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.

Chris Gordon is the Events Manager for Readings and is a committee member of The Stella Prize.