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Book Review: Drug dealer redeems himself

22nd May 2020
Book Review: Drug dealer redeems himself

The Book of Naseeb by Khaled Hakim, 328 Pp, The Margins, Pb, £12.99.

I always get excited when I see Muslim authors writing works for fiction, as I feel it is one of the greatest unexplored realms. Any work of fiction allows the author to stretch their imagination and our sense of reality. This book takes both to its extreme, as it is a very bizarre read.

The settings in The Book of Naseeb range from the streets of Birmingham, barzakh (the stage between this world and Hereafter) to the Swat Valley.

It is about a man called Naseeb, a drug dealer who dreams of redeeming himself by selling prosthetics to war-torn areas and how the angels in the heaven view him and his thoughts as he navigates family tensions and harsh realities of life. This book is both surreal, profound and on second reading a bit funny.

When he wakes up and realizes he is in the ‘hereafter,’ he says, ‘– What do mean, this is Barzakh? You saying there’s no Embassy? There’s a British embassy in every piss-pot on the planet.

You can probably find one in Hell. ‘194 the line had me chuckling in middle of a Naseebs’ dire prospects.’

The first third of this book is written in misspelt English, which was difficult to read and even harder to decipher (the plot).

No doubt the purposeful use of street dialects and the usage of Qur’anic texts hint at a deeper meaning and a style that is unfamiliar to me. But I found it difficult to get past the colloquial in the first part of the book.

The style of writing is bit Kafka ‘ish as the protagonist moves from one scene to another in a breakneck speed with a lot of dialogue, and very little explanation of where it is all leading to.

The book bizarrely ends with Naseeb holding what he thinks is a baby, whose mother he had earlier helped and who had run away into the desert when they had come upon the baby. He looks down at the acquired baby, and it turns out to be a bomb and he’s facing a military entourage, the thing/baby blows up and the book ends there.

The Book of Naseeb was initially written as a script for a movie that never got made, and Hakim then spent a few years converting it into a novel. Having read the book, I am not sure how much of the text he has changed.

It’s a book that is worth reading in a book club setting as it means different things to different people. A collection of eyes and readers would allow one to get a better sense of the book and what the author intends for us to get at. Had I not been assigned this book, I would not have ploughed through it.

Aasiya I Versi

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