Rajesh Parameswaran’s ‘The Infamous Bengal Ming’ is one of the highlights of Granta’s Horror issue. Told from the perspective of a well-intentioned but bloodthirsty tiger on the loose from a zoo, the piece is a masterful feat of storytelling: shocking, funny, entertaining and poignant all at once. Parameswaran’s other stories – which have appeared in McSweeney’s, Zoetrope and The Best American Magazine Writing – are just as original and unforgettable. Now they’ve been collected and published together in I Am an Executioner: Love Stories. He answers questions for Granta’s Yuka Igarashi about his exciting debut.
YI: The settings and points of view in these stories are fantastically varied. One takes place in turn-of-the century India, another in the Andromeda Galaxy in the year AD 2319. What struck me, though, were the themes that repeated across these stories. I think they explore the gap between intentions and effect: we all mean well, but cause incredible harm anyway. How aware were you, as you were writing, of recurring motifs?
RP: This question reminds me of that Borges parable: ‘A man sets himself the task of portraying the world. Through the years he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his face.’ This parable seems to suggest that if you are inclined towards certain themes, it is difficult to avoid them, regardless of your intentions.
These are tales of longing and devotion that just happen to include maulings, a botched surgery, stoning and impaling. What compels you to mix love with gore?
To be honest, I didn’t know these were going to be ‘love stories’ or that they were going to tilt towards violence until I’d finished them. I could tell you that love and violence are basic forces interwoven through all of nature and human affairs, and that’s why I mix the two – but to some degree I’d be approaching your question retrospectively, as a reader, so you should take that answer with a grain of salt.