R.K. Narayan, "All Avoidable Talk"

The stars have warned Sastri to keep his head down.

(from Under the Banyan Tree)

He was told to avoid all quarrels that day. The stars were out to trouble him, and even the mildest of his remarks likely to offend and lead to a quarrel. The planets were set against him and this terrified him beyond all description.

Tight in tone and description, this very short story, like its protagonist, is economical with its words. It’s a simple plot, driven by action and archetypal conflict (which is totally a thing), reminiscent of Guy de Maupassant’s stuff (there’s even a jeweller). And like that French author, Narayan ends up with a story of a worker and boss (called “master”) and jewels and decorum which give the whole thing the feel of a parable. Fairly wonderful.

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