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'The Orphanage for Words': Dealing with loss

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Dealing with words that once used to mean much but do not anymore and are now banished from the tongue is the subject of author Shinie Antony's latest collection of short stories.

"The Orphanage for Words" documents the unsaid, what is forgotten, spoken long ago and means nothing anymore, like the bad, bad poetry of first love or old yellowing letters at the bottom of a trunk.

The idea of the book came to Antony out of a general feeling of being cheated. "This happens to everyone of course, one fine day your world is robbed of those who people it,""she says.

She sees the last story in the collection, a brilliant monologue on words per se, as a fitting finale to the book.

"Words come and words go. They make it into dictionaries, they are booted out of dictionaries. Even the dearest words, like 'dad' and 'darling', are alive only in the present tense. Once we are done with them, once a father is no more or a lover has set up home elsewhere with someone else, we ban these words. So where do they go, that's the question," Antony told PTI.

Most of the stories in the book, published by Rupa, deal with relationships.

"We are made up of this person and that, what we heard and what we said, whom we look through and whom we are faithful to. What we want to be seen as, what we really are. And we constantly work backwards to that moment when something could have gone either way - that's the high drama of being human," she says.

Asked what is common to the stories in "The Orphanage for Words", the Bengaluru-based author says, "It is a forced, artificial thing, to hunt up themes in collections, more a publisher concern than writer. But I did feel a sense of futility while writing them, like repeating a word so many times that it no longer makes sense."

Antony, who won the Commonwealth Short Story Asia region prize in 2003, has written three other books of short stories - "Barefoot and Pregnant", "Seance on a Sunday Afternoon" and "Planet Polygamous". She has also compiled the anthologies, "Kerala, Kerala, Quite Contrary" and "Why We Don't Talk".

On whether she is more comfortable with short stories, she says, "Within the defined distances of short fiction I am more ready to give up control.

First Published: Wed, July 22 2015. 14:22 IST
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