Author: Vikram Seth and others
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Publishing Date: 20 April 2019
Love and Lust: Stories and Essays is a part of Aleph Book Company’s Olio series. The word ‘Olio’ means a miscellaneous collection of things. This series has books like Love and Lust, Notes from the Hinterland, In a Violent Land and The Essence of Delhi. They explore a variety of themes like civilisation, sexuality, beauty, tragedy etc. In Love and Lust we come across stories which probe the mysteries of love and desire.
Love and Lust has twelve stories by acclaimed writers like Vikram Seth, Kamala Das, Sadat Hasan Manto, Rajinder Singh Bedi and Ira Mukhoty to name a few. Some of these stories are stand alone and some are excerpts from the authors’ books. However, the stories in Love and Lust are not about the range of authors but about what they want to communicate to the reader. We live in a country were the girls are killed in the name of honour because they fell in love. Sexual desire and love are both looked down in most places.
The stories in Love and Lust range over a wide array of issues. For example in Kamala Das’ story, ‘A Little Kitten’, the writer portrays feminine sexual desire in myriad shades. In Vikram Seth’s story (an excerpt from A Suitable Boy) a woman from the Khatri community cannot accept the fact that her daughter is in love with a Muslim boy. We have Sadat Hasan Manto’s ‘Tang’ where the writer, in his usual style, makes us see our own hypocrisy when it comes to desire. This story is the translation of ‘Boo’.
The best story in Love and Lust is Amrita Narayanan’s ‘Stolen’. It’s portrayal of female sexuality and what a woman feels when she is in the throes of passion is powerful. Rajinder Singh Bedi’s Lajwanti is another gem in this collection. It’s a poignant tale of a woman who comes back to her husband after being abducted during the partition. K.R. Meera’s ‘The Deepest Blue’ is a story of illicit love of a middle-aged woman for a ascetic. The story has a metaphysical tone and will keep you in a trance till the end.
However, I could not connect with all the stories in Love and Lust. Ira Trivedi’s essay ‘Love Revolution and Jeet Thayil’s ‘The Book of Chocolate Saints were not relatable at all. I could not see any connection of these essays with the stories. Overall, Love and Lust worked for me as an anthology.
The Aleph Olio series is a good start to explore the works of an author you might want to read extensively. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the titles in this series.
You can read more book reviews here.