Book Review: Teresa’s Man and Other Stories From Goa

teresasmanDamodar Mauzo is a Sahitya Akademi awardee, and a highly respected figure in Konkani Literature. And so, picking this book as one I really wanted to read and review was a no-brainer.

“Short stories do not say this happened and this happened and this happened. They are a microcosm and a magnification rather than a linear progression.” ― Isobelle Carmody

Teresa’s Man and Other Stories From Goa is a collection of short stories written by Mauzo over several decades. For Death Does Not Come was written in the Sixties, Bandh was written in 1987, In the Land of Humans and Happy Birthday were written in 2009, while Teresa’s Man is set in the seventies. That should give you a sense of the spread of the stories as well as what to expect from the book which is largely set in and around non-touristy Goa and Goan Lifestyle. The book has 14 stories spread over 190+ pages – crisp, short and varied.

The stories, for most part, are around the everyday lives of South Goa. From the Mouth of Babes explores, however, a Goan settled in Saudi Arabia, and is a direct contrast to what a non-Goan has come to expect from Goa and Goans. The carefree and youthfulness of the adjective Goa is replaced by a conservative outlook in a regressive environment where every outward expression of a woman is frowned upon.

The subsequent stories however cover the entire landscape of Goa – its people, their social cultures and etiquette, the topography, their survival challenges, domestic equations, abusive relationships, the inter-community interactions, the socio-political priorities, and so on. The vignettes are chosen from different points in time, and so there is no coherence to what  your overall understanding of Mauzo’s world will be. Yet, it’s a window to the Goan life told in a very simplistic and effective manner.

The stories that really stood out for me – In The Land of Humans which takes us on a journey with Halsid’du,  a cattle herder, Bandh which reminds us of the ironies of revolutions, Vighnaharta which is a simple tale of how tragedies sometimes aren’t tragedies, For Death Does Not Come which changes the perspective from living to dying and from human beings to water snakes, and Teresa’s Man which is a stark tale of love, society and domestic abuse.

Mauzo’s work in this book can draw beautiful parallels with Premchand’s short stories. The poignant overtones, the earthiness, the deep understanding of the heart and mind of the forgotten strata of the society, the sharp-edges that drives messages deeper than an average story – it’s all there. And most importantly, the storytelling is so familiar that you can feel the characters unfold around you. Do you remember/ have you seen Gulzar’s Kirdar? Yeah, something like that.

“When you read a short story, you come out a little more aware and a little more in love with the world around you.” – George Saunders

A huge amount of regional literature in India never reaches mainstream. It might be unfair to expect every book to be translated into English or Hindi, but I would still think that associations like Sahitya Akademi need to set up corpus for translating and marketing the works of regional stalwarts.

Side Note: I do think it’s unreal to expect anyone to know all the languages.

The stories, all too simple and philosophical at the same time, are beautifully rendered, and hence I have no reasons to believe that the translator has short-changed the original ones. Yet, those familiar with Konkani versions of the book may find some flaws in the contextualization and narrative.

True as it may be, Teresa’s Man is a beautifully curated collection of short stories written by a wonderful author in complete control of his craft. Highly Recommended.

Title: Teresa’s Man and Other Stories From Goa
Author: Damodar Mauzo; Transalator: Xavier Cota
Publisher/ Imprint: Rupa Publications
Pages: 200
Genre/ Sub-Genre: Fiction/ Short Stories
Rating: 4.25 of 5
Reviewed for: Publisher

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