Book House

“The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun”: This book presents distinctly original, inventive and genre-defying short fiction

  • The book “The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun” by Anil Menon is a stellar collection of short fiction.

  • In the title story, ‘The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun’, a couple finds that reorganizing their home library has an unexpected consequence on their shared reality; ‘The Robots of Eden’ is set in a world where stories are no longer essential to be human, because civilized people have developed better technology to mediate their emotions; in ‘Into the Night’, an old Brahmin leans into the comforts of an ancient language when the future renders him obsolete; and ‘How Not to Tell the Ramayana’ is a Borgesian journey into a Ramayana retelling unlike any other.

  • This book demonstrates yet again why Anil Menon is one of the most formidable names in contemporary Indian writing.

  • Read an excerpt from the book below.

Editor’s Note: The following excerpt has been taken from the short story “Into The Night”.

Ramaswamy lay in bed, facing the wall, the coverlet pulled all the way to his neck, and quietly burbling in a mix of English and Tamil.


He froze.

‘Who are you talking to? Are you all right? Are your legs hurting?’

When he turned, he saw Ganga in her nightdress, her face lit from below by the room’s night light.

‘I’m okay. Just thinking, that’s all. About the good old days.’

She sat down beside him and put a hand on his chest. ‘Not able to sleep?’

‘How much sleep can I do?’ He hesitated, and then spoke in a rush. ‘Ganga, I want to go back to Mumbai. I can’t live here in this freezing cold and twenty-four hours of rain. Everything is backwards and upside down. From the nose via the back of head to the ear, as people say. A simple man like myself only needs his two servings of rice-curds and a glass of water. That I can get for myself. Why I should be a burden to you? I am going back.’

‘We can’t have this conversation over and over again. Haven’t you been watching the news from India? And there’s no one there to take care of you. In a few years, your health problems are only going to get worse. If anything happens—’

‘Krishna-bhagavan will take care of me as he has all these years.’

‘Don’t be childish! Amma took care of you all these years, not your bloody bhagavan. So at least give credit where it’s due.’

He was pleased to see her voice rise and her accent veer into its natural roly-poly south Indian roundness. Ha! Not such a suit-and-boot madam after all. He remembered roly-poly; he’d walked this little girl back from kindergarten every day, pigtails and upturned face, hopeful smile and Appa, Appa, please can I have some kulfi, Appa.

Where had it all gone wrong with Ganga? Was it when he had shifted her from the Tamil-medium school to the English one in higher secondary? Or was it the day he had found her smoking with the sweeper’s boy, a Shudran, whose hand lay curled inside her open blouse? Or was it after she got involved in college politics, morcha’ing and hunger-fasting and speechifying on behalf of every useless ruffian and cause, getting angrier and angrier, totally impossible to talk to, even Paru had given up, until in Ganga’s final angry tearful embrace at the airport he had sensed she was saying goodbye to herself.

‘I should’ve disciplined her more,’ thought Ramaswamy, ‘but as people say, a donkey never has a tiger for a father.’

‘Can we go to a doctor?’ he asked.


She nictitated and geometric patterns flashed across her eyelids; the room seemed filled with a new awareness. He sensed there were others in the room, watching, listening, perhaps even commenting on him.

‘Appa? Are you in pain? I can call an ambulance—’

‘No, no. I just want an estimate of how much time I have left.’

‘No one can tell you that!’

‘Not even science?’

She smiled and touched his face. ‘Not even science.’

What was the use of it then? He lay back on the bed and turned to face the wall.

‘Appa? Look at me.’ She shook him. ‘Look at me.’ And when he did, she continued in the same calm voice. ‘I know it’s all very strange and new to you. And Amma is not here to make it easier. We won’t stay in Meridian forever. But wherever we go next, life will change, and we have to adapt. Otherwise, we might as well be stones. Evolution—’

‘What is this evolution-evolution you keep brandishing like a stick?’

‘It’s a theory that says we don’t need a story to explain how we all got here. It was first clearly explained by Darwin— ’

‘Speak in Tamil, Ganga. Speak in Tamil.’

He listened to her fantastic tale about fish that had grown lungs and learned to walk on earth, a Xerox machine called DNA in every atom, and what not. As she talked, her alloy-treated hair furled outwards, a controlled motion that had nothing to do with the wind or any natural shake of the head. Somebody was playing with her hair. He closed his eyes.

When she said ‘cells’, he imagined tiny telephones, but when she said ‘chromosome’, ‘molecule’, ‘recombination’, and ‘species’, nothing came to mind at all. It couldn’t be true. None of it could be true. If it was true, then he would never see Paru again. This one life, this would be the only life. It couldn’t be true. He marvelled that she could swallow so incredible a story but refused to accept the simplest, most obvious explanation understandable by the stupidest child: God did it. But he didn’t want her to stop talking.

‘Ganga, this Evolution God, is it Christian or some other religion only? And if it is Christian, then who is Jesus?’

She was silent for a few long seconds, and when she spoke it was quiet enough to be almost a sigh. ‘Aaliyah is right, Appa. This isn’t just homesickness. You’ve fallen out of time. We have to reconnect you to the world. The first step is to set you up with a visor. It’s not as good as having Amma or a hearsee, but it’s Not better than nothing. You will begin to see.’

Excerpted with permission from The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun, Anil Menon, Hachette India. Read more about the book here and buy it here.


The Dispatch is present across a number of social media platforms. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for exciting videos; join us on Facebook, Intagram and Twitter for quick updates and discussions. We are also available on the Telegram. Follow us on Pinterest for thousands of pictures and graphics. We care to respond to text messages on WhatsApp at 8082480136 [No calls accepted]. To contribute an article or pitch a story idea, write to us at [email protected] |Click to know more about The Dispatch, our standards and policies