgiving city. Tejaswini Niranjana’s translation from Kannada is sharp and bitingly funny." ––Jeremy Tiang, Literary Hub


"Kaikini makes a strong case for his brand of offbeat surrealism, proving that stories need not be attractive, reassuring or conventional to land with impact." —Cade Johnson, ZYZZYVA


"Refreshing . . . Kaikini’s stories capture Mumbai as the scattered-omnipresent influence it holds on individuals living here." —Soni Wadhwa, Asian Review of Books


"A transportive experience . . . A resonant glimpse of contemporary Mumbai through a series of powerful short stories." —Vol. 1 Brooklyn


"Set against the backdrop of Mumbai's bustling cityscape, No Presents Please reveals the isolation, beauty and yearning inherent in modern Indian life . . . With an empathetic eye and evocative language trained on the ubiquitous qualities of the human experience, Kaikini guides readers to a sense of community and connection with his characters . . . It's well worth a read." —Debbie Morrison, BookBrowse


"All of these stories, culled from Kaikini’s work between 1986 and 2006, are set in Mumbai, but the breadth of their subject matter speaks both to the diversity of the metropolis and his reach as a writer . . . His style and themes will have a familiar ring for Western audiences; there are echoes of Jhumpa Lahiri and George Saunders. But his vision of a bustling city, his sense of its drama and magical moments, is his own. A welcome introduction of a commanding writer to a wider audience." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


"In No Presents Please, Jayant Kaikini cracks open with tender care an extraordinary city, bursting with the ambitions of people who are anything but ordinary. In Kaikini’s deft hands, Mumbai comes to life, exquisitely rendered, as much of a character as anyone else." —Neel Patel, author of If You See Me, Don't Say Hi


"As Invisible Cities was Calvino’s ode to Venice, Jayant Kaikini’s No Presents Please is a love letter to Mumbai—its citizens, their struggles and triumphs. The language and cast of characters combine to offer readers a bouquet of rough diamonds and freshwater pearls." —Devi S. Laskar, author of The Atlas of Reds and Blues


"Like a glimpse into a crowd in which each face suddenly becomes clear, No Presents Please brilliantly illuminates ordinary lives in the modern world." —Maxim Loskutoff, author of Come West and See


"Jayant Kaikini’s stories are like portals opening from the routines of our lives into the unusual and mysterious, where everything contains unseen possibilities. For the outsiders in these stories, even the act of dreaming feels rebellious. A wonderful, and wonderfully translated, collection of stories." —Akil Kumarasamy, author of Half Gods


"This Mumbai is not a distantly observed city. Kaikini is right there, in the midst of it, rubbing shoulders with his people, intuiting their lives and emotions through skin-touch.”—Shanta Gokhale, Mumbai Mirror


“Dense with details and gentle observations, these stories explore the lives of people we see without seeing, every single day. . . . Kaikini examines these small but brave lives with deep sympathy. He captures their voices with unerring humour; conjures up their world with exquisite precision; and recreates the strange blend of anonymity and intimacy that is so characteristic of this teeming megapolis by the sea.”—Shabnam Minwalla, The Hindu


“The collection affirms Kaikini as one of the most influential writers today.”—Nikhil Govind, The Times of India

Kirkus Reviews

★ 2020-05-04
A sampler of work by a veteran Indian writer with a talent for exposing the irony and humor in everyday lives.

All of these stories, culled from Kaikini’s work between 1986 and 2006, are set in Mumbai, but the breadth of their subject matter speaks both to the diversity of the metropolis and his reach as a writer. He can be intimate, as with the young man in “Interval” planning to run away with his girlfriend or the man in “Partner” thrust into caring for his suddenly ill roommate. He has a fine grasp of twists and comedy: The picture framer in “Unframed” is torn over whether he should lend abandoned family portraits (“like prisoners no one comes to visit”) to a theater that wants them as props while the steed in “Dagadu Parab’s Wedding Horse” has gone loose, calamitously unraveling the relationship between two brothers and the man who loaned the animal. And he can tell sweeping stories within tight confines: In “Water,” two men at personal crossroads spend the night together in a taxi when a massive storm drenches the city, and the young woman in “Mogri’s World” gets a crash course in city life while working at a restaurant. Kaikini’s heroes are usually stymied in their efforts to improve their stations. Still, the mood he conjures is often on the optimistic side of ambiguity, exemplified by the poor couple in the closing title story that strives to select the best invitations for their wedding. Niranjana’s translation from the Kannada thoughtfully weaves native phrases with their translations, removing the need for a glossary and immersing readers in Kaikini’s world. His style and themes will have a familiar ring for Western audiences; there are echoes of Jhumpa Lahiri and George Saunders. But his vision of a bustling city, his sense of its drama and magical moments, is his own.

A welcome introduction of a commanding writer to a wider audience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781948226905
Publisher: Catapult
Publication date: 07/28/2020
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 282,542
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Customer Reviews