Akhil Sharma’s “We Didn’t Like Him” in The New Yorker

I found this quite a good story.  Although told in a very straightforward style, with no verbal pyrotechnics, one senses early on that there is a profound ambiguity in the relationship between narrator and his distant relative Manshu.  A clever aspect of the story, quite deliberate, is that the reader never really gets into Manshu’s head.  We have no idea what the adult Manshu is thinking.  The inarticulable feelings of the narrator deepen over time.  I think the story is partly about how an emotion like “liking” or “not liking”changes and is nuanced over time, and how that sentiment can suddenly shift through an experience of intimacy (in the sense of proximity and aloneness and action).  As a moral tale it works quite well, though it is a tiny bit contrived.

As usual The Mookse and the Gripes had a great discussion. An excerpt from Betsey:

I liked Akhil Sharma’s “We Didn’t Like Him,” whose setting is the land of death and what we do to relieve its loss. The story felt so appropriate to the day, given that I was reading it on Memorial Day, a time in my own family which had often been marked by visits to the cemetery bearing flowers. Just to think of the cemetery, though, one is confronted with confusion: so much lost, so much undone. Sharma’s story floats on these facts – what scarcities life provides us with to deal with the deprivations death enforces. Sharma’s flat tone allows him to tell both about the scarcities that death ensures, and also about the kind of sudden reversal into life and newness that we all crave.

via Akhil Sharma: “We Didn’t Like Him” | The Mookse and the Gripes.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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