After the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Ustad Ramzi is a famed wrestler, renowned for his enormous strength and unmatched technique. Young apprentices once flocked to his akhara to learn his craft, fans adored him, and rival wrestling clans dreaded him. But now Ramzi's physical prowess--if not his indomitable will--is on the wane, while his reckless younger brother Tamami, who lacks Ramzi's respect for ancient tradition, is hungry for glory and eager to take on his brother's mantle.
In another part of the inner city, the courtesan Gohar Jan was once celebrated throughout the country for her beauty and the seductive power of her singing--while feared for her iron will--her kotha was thronged by nobles, rich men, and infatuated admirers. But Gohar Jan's world is changing, too, and the rarified fire of the courtesans is in danger of being extinguished by an increasingly intolerant state.
As their world crumbles around them, Ustad Ramzi and Gohar Jan stand resolute against the catastrophe of history, with willpower their only protection. But what lengths will they go to in order to protect their traditions? Shortlisted for The Man Asian Literary Prize, Musharraf Ali Farooqi's artfully wrought novel Between Clay and Dust is an arresting account of love, honor, strength, betrayal, and the ways in which we wrestle with history.
Praise for Between Clay and Dust
"A short, but muscular and moving story.... Between Clay and Dust is a tale that wrestles with the themes of rectitude and retribution, pride and redemption, grief and guilt, love and loss. It is about the commotion of souls and the moral and emotional wherewithals that nobler souls among us possess to withstand time's ravages, leaving behind robust and sturdy footprints on its sands."--Nawaid Anjum, The Asian Age
"The book works like an ache in the heart, evoking cultures and values that, while not necessarily perfect, represented something larger than the self; their replacements, by contrast, are small and mean....The pages come alive with the grunts of the trainee pehalwans and capture the last echoes of Gohar Jan's sitar. A story that purports to be about decay resounds with the stuff of life. This is a book to be savoured like a fine single malt."--Sumana Mukherjee, Forbes India
"Musharraf Ali Farooqi has written a wonderful, quiet novel about how traditions and lives can decline into unmeaning.... The elegiac mood is created as much by the inevitably tragic ebb in the tides of its protagonists' lives as by Farooqi's choice of language.... This is a quietly affecting book, with a profound understanding of tragedy: that what happens to us is as much a function of how we respond to events as the events themselves."--Trisha Gupta, The Sunday Guardian
"The writing is as taut as a wire, and reminds me, if comparisons must be made, of Ian McEwan's neat trick of bringing the reader to the edge of their seat and somehow keeping them there throughout the duration of an entire novel.... This is the most poignant, the most subtle, the most moving novel I have read in the past few years from this, or any, region. A natural storyteller, Farooqi imagines a world we thought we were familiar with and then pulls the rug out from under our feet."--Faiza S. Kahn, The Caravan Magazine
"Set in a decaying inner city after the partition of India, Between Clay and Dust is an elegiac but unromanticised evocation of a dying culture. The tragedy of a champion wrestler, challenged by his younger brother and befriended by an ageing courtesan, has a mythic resonance, as the characters' ethical codes collide with the values of a new world. Farooqi's tale is more moving for the spareness and restraint with which it is told."--Dr. Maya Jaggi, Chair of Judges for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize
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About the Author
Musharraf Ali Farooqi is an author, novelist, and translator. He was born in 1968 in Hyderabad, Pakistan, and now divides his time between Toronto and Karachi. His acclaimed new novel, Between Clay and Dust, was shortlisted for The Man Asian Literary Prize 2012 and longlisted for the 2013 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. In 2015, Restless Books will publish Farooqi's second novel, The Story of a Widow, which was shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2011 and longlisted for the 2010 IMPAC-Dublin Literary Award. His most recent children's fiction is the novel Tik-Tik, The Master of Time, Pakistan's first English language novel for children. His other children's fiction includes the picture book The Cobbler's Holiday Or Why Ants Don't Wear Shoes and the collection The Amazing Moustaches of Mocchhander the Iron Man and Other Stories, shortlisted for the India ComicCon award in the Best Publication for Children category. He is the author of the critically acclaimed translations of Urdu classics, The Adventures of Amir Hamza, and the first book of a projected 24-volume magical fantasy epic, Hoshruba. Find out more at his website, www.mafarooqi.com.