‘We Didn’t Like Him’ by Akhil Sharma

Sometimes a good story arrives in a style that appears plain and unadorned, devoid of any of the sartorial displays seen in the stories of Nabokov or Hemingway. ‘We Didn’t Like Him’ is a tale of relationships corrupted by social prejudice. Sharma writes clean and sonorous prose, making little use of visual descriptions, focusing on situations that reflect the harsh social attitudes of the narrator and his community. The narrator is an angry misanthrope, and his narrative voice has an authenticity that grows on you with each reading. The story, set in Delhi, is about his relationship with the widely disliked neighborhood bully Manshu, who grows up to become a corrupt priest and then falls prey to misfortune. The narrator’s dislike for Manshu and humanity itself is only tempered at the end of the story, when after several begrudging and angry acts of charity towards Manshu, he finally shows him some respect. All in all, it is a beautifully constructed piece, steeped in the rituals of life and death in a deeply hypocritical religious society.

First published in the New Yorker, May 27, 2013. Available online here