Leelawati Mohapatra, Paul St-Pierre, K. K. Mohapatra
Aleph Book Company
November 2, 2019
Final Verdict

About the Author

Leelawati Mohapatra published her debut novel, Hanging by a Tail, in 2008. She has co-translated (with K. K. Mohapatra and Paul St-Pierre) extensively from Odia into English. Her books of translation include, among others, The HarperCollins Book of Oriya Short Stories, Ants, Ghosts and Whispering Trees: An Anthology of Oriya Short Stories, J P Das: Sundardas, Fakir Mohan Senapati: The Bride price and Other Stories and Laxmikanta Mahapatra: Uncle One Eye.

Paul St-Pierre is a former Professor of Translation Studies at Montreal University. He has co-edited several books on translation theory and practice and has spent nearly a quarter-century collaborating with, apart from the Mohapatras, several Odia translators such as Ganeswar Mishra, Besant Kumar Tripathy, Himansu Sekhar Mohapatra, Rabindra Swain and Dipti Ranjan Patnaik. With the Mohapatras he has also recently finished a new translation of Fakir Mohan Senapati’s iconic novel, Chha Mana Atha Guntha. K. K. (Kamalakanta) Mohapatra has written three collections of short stories, a novel, a book of non-fiction and an autobiography. He has also translated into Odia selected stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Jean-Paul Sartre and Franz Kafka, as well as William Shakespeare’s King Lear and collaborated with Leelawati Mohapatra and Paul St-Pierre on numerous works of translation from Odia into English.

The Greatest Odia Stories Ever Told, by Leelawati Mohapatra, Paul St-Pierre & K.K Mohapatra

In his preface to the Greatest Odia Stories Ever Told, K.K Mohapatra humbly admits, “It is impossible to convey the richness and variety of a century-old tradition of short story writing within the compass of a single anthology, let alone select the greatest stories ever told.

But as a reader, I can testify to the fact that as far as translated works go, the translators have attempted to maintain the authenticity and the flavour of life at the time when the stories were first written. The anthology is made up of 24 carefully curated stories, representative of some of the finest works of Odia literature.

These 24 stories are an eclectic mix of tales that span across genres of romance, fantasy and, politics. They encompass the complexities and simplicities native to folk tales, that were a big part of the oral literary traditions of India.

Flavours of India

Each tale in the Greatest Odia Stories Ever Told captures the essence of rural India, both colonial and early post-independence. In Mohapatra Nilamoni Sahoo’s Modern India, we are transported to the Gandhian era, the days of Satyagraha through the eyes of a curious, young village chap. Similarly, in A River Called Democracy by Akhil Mohan Patnaik, the writer explores the growing pains of a newly independent nation, where one man’s struggle against perceived injustice is rewarded by a government that is plagued by corruption.

Superstitions are of tremendous importance in some parts of India and in stories like The Holy Banyan Tree and The Tale of The Snake Charmer, the writers Bamacharan Mitra and Chandrasekhar Rath respectively explore superstitions associated with ghosts that live in trees and snake charmers who turn into snakes under the cover of night. Since sanyasis and godmen are an intrinsic part of Indian culture, Jagannath Prasad Das’s The Mantra is a cautionary tale on the perils of blindly trusting grifters like the Sanyasi in the story.


As mentioned before, the anthology spans all genres of literature. There is the heart-breaking Rebati, the tale of a young girl, yearning for both love and education, who waits patiently for the man she has fallen in love with till her very last breath.

In Manoj Das‘s Mrs Crocodile, a young girl is dragged into a waterbody by a crocodile and mysteriously resurfaces ten years later, earning herself the nickname Mrs Crocodile and the curiosity of a young man and a British professor. And the retelling of her life weaves a tale of surrealism and fantasy.

Stories like Ghania Celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi carry a strong social message especially since it tackles a topic as sensitive as caste discrimination.

I most enjoyed reading Gopinath Mohanty‘s The Solution, in which an overworked employee unleashes his seemingly harmless pet goat on his office files. All the short stories featured in the anthology seem to traverse across a myriad of themes “from fantasy to reality, and bone-chilling horror to rib-tickling humor.”

The translators of the Greatest Odia Stories seem to have curated a set of stories that cover all the bases and are sure to entertain all readers. Each writer weaves together a tale of intrigue, with a vividity that will draw the readers in, and for their part, the translated versions have retained this essence and deserve due credit.

Final Verdict: A great work of translation that captures the soul of Odia culture through its literary tradition. The presence of multiple genres also guarantees that there’s something for everybody.

Akhila Menon

Akhila Menon

Akhila is a connoisseur of hurriedly written poems and random facts. She is often found in the natural habitat of her bed with an open laptop or earmarked book, headphones in and a scalding mug of hot chocolate.

2 Responses

  1. A lovely review. Anthologies always make a great read for there is a small slice of everything in it. Definitely sounds like an eclectic bunch of tales, hope to read this soon .

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