‘The Underground Bird Sanctuary’ by Kuzhali Manickavel

This is a story about dying birds, fading love and the decline of idealism among young South Indians. Or, it’s a story about fading film posters, bus stands and toxic relationships. Manickavel is a true original, published in Granta and The White Review, and her dazzlingly imaginative stories are hard to describe. She has a characteristically surreal and absurdist take on subjects including (from her own back-cover blurb): ‘Indian culture; one Christmas story for children; no Indian culture whatsoever; men; poor people; voluntarily homeless youths; women; drugs; sex; Indian dads in cold foreign countries; vomit; boys; girl’s hostels; girls; future tense; the Tropicool Icy-Land Urban Indian Slum.’ and much more. 

First published in The Michigan QuarterlyReview, 2011 and available to read online here, and collected in Things We Found During The Autopsy, Blaft Publications, 2014

‘Ezekiel Solomon’s Shoe’ by Kuzhali Manickavel

This is the funniest and saddest story I’ve ever read, and it’s by a writer I have adored for years, not least because no one else I know does hilarity and distress in short fiction with such alchemy. The brevity is devastating, but the story is not devastating merely because it is brief. This story ostensibly centres on a single shoe, the very eccentric and unassuming Ezekiel Solomon’s shoe—and tie, and watch, and a banana spider, come to think of it—which shows up outside our man Seshadri’s bakery in Chennai. Seshadri recognises his friend’s shoe, and tries to get rid of it, but cannot, as it reappears every time he tries. There are so many ghostly stories in my personal anthology, but Manickavel’s remains a sparkling little gem amidst them all.

First published in Insects are Just Like You and Me Except Some of them Have Wings: Short Fiction, Blaft Publications, 2008