Aleph to Publish The Merman and the Book of Power:A Qissa by Musharraf Ali Farooqi

ABOUT THE BOOK (INR 499, 208PP)

The Merman and the Book of Power brings into the English the classical qissa genre, a fabulist storytelling form common to the oral and written literatures of Urdu, Persian, and Arabic. The book begins with the Mongol armies laying siege to Baghdad in 1258. Their attack does not cease from the early hours of light to darkness. Such is the ferocity of their advance that the citizens of the city are convinced they are the manifestation of the End Time creatures Gog and Magog, imprisoned by the legendary King Alexander. It was said that their faces, red as the flames of hell, seemed buried between their shoulders. Their lice-covered, steely bodies gave off a dreadful odour, as their fierce, small eyes moved alertly in their sockets. Thick sideburns protruded like snakes from sheepskin caps covering their shaven heads. In the night, their teeth and talons had glowed as they slunk outside the city walls like malevolent wolves. Baghdad falls, the Mongols take over.

Picture Credit: Aleph
Picture Credit: Aleph

A year later, when the city gates open to allow a strange creature—half man, half beast— caught by Mediterranean fishermen, fresh rumours begin to circulate. Is Gujastak the Merman one of Creation’s marvels or an ill omen whose appearance signals the Apocalypse? In parallel to the Merman’s story is the story of a talismanic book that confers diabolical powers on the one who possesses it.

In the hands of master storyteller Musharraf Ali Farooqi the qissa comes to glowing life as it spins a tale of magical creatures, ill-starred lovers, and the phenomena that might bring the world to its end.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Musharraf Ali Farooqi is the author of Between Clay and Dust (finalist, Man Asia Literary Prize 2012), The Story of a Widow (finalist, DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, 2008; longlisted for IMPAC/Dublin Literary Prize) and other novels. He is the translator, among other works, of the epic, The Adventures of Amir Hamza (Modern Library Classic) and Hoshruba. Farooqi is the editor of the Online Urdu Thesaurus and founder of the Storykit Program. He is a Harvard University Fellow.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: