Difficult Pleasures by Anjum Hasan
Anjum Hasan’s Difficult Pleasures has been picked up by the excellent Brass Monkeys Books, an Australian-owned publishing house that has built a terrific reputation for bringing Indian-focused titles to Australia’s attention. The work of Hasan is a worthy addition to this list.
Hasan’s collection of 13 stories, set in various Indian cities, records the universal hopes and dreams of ordinary people’s lives. Hasan writes about a woman unsure of becoming a mother in ‘Saturday Night’, and her opening story, ‘Revolutions’, is set in a revolving restaurant, and records, gently, the search for a mentor.
Hasan’s writing is elegant and has considerable restraint. There are no long descriptions of emotion brimming over; rather, the detail is in the environment. The urban setting becomes another character and seems to hold the truth of every situation depicted. I was very taken with the description of the wicker chair and the sound of silence in ‘Eye in the Sky’, the story of a woman finding solitude from her marriage. The pleasure of reading a good short story is in the perfectly formed snapshot of someone else’s experience. Hasan’s third book is filled with these moments, quietly and surely.