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Mukherjee, Bharati.

Markham (Ont.). Penguin. c1985. 199pp, paper, $6.95. ISBN 0-14-007930-0, (Penguin Short Fiction). CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Barbara Egerer Walker

Volume 14 Number 1
1986 January

In 1980, after fourteen years of living in Canada, and after having taken out citizenship here, Bharati Mukherjee emigrated to the United States. With her short story collection entitled Darkness, she bitterly declares why: Canada is a frightening place for East Indians to live. Violence in America, Mukherjee implies, is terrible, but at least it is democratic. In America, no one is singled out. This extraordinary group of stories is a result of her anger about Canada.

So many of the stories have a twisted ending that are like severe blows to the head. "Tamurlane" is an example of this. Cupla, a chef who employs illegal immigrants, is crippled as a result of being pushed in front of a subway train. The illegals he works with have a system of hiding places in case of a sudden raid. The ultimate hiding place is the United States. When a raid does occur, Gupta orders the Mounties out of his kitchen. The scene following involves a violent struggle that is a mockery of Gupta's decision to remain in Canada. In the Darkness stories, pain usually comes to the characters who bring too much India to America. The racial assaults become like poison and confuse the immigrants who are never quite accepted into American society. As Mukherjee has stated in her introduction, Indianness becomes a metaphor for a partial and, therefore, painful understanding. The characters in all the stories are also searching for self identity and fulfilment in their lives and the acceptance of their Indian culture and its differences in Canada and the United States. The underlying statement in Darkness seems to be the lack of feeling for Indian ways exhibited by most people, as well as the ignorance, intolerance, and racial discrimination exhibited towards Indian people.

Mukherjee is the author of two novels and a travel memoir, Days and Nights in Calcutta (Doubleday, 1977) co-authored with her husband, writer Clark Blaise."The World according to Hsu" and "Isolated Incidents," both contained in Darkness, have won major Canadian journalism awards. "Angela" has been selected for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories 1985. The stories in Darkness are haunting, real, and not easily forgotten. This important collection is a must to read.

Barbara Egerer Walker, Etobicoke P.L., Etobicoke, Ont.
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