Marriage and Mutton Curry:

Marriage and Mutton Curry

By M. Shanmughalingam

Published by Epigram Books

Fiction Collections



A kimono-clad Tamil woman greets Japanese soldiers at the door while her Anglophile husband cowers in his Jaguar. Two sisters share a husband when one fails to produce a child for the longest time. An American diplomat's urgent inquires about the Malaysian treasury’s facilities are hilariously misunderstood. A daring civil servant proposes to a Ceylonese lady in his hometown mere minutes after meeting her, breaking a thousand years of marriage protocol.

M. Shanmughalingam's debut collection paints, with gentle wit and humour, the concerns and intrigues of the Jaffna Tamil community in Malaya. At turns satirical, empathetic and insightful, these fifteen stories explore what happens when we hold on to—and choose to leave behind—our traditions and identities in a changing world.


Reader Reviews:

“Dato’ Dr Shan is a master storyteller, as this collection amply demonstrates. His distinctive voice and high quality of writing make for a most pleasurable, rewarding and stimulating read.”
—HRH Sultan Nazrin Shah

“Dr. M. Shanmughalingam allowed me to read his work, which proved invaluable to my understanding of the Tamils. I hugely enjoyed Victoria and Her Kimono and the humour in Shan’s other stories.”
—Peter Carey, twice winner, Booker and Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes

“M. Shan, with his domestic ethos is, above all, unpretentious and warm. The sure sense of dialogue and timing is allied with a certain originality.”
—Iris Murdoch, and John Bayley, professor of English, Oxford University

“Dr Shanmughalingam is one of the finest short-story writers writing in English today. He is in a class of his own, enriching the genre, in fact nourishing it with subtlety and finesse.
—Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar, journalist, editor, writer and dramatist

“The stories in this collection are examples of Shan’s special gift of irreverent, insouciant, puckish, trenchant humour he brings so unerringly to aspects of his culture and his years in the civil service. They are such exhilarating social comedy and satire. His distinguishing style as a writer: the vibrancy, wit, irreverence and playful use of language, especially of his portrayal of those irrepressible Jaffna Tamil dowagers.”
—Catherine Lim, author of five novels and ten short-story collections

Marriage and Mutton Curry is a remarkable debut short-story collection, introducing a fresh, original, satirical eye cast upon a minor ethnic tribe, the Jaffna Tamils, in a multiracial nation of multiplicities of ethnic tribes. The stories are compressed, their humour lightly deadly, and I welcome and celebrate the collection’s recovery of this almost-lost tribe for
Malaysian literature.”
—Shirley Geok-lin Lim, award-winning author of Among the White Moon Faces

“Shan’s stories are wickedly very funny; in particular, the stories about the Kandiah family, of Ceylon Tamils. He observes them with a tolerant, forgiving eye, aware of their all-too-human foibles.”
—Robert Yeo, author of poems, plays and a memoir

“I enjoyed the humour of Shan’s stories very much and his eye for irony. I think his short stories work because he is so pithy.”
—Dipika Mukherjee, author of Thunder Demons, long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize

“It’s been quite a while that I enjoyed humour in Malaysia stories. But Shan’s is a humour that is full of everyday irony, and therefore very humane and down-to-Malaysian-earth. His end-of-story surprises are done with sensitivity and well-hewn skill.”
—Muhammad Haji Salleh, poet and recipient of the Malaysian National Laureate

“Dr Shan writes of the Malaysian Jaffna Tamil community with a light, often humorous touch, deftly capturing the syntax and cadences of his subjects’ speech, but this light touch disguises a sharp satirical bent and much trenchant commentary on social and family dynamics.”
—Preeta Samarasan, award-winning author of Evening Is the Whole Day

“These stories remind us that cultural identity is both an asset and a refuge during hard times.”
—Michael Vatikiotis, regional director, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Singapore

“Shan can’t resist a pun-studded repartee or a mouth-watering description of food, perhaps the two most endearing traits of his world. The characters and situations in many of his stories, especially those featuring Mrs Kandiah, deserve to be dramatised on stage. The Tamil community and its concerns that Shan describes may have given way to modernity, but they are kept alive in these stories.”
—Ronald D. Klein, professor of English studies, Hiroshima Jogakuin University, Japan

“I have much enjoyed Dr M. Shan’s short and carefully observed stories of Malaysian life. I hope our paths may cross again somewhere in the future.”
—Sir Drummond Bone, master, Balliol College, Oxford University

“I like his empathy and kind portrayals but I also liked the darker tale of two sisters and the twins: parts I found riveting. Shan’s fiction evokes the times, often much more so than many social or political histories, e.g., Hilary Mantel.”
—Hugh Peyman, founder of ResearchWorks and author of China’s Change: The Greatest Show on Earth

“The collection is engrossing and cannot be put down. It is an invaluable addition to anyone who is a keen student of Malaysian literature, as well as entertaining for the uninitiated reader who may casually pick up
the collection.”
—Ravichandra P. Chittampalli, professor of English, University of Mysore, India