Short Stories by Premchand is a must-read for everyone and the author is a highly revered author. A lot is said and written about him. He is so versatile that he has authored on various subjects.
There is a diverse array of characters that are his brain-child. And also the different formats of writing that he has used.
The most appreciated, and popular form of his writing are short stories. And, we must thank the publisher – Penguin Books for bringing around 300 short stories to us in a 4 volume compilation.
The works of Premchand are translated into many languages. But, the English translation brought to us in these four volumes is worth applause.
The simplicity of Premchand’s writing and profound meanings of his stories are intact.
Premchand short stories have never been tough to understand. For even those with most basic Hindi knowledge would be able to make out the clear inferences.
However, this is not precisely true for the English version. For Premchand’s English audience it requires efforts to understand the trivial things.
The context of most of his stories still stands relevant and authentic. Indian society, especially the villages, have not undergone much social change.
Short stories by Premchand stay contextual, even now, and will remain so for a long time.
If you are looking for a read that offers you deep meanings. Or the stories straight from the heart of India, and it’s villages, Premchand short stories is the ideal choice for you.
Introduction to the Author: Premchand
Munshi Premchand (1880-1936) was born with a name Dhanpat Rai Srivastav, in Lamhi, near Benares. He is one of the greatest fiction writers in Hindi.
He wrote in Urdu under the pen name Nawab Rai. His short stories collection “Soz-e-Watan” was seized for revolution in 1909. After that, he started writing under the pen name Premchand.
His career spanned across three decades. Premchand wrote in a variety of genres and touched on a multiplicity of topics.
All his work have had a deep impact on literature and society. Munshi Premchand wrote 14 novels, 2 plays, and various short stories.
He wrote several reviews, articles, and editorials too. He also set up his printing press with a name Saraswati Press.
Premchand never had enough money during his life. His struggle finds expression in his widely appreciated stories about the horrors of poverty.
He is amongst the most translated authors. His works gathered appreciation from a broad base of audiences.
List of Prechand Books:
- Karmabhoomi (1932)
- Gaban (1931)
- Godan (1936)
- Nirmala (1938)
- Mazdoor (1934) – A film script
- Qalam Tyag Aur Talwar (Essay)
Short Stories by Premchand Book Review
“Beautifully written, efficiently translated and edited to perfection.”
What the book holds for its readers depends solely on what the readers seek from the book. If you are here for a glimpse of the villages of India, you will get real, life-like representation.
The characters, right from Bhungi to Budiya, to Praveen, Ramu, Ishwari, and all others are real. And so are the stories of their lives in rural India.
If you are looking for the essence of life here, you will find that too; you just have to look between the lines.
Now, what you get from the Premchand’s short stories also depends on your language skills. The translators have done a commendable job.
They have succeeded in bringing the essence of the story from Hindi or Urdu to English with minimal damage.
However, if you know these languages, specific references would become much more apparent and would offer more in-depth insights.
The names of the characters, their titles and a few other words from the original texts play a pivotal role in the presentation of the story. Such details have been kept intact.
And, the basic knowledge of the original language of these stories would add meaning. The extra understanding of such language would fill up quite a few gaps in understanding.
Irrespective of your age, Premchand’s Short Stories make for an impressive read.
You might feel that some character descriptions and narrations end mid-sentence. But, that soon gets compensated when you read the next chapter.
This way you get engrossed in another story. You also get the liberty to tie the loose ends together in your way
The Relevance of Premchand
The basics of literature state that it is nothing but a mirror of society. Premchand follows this principle to the core.
Whatever he has written, it showed the real face of society at that time. Many readers question the relevance of classic pieces of literature. But, you will not have such a complaint with Premchand.
His works are timeless in the most real sense of the term. Even decades later, short stories by Premchand continue to capture the essence of rural India. And the looming issues that are rising in rural India.
Maybe this is a result of the fact that India is yet free itself from the demons of the past. Or Premchand’s prolific ability as a writer to write what will stand the test of time is for the reader to decide.
In history, morality, character building, politics, and many other streams of academic knowledge. Nevertheless, they are important lessons.
The date might have changed, and Indian cities might have come a long way. But the relevance of Premchand’s works has not changed a bit. The stories remain soul-stirring today as well.
The extremely simple language makes it easy for readers of all age groups and literary inclinations to be able to read and understand the works.
Social issues like poverty, caste-based discrimination, the desires of human minds, and the greed for love and belongings are all the same.
It does not matter in what era, or in what social environment you read the works of Premchand. The simple fact that his words have a relevant and deep meaning in them stands true.
Translation of Premchand Short Stories
Literary translation does not mean to change the wording from one language to another. It is important to keep the soul of the story alive.
For most stories in this book, the translators have done an excellent job. The editor, M. Assasudin also deserves a special mention. For he has kept the essence of Premchand alive.
If you are a native English speaker reading the works of Premchand for the first time, you feel there is inconsistency in his writings.
But, let that thought not hold you back from truly appreciating his writings. Premchand’s writing style has also evolved over time. And a little bit of the translator’s style of writing can also be a cause for this.
However, if you read Premchand’s works in Hindi or Urdu, you are in for a little disappointment. Urdu was his first love, and the way he has written in Urdu is something that isn’t possible to translate.
Even his Hindi writings have a certain flow that the English translations couldn’t match.
It could be because of his stories, which are based in rural India. And the language of rural India best portrays those stories.
The translators are not to blame for this. For all those who have no choice but to read the English renditions, this collection of short stories is a perfect choice.
But, if you can read him in the language that he used to write, you can ditch this one and grab a copy of the Hindi or Urdu version.
Story-lines in the Stories by Premchand
Five underlying themes can be identified in almost all works of Premchand.
- Poverty and Greed
- Caste System and the oppression emanating from it
- Male-female relations, the complexities and many facets of marital life
- The British Raj and the struggle for Independence and
- The plight of women.
These short stories are no different. The storyline brings all these factors together. It binds them as seamlessly as they intertwine in society.
Premchand has always been against caste oppression and the ill-treatment of women. His stories reflect the plight of the oppressed.
He had never been able to amass huge wealth and lived in poverty for most of his life. The struggles that come bundled with poverty also are the base for most of his storylines.
In some of his works, you see a sudden change. The women struggle and become independent.The poor find a way to tackle the shackles which restrain him, and change of heart happens.
When he talks about the struggles of the common man during the fight for Independence, you can see how the Indian battle was not just with foreigners but with their society as well.
The Aam Aadmi of Bharat suffered at the hands of two oppressors. Those from their land and the ones who came from across the world
It is in such stories that you see how hard he has tried to bring even an ounce of change in society through his words,
And not without impact. Premchand’s stories have inspired and even shaped to a certain extent more generations than one.
The storylines in the book are all very simple, raw, and yet heart-touching at the same time. There is nothing that can be called a fragment of his fiction.
What do I like the Most in Premchand’s stories?
Here are the four things that I absolutely loved about the book
The raw stories: There is no sugar coating. There is nothing that doesn’t really exist. Premchand’s short stories are NOT a piece of fiction. They show the real India, with no façade.
The well-defined characters: Most short stories have a shortcoming that the character development is weak. In an attempt to quickly get over with the plot, the characters remain unexplained.
Premchand did not miss that. His characters are very well-formed. The names of the characters also add a layer of definition to them.
The hope amidst the gloom: A majority of the stories in this collection have an end that is not happy. However, that does not mean the readers lose hope.
The narrative is such that it makes you feel a change is on its way. Just reading the stories make you feel like something within you has changed for the better. And when you think that, you also know that the more audience he gathers the closer the world is to change.
Flawed characters: Not just the antagonists, but even the Premchand’s protagonists have flaws. Just like all of us. In trying times, the sheer strength of the character’s conscience is what saves them from going rogue.
But, the mention of their shortcomings makes us feel that it is okay to have flaws sometimes.
If we don’t fall short on our moral duties, some flaws are acceptable. This form of self-acceptance that Premchand brings in front of the readers in need in the present society.
What I didn’t Like
There is nothing to not like about the book. From the language to the characters, to the storylines and even the translations, have not even a speck to complain about.
The only downside?
The feel. If you are acquainted with Premchan’s style of writing, and you have read him in Urdu or Hindi, you will never feel at home with any other language.
If you are new to the world of Premchand, this wouldn’t be an issue for you.
For others, try and keep your bias aside and look at these stories from a fresh perspective. The popularity of Premchand’s work is such that you must have read some of these stories before.
And keeping those aside, you will have a great time reading the other ones.
Best Premchand Quotes
Rationality lacks romance, pleasure, and the feeling of weightlessness.
Today, I learnt the fundamental principle that a life dedicated to literature is complete asceticism.
Tumhey ghairon se kab fursat
Humein apney gham se kab fursat
Chalo, bas ho chuka milna
Na tum khali na hum khali
(You are busy entertaining strangers
Lost in grief am I;
So, this much is for our union
Neither you’re free, nor am I)
Love, when it comes along with devotion, is like a guest who comes with a gift. Youthful love is extravagant while the love of sages—or those who are close to being sages—gets them something more in return. Where youths use expensive gifts to impress, sages manage it through mere blessings.
The high and mighty have wealth, while the low and humble have a heart.
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If you love to read short stories, I would recommend you to read The Greatest Bengali Stories Ever Told.