A note on the issue: Should have, could have, can

Fiction is an escape, but it is also the element of truth within the world that writers create that make their stories so compelling

At the end of a session with bookstore owners at the Bangalore Literature Festival last month, nearly everyone in the audience raised a hand when the moderator asked, “Who wants to own a bookstore?” To be surrounded by stories, real and fictional, seems to be the stuff of everybody’s dreams. That’s something we can all relate to at Lounge, and so, it doesn’t seem an indulgence to us to devote the first issue of the year entirely to fiction.

There are people who will tell you that they don’t have time for fiction; it’s fanciful and impractical and not what runs the world. But to read fiction is to get to the heart of what is real. It can be a means to become aware of or to wish for a different reality. It can give you clarity into the world around you and arm you with the knowledge to live better. Or as Tennessee Williams wrote in The Glass Menagerie, “I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” Fiction is an escape, but it is also the element of truth within the world that writers create that make their stories so compelling, and you’ll find this quality in each of the stories in the Lounge fiction special.

We usually share a simple, single-word prompt with authors; this year, we picked the slightly more abstract ‘should have, could have, can’, and left it to the writers to interpret. Our only condition, as always: The story should be previously unpublished, and written specially for Lounge. In these pages are some of India’s finest authors, their writing both timeless and enjoyable, and many of them my personal favourites.

Lounge fiction special cover artwork by Priya Kuriyan

I’m particularly thrilled that we have Vivek Shanbhag and Srinath Perur collaborating on their first short story, a deceptively simple one about the nature of truth. Perumal Murugan returns to our pages (he wrote for our 2022 Fiction Special), and shines a light on the special hold that animals have over humans. Harini Nagendra has her detective Kaveri expose a poison pen letter writer while making a point about women’s rights. Nandita da Cunha brings to life a side of Mumbai that’s being erased, her sharp story asking questions about heritage and community. Priya Kuriyan, Nithya Subramanian and Satwik Gade add another layer of meaning with their art. Each story reflects a wistfulness about what could have been, and then a pulling together and shaking up of oneself to move ahead.

Happy reading and happy new year.

Write to the Lounge editor at shalini.umachandran@htlive.com


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