|Art by Chainat / Fotolio|
Two very different stories make up the May issue of Nightmare Magazine, though both have a lot to do with history and justice. One is a ghost story, though, about curses and about betrayal—about a moment of two people finding each other in the midst of corruption and loss and helping each other a little bit find some beginning of, if not full justice, at least some revenge. And the second piece is a formally innovative one about a history that has for so long been written by colonizers, and is just now starting to include the voices of those with direct ties to the history in question. Both pieces ask what justice looks like in the midst of corruption and violence. Neither necessarily reaches a full answer, but their attempts do paint a startling and rather creepy picture. To the reviews!
“Malotibala Printing Press” by Mimi Mondal (6305 words)
No Spoilers: A new sort of tradition brings groups of college boys out to the derelict Malotibala Printing Press to tell ghost stories amid the supposedly haunted stretches of what used to be a rather notorious business. What they don’t expect, though, is that the ghost stories told about the place aren’t exactly fabricated from whole cloth. There’s a truth to them, and a truth deeper than them, one that a certain friendly ghost wishes desperately to bring to the broad daylight. The piece is humorously told even as it deals with some dark subject material indeed—murder and divine retribution. It’s also, however, a story about the power of stories, and finding someone to listen to you, and working to right old wrongs. It’s tragic but also about the freedom of being able to let go old injuries and maybe move forward after so long of being trapped in place.
Keywords: Ghosts, Tigers, Murder, Printing, Betrayal
Review: Udayan Dar was murdered, something that he’s still rather peeved about years later. And I just love the tone and flow of this story, the way that Udayan is both pissed but also sort of laid back about the whole thing, still carrying this hobbyist’s attitude into the afterlife, where he’s obviously upset about what’s happened, but also somewhat resigned to it. He’s mostly given up on thinking that he’s going to get divine retribution and has contended himself to think that maybe if he could just tell people what happened, that would be enough. Even if no one believes him. Which makes his meeting with Naiwrit Ray that much more complex, because here we have two people who have been wronged, who have been murdered, and yet Naiwrit doesn’t have the same sense of...futility that Udayan seems to flirt with. Perhaps because of their respective natures, because Udayan is incorporeal, but also perhaps because despite the jungles they have both come out of, neither safer or less cut throat, Udayan is just more of a flake. Was prey. Where Naiwrit has never been that, and doesn’t allow his circumstances to turn him into that. They are both bound by who they were in life, Udayan a ghost in part because he was passive and wispy, Naiwrit something much more active, much more violent, because of his life as a tiger. Together they make for unlikely but compelling friends, able to drag a little bit of justice, or at least revenge, otu of a world that seems to deny them any agency. And it’s just a fun story, full of a wry voice and quiet melodrama that I very much appreciate. A great read!
“Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island” by Nibedita Sen (1421 words)
No Spoilers: This story builds up a history surrounding the island of Ratnabar, where the mostly women inhabitants apparently had rather unique customs. The piece is told through other texts, through quotes from books and academic papers and journalism surrounding the island and its legacy. It’s a complicated picture it pieces together, one interpreted anew by each author, each different voice trying to approach what happened with different motives and outcomes. This all wrapped in a different story, that of a young person trying to come to terms with her own heritage, crafting a report out of the broken pieces of a culture that has been largely lost due to colonial violence.
Keywords: Academia, Diaspora, CW- Cannibalism, Eating
Review: I love the construction and the narrative that forms through these brief excerpts from these fictional works. That puzzles out a history where a colonizing force massacred a settlement because of practises that were deemed evil. How members from that island were taken and “adopted” into proper British society, only for at least one to cause a major scandal when she reenacted one of her people’s rituals or customs. And the implication there is dark, unsettling, that from that one instance a much greater diaspora might have started, one that doesn’t require men at all in order to spread generation to generation. And I just love how the piece comes together, tackling the racism and classism of academia through the texts available and showing how ownvoices work largely comes outside of that space. But it all builds together to show this young person seeking to make sense of their own identity, their own place in this larger context. I do shudder to think what exactly the grade on this would be, as I can only imagine what a professor would do when faced with some of the sources. Would even this compilation be seen as something to be punished for its perceived aggression? Because it forces the gaze at a history of harm down my colonizers on people who just wanted to live their lives? It’s a layered and intricate piece, doubly impressive because of its short length, and it opens up this dark shadow, this blot on the history books that refuses to be cleaned away, that demands instead to be heard. A fantastic read!