Essence of Camphor Kindle ☆ Essence of eBook Õ

Essence of Camphor Hauntingly beautiful short stories with strong affinities to Kafka and Borges, by one of the most enthralling voices to emerge from India


About the Author: Naiyer Masud

Naiyer Masud 1936 2017 was an Urdu scholar and Urdu language short story writer.Naiyer Masud was born in 1936 in Lucknow He did two separate PhD degrees in Urdu and Persian, and was a professor of Persian at Lucknow University He started publishing his fictional work in the 1970s, of which four collections have appeared so far Two collections of selected stories have appeared in English translation as Essence of Camphor and Snake Catcher, the former later also translated into Finnish, French, and Spanish Besides fiction, he has several volumes of critical studies of classical Urdu literature to his credit and has also translated Kafka and numerous contemporary Iranian short stories In 1977 he visited Tehran at the invitation of the Ministry of Culture, Government of Iran He was the recipient, in 2008, of India s highest literary award, the 17th Saraswati Samman.



10 thoughts on “Essence of Camphor

  1. Jim Fonseca Jim Fonseca says:

    A collection of short stories from India with a lot of local color I ll call them mood stories a lot of atmosphere but very little plot In the title story, a young, artistic man grows up observing his neighbors and neighborhood and develops a crush on a young woman who is dying He mainly sees her on family visits and makes artistic gifts for her This is old India, so it s not like they are going to run up to the bedroom and close the door Another story is a bit of a ghost story focused o A collection of short stories from India with a lot of local color I ll call them mood stories a lot of atmosphere but very little plot In the title story, a young, artistic man grows up observing his neighbors and neighborhood and develops a crush on a young woman who is dying He mainly sees her on family visits and makes artistic gifts for her This is old India, so it s not like they are going to run up to the bedroom and close the door Another story is a bit of a ghost story focused on an old house Another is almost a medieval tale of a laborer who steals a peacock for his daughter from the royal zoo In another story, a death leads to a family melee over the deceased s jewelry There is some elegant writing but little action or even psychological depth The stories are translated from Urdu, the language of Pakistan, but these tales are set in northeast India where that language is also spoken


  2. Anirban Nanda Anirban Nanda says:

    I came to know about Naiyer Masud some months ago when I read about his sad demise in a few literary conscious online sites Recently I started wondering about why our curiosity about a writer s work suddenly escalates when he becomes out of reach Articles with ten best stories and so forth popped out within days I looked up about his writing online and read a few pages in thepreview and I was very impressed It was an unpleasant surprise of discovery and joy It was unpleasant because I came to know about Naiyer Masud some months ago when I read about his sad demise in a few literary conscious online sites Recently I started wondering about why our curiosity about a writer s work suddenly escalates when he becomes out of reach Articles with ten best stories and so forth popped out within days I looked up about his writing online and read a few pages in thepreview and I was very impressed It was an unpleasant surprise of discovery and joy It was unpleasant because what I was looking for had been right there, the things I find absent in most of the great stuff had already been so nicely written by an Indian writer who had been alive all this while I found his short story collection The Essence of Camphor in my local Sahitya Academy library which had come out in 1998 and immediately started with it It contains nine short stories and one novella, all beautifully translated from the original Urdu The first story, which is the title story is about the innocence of childhood and how a scent can be evocative, even if it is not a powerful one The boy in this story tries to imitate a kafoori sparrow but couldn t exactly imitate no matter how many times he try During this he develops the art of making intricate objects from clay His diligent effort reminds a neighbouring girl of her childhood and soon they become friends But she has been suffering from an incurable ailment Now here Masud tries to evoke the abstract by constantly reminding the reader that there is something special about the perfume made from camphor and that particular scent is the scent of death He does it so confidently that even a cold, rainy afternoon can incite a strange forlornness in the reader We sometimes feel something and try to link it to something entirely absurd When an author identifies similar things and writes them down in a fictional form, the resulting work unsettles the reader I felt vulnerable as if the author has touched something raw in me I had a similar feeling when I read Clarice Lispector s stories for the first time In Interregnum , which is one my favourite stories in the collection, a father son relationship has been shown in ways I seldom see Of course, there are books like The Master of Petersburg that can challenge the above statement, but there is something entirely different in this story The motherless son is possessive about his father from a very early age His father is a mason, he designs patterns and makes sculptures The son would hide his tools every day and he has to beat him up to let him go to work Thus their chemistry changes with time and nearly in the end, in one afternoon, the father met an accident He was bedridden for weeks And there is this passage After he was seated, supported by several pillows, he became absorbed in thought Never before had he seemed to me to be a thinking individual But now, as he sat propped up against a pile of pillows, dressed in clean and proper clothes, he was in deep thought And, for the first time I considered the possibility that he might be my real father That passage hit me I was in awe, to be honest Sheesha Ghat was another story that dwells on a similar theme Another story I really liked is called Obscure Domains of Fear and Desire I read a preview of this story before inAnd upon finishing the story, it turned out to be strangely dreamy Throughout, his techniques have been similar You always feel that the author is talking about something out of your reach or grasp I remember V.S Naipaul once advising young writers to not go for the abstract, and go for preciseness and clarity I believe he meant to say only the skilled and the gifted people should try to handle the abstract ideas in their writings Not all his stories are like this The Myna from Peacock Garden is a simple tale of a father trying to fulfil the wish of his daughter In all his stories, I found his prose to be clear and precise Masud was a gifted writer and he wrote about stuff no one writes about I hope his works get translated inlanguages, especially now that he is no


  3. Jonathan Jonathan says:

    I think it s best to simply copy and paste my review for the Masud collection entitled Snake Catcher , as all the same remarks apply to this book as well Even to rate this book seems inappropriate Masud is a brilliant writer I don t know what he writes But I m glad I have read it Every little sentence is so simple and makes so much sense But when you put the simple little sentences together, none of the stories make any sense at all Not that it s clear that Masud ever meant them too If I think it s best to simply copy and paste my review for the Masud collection entitled Snake Catcher , as all the same remarks apply to this book as well Even to rate this book seems inappropriate Masud is a brilliant writer I don t know what he writes But I m glad I have read it Every little sentence is so simple and makes so much sense But when you put the simple little sentences together, none of the stories make any sense at all Not that it s clear that Masud ever meant them too If nothing else, these stories highlight the ambiguity of life in a manner that makes all other literature seem false and contrived by comparison


  4. Michael Norwitz Michael Norwitz says:

    Anthology of short stories from an Indian writer The scenarios hold some initial interest but I found the protagonists universally annoying and the ending of each story perplexing Perhaps they suffered in translation.


  5. Julie Julie says:

    I m learning that it s OK not to understand every story It s the ambiance and feeling that s evoked that matters.


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