The Last Candle

01 December 2011
ECHOSTREAM
ECHOSTREAM

ABOUT THE STORY One of fiction’s great themes is the self’s estrangement from itself, whether through the simple processes of time and memory or the thunderous shock of violence and trauma. In this story set in Kashmir, all these processes unite in the narrative of a young man broken up into pieces by horrors past and present. Feroz Rather’s story groans with the spectacle of physical and verbal violence, expressed in short, declarative sentences as stunted as the sympathies of those who wield the whip of power. But in its interstices we sense a vision of an alternative world, animated by freedom, poetry, yearning and compassion. In the ambiguous closing line about the narrator-protagonist “trying to be the master of his own story”, we see the personal (the narrator’s rebellion against his own feelings of impotence) and the political (the Kashmiri desire for the right of self-determination) melt into each other. The last candle, we see, is not just the flickering flame threatening to leave the writer and his story in the dark. It is also perhaps the last candle of a people’s sufferance of subjugation and injustice.

HIS SHADOW IS QUIVERING on the curtain.

It has stopped snowing. A cold moon is shining over the walnut tree in the backyard, over the leafless willows by the road and the old shingle roofs of my neighbours’ houses beyond. The village is quiet and its surfaces hidden by a thick bandage of snow. The dogs bark occasionally and I worry the soldiers might be entering the village. Every time the soldiers approach, the dogs bark long, mournful barks.

Feroz Rather is attending the MFA Program at California State University Fresno. He is currently working on a collection of short stories on Kashmir.

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