Readers, take a few minutes this morning to check out an amazing short story, written by Bilal Tanweer, Granta’s first New Voice for 2011. “After That, We Are Ignorant” is narrated by a snide cartoonist who is joined on a bus by an old communist poet. The events of the story are entertaining; the Comrade-poet immediately proves to be one card short of a deck and is jeered and challenged to share some of his poety. The whole while, boys in the back of the bus egg him on, calling him names, making noises until the old man begins swearing, shouting about his sacrifices and the wisdom of his words.
The real appeal of the story is in its narration. Bilal tells his story through an anonymous, perceptive individual who is outside the events of the story except for his single contribution: the sarcastic call for the old man’s poetry. You can hear the laughter in the narrator’s voice as he describes the chaos, characterizing each participant or group as less human and more a cartoon or pack of animals. He’s focused on making a sketch of the communist in the pressed shirt and crappy Coke cap, completely disinterested and distant from the crowd. By the end of the story however, we discover the reasons he has for telling the story, and why he will remember his sketch forever.
There is some sort of humanizing redemption going on there, we think. Tanweer has done a great job of creating an easily read, yet deep, work of fiction. If it pleases you, there is also an interview where you can hear his thoughts on the story, and about the larger book of stories of which it is a part. Follow the link here for the interview and story.