The Shehnai Virtuoso brings together the first substantial collection of Dhumketu's work to be available in English. A legend of Gujarati literature, Dhumketu revolutionized the short story in India. Characterized by a fine sensitivity, deep humanism, perceptive observation, and an intimate knowledge of both rural and urban life, his fiction has provided entertainment and edification to generations of Gujarati readers and speakers.
Through this depth and breadth, the author sheds light on the sociocultural totems prevalent during his time—many that remain common today—via the intimate perspectives of individual lives, welcoming readers back to a slower time to unshroud the various, powerful details pervading the day to day ... It is up to the reader to extend the message of the story, using their own thoughts and experiences to exercise its full potentialities ... In her translation, Jenny Bhatt invites the reader into Dhumketu’s world as an expert guide; not only does her introduction draw a map—complete with instructions on how to understand its complexities—but she remains present throughout the text, conducting the reader through any unfamiliar history, culture, and language via footnotes and a glossary ... A kaleidoscope, abundant in variegating depictions of both landscapes and the human interiors populating them ... In each story, be it through the vibrant description of person or place, Dhumketu encourages his readers to look further at the small aspects of life and to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.
A compelling introduction to one of the leading authors in the Gujarati language ... A large part of Dhumketu’s skill is his ability to have political circumstances propel the narrative forward, allowing commentary on ethics, justice, and morality while seldom naming these concepts ... Nuanced yet cutting ... Dhumketu’s focus on universal human traits through the lens of romantic attachments, the societal oppression of individuals, and the beauty of the natural world makes these stories, first published from 1926 to 1964, relevant to readers in twenty-first-century America ... So much of Dhumketu’s work, displays a striking ability to understand a woman’s experience of the world ... Jenny Bhatt’s skillful translation takes advantage of the unique place that English occupies on the subcontinent ... Dhumketu’s stories are full of small, transportative jewels ... To read Dhumketu is to be reminded of the ways in which the short story can be stretched and shaped organically, while always remaining true to its exquisite form.
While some more bibliographic information about the individual stories and Dhumketu's publishing history would have been welcome, the stories are the point here ... Dhumketu is no mere imitator, developing his own style and voice in also building on local tradition and experience ... The more than two dozen stories do offer quite a variety ... Dhumketu shows considerable range. He is clearly a talented story-writer ... There is no question that The Shehnai Virtuoso is a very welcome—and long overdue—introduction to a significant writer, from a language and tradition from which only a smattering has previously been accessible to English-speaking readers. This is a generous, wide-ranging selection, offering a very good variety—an excellent sampler, even if it only offers one-twentieth (!) of the author's story-output alone.