The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows by Rudyard Kipling
Kipling first became famous for his pungent, harsh and shocking stories of northwest India, where he grew up. This is just a small selection from his inexhaustibly contentious and various early work.
This is an excellent collection of Kipling's short stories, and far more darker than expected. He draws on his experiences in colonial India, and his tales border on the macabre, and often supernatural.
The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows itself is a very bleak and melancholy story of an opium addict. The title comes from the very aptly named opium den the narrator frequents; where all hope is lost, and all one can hope for is dying in the quiet on a clean mat. The narrator is numb to all but his vice, and is senselessly content to pay the extortionate prices imposed by the landlord. Sad, hopeless, and somewhat horrific, this is a very very good story.
My favourite of the five stories was The Bisara of Pooree, named after a carved wooden fish in a silver box which can bring love only to those who steal it from its previous owner. Those who buy, find, or are given the object are condemned to a life of bad luck. The magic and the paranormal seeped through the pages here, and Kipling presented a wonderful ending.
I found each of the tales here to be gorgeous in their own way, however particularly loved the two mentioned above most. Kipling really was a man who knew how to weave a story. His structure and descriptions plunge the reader directly into India, and we experience the colours, sounds, and smells to a wonderful degree. I enjoyed the use of unexplained exotic language, and the subtle hints at customs quite unknown to me.
This is (quite ashamedly) a wonderful introduction to Kipling for me. I hope to read more of his work later in the year.