Hugo Finalist: And Now His Lordship Is Laughing • 2019 • magic realism short story by Shiv Ramdas


Synopsis:  Apa is an old woman who lives in 1943 in rural India near Midnapur. She practices the art of making magical dolls out of jute fiber, but this art will be lost because no one wants to learn it any more. Only her nephew Nilesh helps her in small ways. One day, a captain approaches her and asks for one of those dolls for the Governor of Bengal’s wife which she refuses.

Some time later, conditions worsen as people starve because the British army takes all the food to supply their troops. Nilesh dies and Apa is also nearly starved, when the captain comes again, rescuing her and asking her again for a doll.

Review: The Bengal famine of 1943, governor John Herbert, and the Denial of Rice Policy and the Denial of Boat Policy builds the historical context for this story. The author weaves a fascinating story with deep textures about Indian culture around this history.  I greatly enjoyed this fresh, unknown and exotic look at India.

The story itself wasn’t complex and ended quite predictively as a revenge narration. Its lyrical prose staid on the quiet side, never turning into action.

I liked the story nonetheless and recommend reading it.

Meta: isfdb. It is available online at StrangeHorizons and I’ve read it as part of the Hugo and Nebula Award finalists.


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