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Truth Tales

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The stories here, unusual in that six out of seven were originally written in six different Indian dialects rather than in English, reflect a correspondingly broad range of perceptions. ``The Wet-Nurse,'' a many-layered, nearly mythic tale, concerns a woman who is elevated and then ruined by traditionally honored aspects of motherhood. In ``The Dolls,'' a successful artisan resents the responsibility she has assumed for the widow and son of the man she once loved. Her attempts to free herself force her to realize that their dependence has become her substitute for love. The narrator of ``Tragedy, in a Minor Key'' is a bracingly irreverent schoolgirl who sees through the shallow ambitions of her bourgeois peers. But, she wonders, is she exchanging a comfortable future for a solitary existence, ``approaching middle age . . . dissatisfied, obstinate . . . and bitter.'' ``Midnight Soldiers,'' the only original English-language story, is a potent tale of the cycle of misery set in motion by poverty and oppression. The narrator, caught in a life of grueling labor, with a demoralized husband and ailing children, experiences her greatest tragedy at the hands of a well-meaning family planner. Compelling in their artistic power and moral integrity, these tales merit reading and re-reading. Kali for Women is a feminist publishing house in New Delhi. (Nov.)

Originally published by a New Delhi feminist publisher called Kali for Women, these seven tales by seven authors are drawn from seven Indian languages: Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, and English. Throughout, we experience the permeating essence of being a woman (whether young, middle-aged, or old) in India's paradoxical, discordant maelstrom, with interest-arousing details on India's caste/class system, occupations, and geography. The collection is of uneven merit, but three stories are especially noteworthy--``The Wet-Nurse,'' ``Midnight Soldiers,'' and ``Tiny's Granny.'' The introduction to Truth Tales, which appeared in India in 1986 and in England in 1987, is helpful but weightily academic and too explicative, and the glossary is useful but incomplete. Notes on writers are also included.-- Glenn O. Carey, Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond

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