15 June, 2021

Terror Cutout

The best thing you can say about Omair Ahmad’s new novel is that it shows a few glimmers of potential.

Terror Cutout
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

The best thing you can say about Omair Ahmad’s new novel is that it shows a few glimmers of potential. The ambition to capture something of the spirit of small-town Muslim north India is worthy. The attempt to telescope the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism into a single life, while hardly new, carries a political urgency often lacking in Indian writing in English. The grasp of history that must underlie such a venture appears firm.

On occasion, Ahmad serves up a nugget of insight. The haphazard bylanes of the novel’s fictional setting, a town called Moazzamabad in Uttar Pradesh, make it “not a place of numbers, but names”. A geography-teacher-turned-mullah is the sort of person whose closest brush with romance was likely to be “copying Rajesh Khanna’s hairstyle”. The chatter about riots and forced sterilisation that fills the local mosque illustrates the texture of political disaffection in India.

But worthy ambition and the occasional insight cannot keep this slim novel afloat. The...

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