Thursday, 23 August 2018

The Tale Of The Missing Man by Manzoor Ahtesham


The Tale Of The Missing Man by Manzoor Ahtesham
First published in India in Hindi as Dastan-e Lapata in 1995. English language translation by Ulrike Stark and Jason Grunebaum published by Northwestern University Press on the 15th August 2018.

One of my August Authorfest reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository
Wordery
Waterstones
Amazon

The Tale of the Missing Man (Dastan-e Lapata) is a milestone in Indo-Muslim literature. A refreshingly playful novel, it explores modern Muslim life in the wake of the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. Zamir Ahmad Khan suffers from a mix of alienation, guilt, and postmodern anxiety that defies diagnosis. His wife abandons him to his reflections about his childhood, writing, ill-fated affairs, and his hometown, Bhopal, as he attempts to unravel the lies that brought him to his current state (while weaving new ones).

A novel of a heroic quest gone awry, The Tale of the Missing Man artfully twists the conventions of the Urdu romance, or dastan, tradition, where heroes chase brave exploits that are invariably rewarded by love. The hero of Ahtesham’s tale, living in the fast-changing city of Bhopal during the 1970s and ’80s, suffers an identity crisis of epic proportions: he is lost, missing, and unknown both to himself and to others. The result is a twofold quest in which the fate of protagonist and writer become inextricably and ironically linked. The lost hero sets out in search of himself, while the author goes in search of the lost hero, his fictionalized alter ego.

New York magazine cited the book as one of “the world's best untranslated novels.” In addition to raising important questions about Muslim identity, Ahtesham offers a very funny and thoroughly self-reflective commentary on the modern author’s difficulties in writing autobiography.

Both Ahtesham's original Hindi novel and its English translation have been highly praised so I looked forward to reading this story. Unfortunately, it's not a book I could appreciate and I stopped reading at just over half way through. As when I read A Long Blue Monday, I struggled to have any connection with the first-person narrator. Zamir Ahmad Khan recounts various moments and anecdotes from his life, most of which have a self-pitying tone. Plus there's a vast cast of family and friends to try and remember which was almost impossible when very few of them seem to exist as more than their name. I did enjoy occasional glimpses of Bhopal, the Indian city in which most of The Tale Of The Missing Man is set, but I otherwise I am afraid I was mostly just bored. Disappointing.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Manzoor Ahtesham / Contemporary fiction / Books from India

8 comments:

  1. Ah man! Sounds like it was a really tough one to engage you. At least you gave it a go and got a bit on the city setting.

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    1. I tried, but this one just didn't work for me

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  2. this sounds like me trying to read 100 years of Solitude! LOL

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    1. Ha! I think I remember loving 100 Years and getting lost in Love In The Time Of Cholera. But they might be the other way around?

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  3. Ugh, if you can't relate to the characters its definitely better that you just stopped. It's disappointing when a book has great reviews but falls flat.

    Tori @ In Tori Lex

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    1. Yes, I felt as if I were reading a completely different book!

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  4. You don't really DNF that many books so I know this isn't going to be one I am going to appreciate either. It sounds like the character wasn't relatable and the self-pitying tone isn't one I enjoy reading from either...

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    1. Yes, I don't think this is one you would enjoy

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