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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Why Abdulrazak Gurnah’s book Paradise is a must read?

Paradise is a historical novel by UK Zanzibar-born writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, first published in 1994 by Hamish Hamilton in London. The novel was nominated for both the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Prize for Fiction. The book was well-received on publication. Writing in The Independent, Anita Mason described the novel as "many-layered, violent, beautiful and strange

Yusuf was in a delusion that his uncle Aziz visited his house and was welcomed with elaborate preparation of food and other arrangements. But one day his uncle stayed some more time when he was told that his uncle would take him to his house. He would go by train. When they arrive at the station Yusuf looks at a German and his wife. The two arrive and look away as if they are strangers and have nothing in common. He noted that people welcomed Aziz as a very important person. They bow to him and ask others to make way.

On reaching his house where his hotel was also there. Aziz called a servant as Khalil and told him to show him where he would sleep and live. Till this time Yusuf thought that Aziz was his real uncle. But Khalil laughed at him and asked him to come out of his illusion and call Aziz Seyyid. Another revelation came when Khalil told him that Yusuf was sent there to work for his father owed money to him. Khalil was working in the hotel because his father also owed money to Seyyid.

What the servants eat is according to how much their fathers have to pay back. After full recovery of the debt, the servants would return to their native place. It is necessary to call the master Seyyid and not uncle because it would look awkward that the Richman is a relative of servants who are no better than beggars. If the servants speak Arabic, he likes them. If the Seyyid stops longer in a house he may even take the girl as his wife.

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Mohammed Abdalla is also a trade agent of Aziz and this time he meets Yusuf

He jubilantly calls him a “Beautiful boy.” He says that Yusuf would learn the difference between the ways of civilization and the ways of the savage. His predatory grimace made Yusuf think of dogs. He was a violent sodomizer.

The journey started after Sayyed got a reduction in freight charges. The group under Abdalla was now passing through the most remarkable place where the barbarians lived. They were black people of African and were violent and undependable. They drank the blood of their animals and kept a piece of meat of the animals of humans. Abdalla: “They would steal anything including your manhood if you don’t keep your clothes around you. They are waiting for us. “Worth ten of any of you.” They look so red. “it must be the blood they drink.”

A guard: “Every time they kill a man, they cut off a part of him and keep it in a special bag.” Another guard: “It’s nothing to do with religion…A civilized man can always defeat a savage even if the savage eats a thousand lion penises.” They raid neighborhoods and abduct women”. They passed through a region of a Lutheran pastor whose work was the divine edict. He brought the iron plow. He forbade them more than one wife. The pastor had a ring that the natives thought he could do anything. He was the legendary European. North of his domain prowled pride of lions which had an unquenchable craving for human flesh, yet they never approached the European unless they were called.” The Europeans had a fixed type of development, a lock-up or prison, a church and a marketplace. Prison implies law and order and punishment for the offender market is part of their growth. They value money. The church is for morality and order.

They arrived at the place of Hamid Hussein. His wife joked with wild abandon. She told him she was filled with a dislike of Hamid because he was plump and wanted Yusuf who was thinner and good-looking. “Who can be annoyed with a beautiful boy like you? I’m thinking of getting rid of my fat husband and marrying you. But until then, perhaps you can build us a garden.” This seductive moment is an aspect of the novel that contrasts with heavily loaded dialogue between Kalasinga and others.

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This runs through the novel in different contexts. Maimuna’s such loose talk is in direct contrast with men like Abdalla who is in a hunt for pleasure in aggressive sodomizing new boys coming in his way when women are not around. Even her seductive reference that the garden she wants to be built there should have all kinds of captive birds. Will Yusuf become captive?

Kalasinga wonders why Muslims are so afraid of dogs

Hamid calla him hairy kafir. Hussein ran a store and he was attracted to Yusuf. “You will drive young women insane by your beautiful looks one day,” Hamid quipped that eleven is fine age for the wedding.

“Wallahi! I doubt that it’s proper for someone like you to speak of Him ln that unforgivable way. Perhaps someone should teach this hairy dog a lesson. I think next time you come eavesdropping on our conversations at the shop I’ll tell the stupid natives what you said. They’ll soon set fire to your hairy arse.” Kalasingha jokes on Allah Wallahs and their thousand names.

Hussein was different from Hamid and Maimuna. He was stern in matters of faith and could not bear any excuse for not confirming the edicts of religion. So, his life among the people of different practices of their faith was anathema to him. So, he lived like a fiend among the people. It does not mean he was very wicked or very angry with them. But it means that he was very much in adhering to the practice of religion. So uses the excuse word Astaghfirullah meaning God forgive me. This is a precaution seeking forgiveness even before committing the mistake. This shows he is very tenacious in observance of his religious duties. Thus, he asserts “Koran is our religion, and has in it all the wisdom we need to live a good and moral life.’

Yusuf was reaching his adolescence. His position in the surrounding also increased. The teacher in the madrasa gave him more roles to play. He was sent on various works. He also led the teaching work on deputation. He also climbed up and give the call for prayer from the roof.

He also worked under Kalasinga in coaxing tires into the ring after repairing punctures. In the meantime, his uncle visited Tashkent, Herat, etc. Asha sometimes visited him and later came into his arms. During one such occasion, she jumped out of his arms at the approach of someone outside. During such a furtive rendezvous he told her of a poet called Abdulrazak who lived in Herat. But he lived many centuries ago. One day he felt that she stirred him so much that he had to remove his legs from her. Asha used to chase her brothers from Yusuf’s room. At this time around Maimuna became suspicious of him.

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In his next visit to Hamid’s trading camp, Aziz bought an enormous amount of trading goods. Aziz and Hamid thought that it was better to shift Yusuf to a distant place of trading for safety.


Mustafa Khan holds a Ph.D. on Mark Twain. He lives in Malegaon Maharashtra, India. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.