Big, Small - The Greatest Odia Stories Ever Told (Selected and translated by Leelawati Mohapatra, Paul St-Pierre, and K. K. Mohapatra)


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The Greatest Odia Stories Ever Told showcases Odia’s greatest storytellers ranging from literary masters such as Fakir Mohan Senapati, Gopinath Mohanty, Reba Ray, and Manoj Das to contemporary stalwarts like Pratibha Ray, and Nrusingha Tripathy, among others. A young woman who was dragged away by a crocodile mysteriously resurfaces after a decade in Manoj Das’s ‘Mrs Crocodile’; a pet goat let loose in a government office causes amusement and chaos in Gopinath Mohanty’s ‘The Solution’; Godavaris Mahapatra’s ‘Maguni’s Bullock Cart’ deals with the anxieties of a bullock cart driver stuck between the trappings of traditions and modernity—the stories in this anthology traverse an exciting range of themes from fantasy to reality, and bone-chilling horror to rib-tickling humour.

Timeless, evocative and striking, The Greatest Odia Stories Ever Told offers a rich selection of stories that are unrivalled in their range, style and complexity. Selected and translated by Leelawati Mohapatra, Paul St-Pierre, and K. K. Mohapatra, the twenty-four stories in this volume showcase the finest short fiction in Odia literature.


Leelawati Mohapatra published her debut novel, Hanging by a Tail, in 2008. She has co-translated (with K. K. Mohapatra and Paul St-Pierre) extensively from Odia into English. Her books of translation include, among others, The HarperCollins Book of Oriya Short Stories, Ants, Ghosts and Whispering Trees: An Anthology of Oriya Short Stories, J P Das: Sundardas, Fakir Mohan Senapati: The Brideprice and Other Stories, and Laxmikanta Mahapatra: Uncle One Eye.

Paul St-Pierre is a former Professor of Translation Studies at Montreal University. He has co-edited several books on translation theory and practice and has spent nearly a quarter-century collaborating with, apart from the Mohapatras, several Odia translators such as Ganeswar Mishra, Basant Kumar Tripathy, Himansu Sekhar Mohapatra, Rabindra Swain and Dipti Ranjan Patnaik. With the Mohapatras he has also recently finished a new translation of Fakir Mohan Senapati’s iconic novel, Chha Mana Atha Guntha.

K. K. (Kamalakanta) Mohapatra has written three collections of short stories, a novel, a book of non-fiction, and an autobiography. He has also translated into Odia selected stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Franz Kafka, as well as William Shakespeare’s King Lear, and collaborated with Leelawati Mohapatra and Paul St-Pierre on numerous works of translation from Odia into English.

It is the task of the translator to release in his own language that pure language that is under the spell of another, to liberate the language imprisoned in a work in his re-creation of that work.” ― Walter Benjamin

There are stories and then there are translated stories. When you read a particular work in one language, you are able to visualise its content and also relate to it largely because of the language quotient. While reading a translated work, is more like a glimpse into another world, where another language is spoken with its own set of customs and rituals. Distant and yet so familiar is how a translated work feels like.

The stories are like a one-way ticket to Orissa. While writing a story, a writer captures whatever they see around. Be it people, food, culture, festival, tradition and even nature. In these stories some of the stalwarts of Odia language have managed to capture a different glimpses of their culture and language. Through this translation, the translators have handed us a one way ticket to Orissa.

No, they are not asking us to have a look. They are actually take us along, showing us every nook and corner with abundant love and affection, telling us stories behind it all and ensuring we have a good time. That is the real feeling behind this book.

The stories are a written with engaging experimentation. The narrative is lyrical, like a song being hummed slowly. It is like one of those childhood memories which leave you feeling good irrespective of how life has been treating you otherwise. And just like those memories, you will find yourself reaching out for this book whenever you would want to read a masterpiece and bask in the magic of enthralling stories. They bring nondescript villages to live in these stories and give us the joy of having walked in those narrow lanes without a single worry in life. The innocence of life and the drastic changes one goes through when challenged, is something that needs to be witnessed in these stories.

Weaving across various these themes, these stories leave you wanting. From portrayal of women characters to depiction of utmost cruelty of life, these stories speak volumes about human apathy. The beauty of these stories lies in their simplicity which is succinct and heartwarming at the same time. Juxtaposing privilege with stark deprivation, the authors try to show us how despite the gap in their social statuses, their desires at the core of it along with their struggles remain the same. 

These stories are a treat to read with their ornate descriptions and intense emotions. Complex to simple, the reader experiences a plethora of emotions while going through these stories and these emotions stay for long, weighing heavily on a reader's psyche. Salvation by Pratibha Ray, Patadei by Binapani Mohanty,The Widow by Kamalakanta Mohapatra and Rebati by Fakir Mohan Senapati, all give us glimpses of strong women characters who are uniquely different yet at the core their stories of struggle are so similar.  

Overall, strongly recommended. This book needs to be read to understand our culture better and also witness at close quarters how beautiful some of the most simple things in life can be!