"Diana Justaposed and Other Realities" | Exploring vagaries of the human heart

Price:   595 |  28 Oct 2017 4:54 PM GMT  |  Team MP

Exploring vagaries of the human heart

I went to Dhaka earlier this year for a couple of book launches where I came across Salahdin Imam. His background intrigued me: an internationally oriented person with strong roots in Bangladesh who had moved over the years from a banking background to a life as a dedicated promoter of the arts. It turned out that he was also a writer, which was of special interest to me.

As could have been predicted from Salahdin Imam’s multifaceted life the stories also turn out to be wide-ranging in nature, both in terms of the topics covered and the settings in which they take place. Suffice to say that the stories concern locales and characters as varied as that of a street child in Bangladesh to that of a samurai in 17th Century Japan! One story is about the early life of a great Prophet while another’s subject is the tragic death of one of the most beloved figures of our time, Princess Diana. This latter story, one of the longest in the book, helps to give the collection its name but, confusingly, it is placed in the middle of the book without any clear identification.

Perhaps the reader is expected to stumble upon it as a way of increasing its power. And indeed this seems like a common theme of the collection with the reader constantly being made to discover twists and turns in the narrative.

The writing style is distinctive, and it deviates from orthodoxy just enough to keep the ideas looping in an interesting way. It is even frankly experimental on occasion, meaning that there are brief passages which make sense only in an approximate, abstract, indirect but strangely effective manner.

For example the entire five page effusion titled ‘Determined’. Despite these stylistic leaps the stories are generally strongly plotted, full of complications and tension – with a current of sexuality throbbing underneath many of them which erupts to the surface from time to time. It is obvious that the major intention is to elicit emotional responses of all kinds, leaving the reader sometime up and sometimes down. The saving grace is that one gets the sense that Salahdin Imam is ultimately on a healing mission, however crude or violent some of the scenes depicted.

There is one aspect of the book which I found worth questioning. At times in the course of the narrative much is suddenly left unsaid, though with enough prompting for the reader to be able to imagine what has happened in the intervals.

Is this a valid technique or is it just lazy? Does it make too great a demand on its readers? Should it not after all be the writer’s job to do all the work? I decided that on balance, if not overdone, there is value to be gained from pushing the reader to exercise his or her own faculties, to decipher the subtext, and in that way to make the story their own.This is a slim volume but it teems with sharply drawn and, it must be said, delightfully inconsistent characters. In the end it packs a punch which lingers long after the reading.

May this debut lead to the author’s further creative output, both for our pleasure and our upliftment.

Share it