When children try to revive a forest

Clouds peck on vapour in the noonday sun/A day will come when rocks will/disappear/I want to save some rock/seeds against that time/If mountains moved, theyd take a/thousand years for each step/The step/would be no bigger for a mountain than/a step for an ant.

From the pen of one of the gentlest, most profound writers of our times comes “A Silent Place” by Vinod Kumar Shukla, translated from the Hindi by Satti Khanna (Eka), novel about a forest that has been stunned into silence by grief.

A group of children want the woods to overcome its muteness; they want birds to sing and human voices to carry across distances. The schemes they devise and the adventures they embark upon make up the gentle surface of this story. What lies beneath is the deepest human philosophy.

Vinod Kumar Shukla is considered the finest Hindi writer of our times. He is known for evoking most extraordinarily the inner lives of people, using language that is as spare and free of frills as their worldly possessions. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1999. His work has appeared in international journals, like Granta, Modern Poetry in Translation, Some Kind of Beautiful Signal, The Baffler and the print and digital magazine n+1.

The English translation of his collection of short stories, “Blue Is like Blue”, received the Atta Galatta Bangalore Literature Festival Prize in 2019 and the Mathrubhumi Book of the Year Prize in 2020.

His novels for children and young adults include “Yasi Rasa Ta” (The Windows in Our House Are Little Doors), “Hari Ghaas ki Chhapad Vaali Jhopdi aur Bauna Pahaad” (Moonrise from the Green Grass Roof) and “Chuppi Jagah” (A Silent Place). All his novels are now available in English.

Satti Khanna is Associate Professor at Duke University where he teaches Indian Cinema and Modern Hindi Literature. He has translated all of Vinod Kumar Shukla’s novels.