A Night with a Black Spider is a collection of short stories by Ambai (the pseudonym of C S Lakshmi). Originally written in Tamil, the stories in this anthology are translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, and they cover a range of themes, from mythology to travel and loneliness. The protagonists are women; there are threads of music and poetry stringing events together; family and conflicts; and an exploration of the human psyche through various viewpoints. The translation reads smoothly, retaining the cadence of the Tamil language in English. A Night with a Black Spider begins with a reinterpretation of a tale from mythology — that of Mahishan’s defeat by Devi in A Love Story with a Sad Ending. In Ambai’s retelling, Mahishan is shown to be a love-struck, ambitious soul who wants to be romanced by Devi. And Devi, in this story, uses strong language, has a particularly violent worldview, and sees herself as racially superior. Ravana’s Fortress has its protagonist visiting Paris for a talk that did not go as she intended. For, she sought to talk about culture, and her words did not resonate as well as she’d hoped with her listeners. And, and they didn’t agree with […]