Translated by Jenny Bhatt
The Shehnai Virtuoso and Other Stories brings together the first substantial collection of Dhumketu's work to be available in English, beautifully translated for a wide new audience by Jenny Bhatt.
Publication Date: July 26, 2022
When Dhumketu's first collection of short stories, Tankha, came out in 1926, it revolutionized the genre 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.
The Shehnai Virtuoso brings together the first substantial collection of Dhumketu's work to be available in English. Beautifully translated for a wide new audience by Jenny Bhatt, these much-loved stories — like the finest literature — remain remarkable and relevant even today.
Dhumketu was the pen name of Gaurishankar Govardhanram Joshi (1892 1965), one of the foremost writers in Gujarati and a pioneer of the short story form. He published twenty-four short story collections and thirty-two novels on social and historical subjects, as well as plays, biographies, memoirs, translations, travelogues, literary criticism, etc. Dhumketu was a contemporary of Rabindranath Tagore, Munshi Premchand, and Saadat Hasan Manto, and his contributions to Indian literature are just as wide-ranging and groundbreaking.
Jenny Bhatt is a writer, translator and book reviewer. Her short story collection, Each of Us Killers, was critically well-received. Her writing has appeared in venues like The Atlantic, NPR, BBC Culture, The Washington Post, Literary Hub, Longreads, The Millions, Electric Literature, and others. Born in Gujarat, India, and raised in Bombay, India, she now resides in Texas, USA.
“Dhumketu is a wonderfully gripping storyteller . . . Bhatt has certainly done him justice in this excellent selection.” —Jennifer Croft, translator of The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk
“The translator . . . follows each dip and tremor in the narrative flow with practised ease and linguistic flair . . .” —N Kalyan Raman, translator of Story of a Goat by Perumal Murugan
“A love letter to the power of art and the human spirit . . . These stories invite readers to rediscover the wonder in the quotidian.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Complex characters, vibrant imagery, and descriptions of rural Gujarat State bolster each of the stories. Readers are in for a treat.” —Publishers Weekly
“Jenny Bhatt transposes the lushness of life as described by [Dhumketu] . . . in new, important, florid, and disciplined renderings.” —Rajiv Mohabir, translator of I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara by Lalbihari Sharma
“A selection of treasures from Dhumketu’s profound stories . . .” —Thomas Hitoshi Pruiksma, translator of The Kural by Tiruvalluvar
“[Jenny Bhatt’s] translation of Dhumketu’s prose is relaxed and even-toned, never slipping into performativity. The translator is deeply engaged with the context of each story and follows each dip and tremor in the narrative flow with practised ease and linguistic flair…With this collection, Jenny Bhatt drives home a fact that is not often recognized in the milieu, that the translator is also a literary explorer and evangelist whose initiative in selecting works of important writers and presenting them in another language is unique in the world of publishing, and deserves acknowledgement and recognition.” —N. Kalyan Raman, translator of Stories of a Goat
“Dhumketu coming to the US in English is a wonder I am thrilled to witness. In these stories, writer and translator Jenny Bhatt transposes the lushness of life as described by the author—adept in both rural and urban settings where life folds and unfolds. As Dhumketu says, ‘dexterity, humility and imagination’ are required of the writer, but we see these clearly as the translator’s work as Bhatt ushers in new, important, florid, and disciplined renderings.” —Rajiv Mohabir, author of Cutlish and Antiman: A Hybrid Memoir
“[A] revelation: we hope that several other writers like Dhumketu, who are almost unknown to the English-speaking world, will soon be made available in translation.” —The Hindu
“How do you hold the gaze long enough on a spark, the ‘tankha’? Dhumketu’s stories appeared in Gujarati literature like sparks, or comets, lighting up the sky, creating desire to hear more, and see more. Generations in Gujarat have grown up on Dhumketu’s stories. Although not the first, Dhumketu is the most renowned short story writer. Jenny Bhatt’s labor in understanding, contextualizing, interpreting and translating him deserves our gratitude and attention. Without translations, we would be living a self-absorbed life, not learning about anyone else in the world!” —Rita Kothari
“The brilliant and prolific writer, Dhumketu, is an integral part of the Gujarati canon. Jenny Bhatt’s empathetic and intuitive translations convey the signature and nuance of his short stories, and make this iconic voice available for readers around the world.” —Namita Gokhale
“Dhumketu wrote nearly 500 short stories and this beautifully translated, brilliant and glittering collection from his oevre will go a long way in reminding readers about one of the finest short-story writers from India.” —Aruni Kashyap
“A comet that flew through other linguistic skies now visits the Anglophone firmament. Train your telescopes, ladies and gentlemen, Dhumketu is here!” —Jerry Pinto