NOMINATED FOR THE 2011 IMPAC DUBLIN AWARD
Click here for Suhayl's author page.
Recently bereaved Zuleikha Chashm Framareza MacBeth wades into the Clyde one morning and recovers a large box, with which she becomes obsessed. The discovery brings her together with Alex, a lute-playing clerk, and they manage to open the box – only to find six more boxes inside, each of which can be opened only by following a cryptic clue. The clues lead Zulie and Alex on a physical and emotional journey, modulated through music, across Glasgow, Argyllshire, Lincolnshire, Sicily, Lahore, and finally the frozen peaks of the ‘Roof of the World’. Meanwhile Zulie, a troubled doctor, has been sucked into the vortex of the terminally ill Archie MacPherson, an ambivalent, visionary Second World War airman and Glasgow shipyard worker. In the manner of a lord of misrule, Archie’s dying consciousness begins to shape and ultimately define Zuleikha and Alex’s quest as they progress through the seven Sufi stations of sacrifice, truth, power, obedience, life, memory and beauty. Drawing on a wide framework of cultural and spiritual reference, uniquely blending contemporary Western literature and traditional Arabo-Persian storytelling, this is an extraordinary and ambitious novel with a visceral sensuality and subtle touches of magical realism, in the vein of Okri, Murakami and Pamuk.
Praise for Joseph's Box
'Linguistically, this is a word hoard, an "epic of mingling and mixing" ... A pliable, deceptive and maddeningly elegant close-up of a universe; and perhaps a truer, if splintered, reflection of this unfathomable world.' Scotland on Sunday
'It's an incredibly dense book. Saadi has researched widely and deeply for this, weaving together philosophy, mythology, history, class, politics, folk memories, psychedelia, Sufism and all kinds of arcane and esoteric knowledge ... Saadi's style, employing long sentences, an extensive vocabulary and endless digressions, is meant to evoke a symphonic feel, but also to link it to the seeds of the story ... that sense of ambition was reminiscent of first encountering, many years ago, Alasdair Gray's Lanark.' Sunday Herald
'This is a big book, in every way: it is excessive, extravagant, exuberant, exhilarating, erotic, esoteric, entertaining, entrancing and eccentric; and like the boxes that give it a structure, of sorts, it contains layer upon layer of allusions and connections. The narrative sweeps across continents, and the cultural references include everything from hip-hop to classical verse forms of the Moghul emperors ... I hope it will find itself on the holiday reading lists of the curious and the open-minded looking for something quite different.' Dougal Jeffries, RCGP Journal
Boyd Tonkin, The Independent: Suhayl Saadi's Joseph's Box should have been a Booker contender... http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/booker-back-in-mainstream-thanks-to-bigname-writers-1764013.html
For an interview with Suhayl about Joseph's Box at 3AM magazine, click here.
For an interview by novelist Doug Johnstone in The List, click here.
For an interview with The Asian Writer, click here.
See Suhayl's entry on the British Council's Contemporary Writers website here.
About Suhayl Saadi
Suhayl Saadi is a novelist and stage and radio dramatist based in Glasgow. His hallucinatory realist novel, Psychoraag (2004) won a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, was short-listed for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Pakistan National Literary Award, was nominated for the Dublin-based Impac Prize and was acclaimed by The List magazine and the Scottish Book Trust as one of the Top 100 Scottish books of all time. Saadi’s eclectic short story collection, The Burning Mirror (2001) was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book Prize. His work has been adapted for stage and screen, he has edited a number of anthologies and has penned song lyrics for modern classical compositions with the Dunedin Consort (The People’s Mass), international choir (Project Paradisum) and with Scottish Opera (5:15). Driven often by music, his work has appeared from Cape Town to Kerala by way of Kiev and from San Diego to Singapore via New York City and Teheran. He has written extensively for the UK national Press, the BBC and the British Council.
For more about the author see www.suhaylsaadi.com
Praise for Suhayl Saadi
‘Suhayl Saadi’s ambitious first novel, Psychoraag, an intimate 400-page sprawl covering six early-morning graveyard-shift hours in the life of an on-air Asian-Glaswegian DJ, came out earlier this year … a book about race and invisibility, voice and silence, whose central theme is the question of whether anyone out there is actually listening.’ Ali Smith, The Guardian
‘Psychoraag is not just Midnight’s Children-meets-Trainspotting because Saadi is more thoughtful than Welsh or Rushdie.’
Angus Calder, The Sunday Herald
‘You might expect the first-ever Asian Scottish novel to have a fair degree of ambition, but Suhayl Saadi’s Psychoraag has it in towering abundance, plunging straight into an interior monologue that lasts for more than 400 pages and flashes with half a dozen different languages.’
David Robinson, The Scotsman
‘The title of the novel Psychoraag is inspired. The rest of the book is, too … Saadi’s trick … is to combine the modern and the ancient, East and West. It’s not a construct; not a clever idea designed to entrap a publisher and then a reader. It’s how Suhayl lives and breathes. Five snatched minutes of conversation at a crossroads can spin easily from a discussion of the latest CD by Shakira to the social deprivation of Glasgow housing estates via a panegyric of anonymous 19th century flamenco lyricists. Suhayl’s Scotland contains all of that, and it’s one of the reasons why it’s so important he’s around.’ Chris Dolan, The Herald
‘It is a wonderfully audacious, linguistically elastic, verbally inventive, joyously irreverent work of literature.’ Alan Taylor, The Sunday Herald
‘Psychoraag—in its multi-vernacular, rambling, frenzied, helter-skelter fashion—sings.’ The Barcelona Review
'While Suhayl is rushing away and I’m saying goodbye, I try to imagine what his next novel will be like: perhaps it will have the same lulling rhythm of songs played by Sufi minstrels, the same energy and anger of Indian rebel poet Kagi Nazrul Islam, the stream of consciousness of James Joyce and the visionary realism slightly tinted with historical and political themes of many Argentinean authors. After all, these elements can already be detected in Psychoraag and in other works by Saadi and are the reasons why his poems, prose, essays and articles are fresh, entertaining and will definitely help him to be included among the new exciting voices of contemporary literature. No, not of English, Scottish or British literature, but of international literature.’ Anna Battista, Erasing Clouds
‘Suhayl Saadi’s debut collection of short stories is a small treasure. His is such a unique voice in Scottish literature it is impossible not to get swept up in his many experiments with form and content… Funny, clever and complex, his Scots Asian voice is very fresh, and reminiscent of masters like Salman Rushdie and Alan Warner and, on this evidence, Saadi may soon be at the point of having few contemporary rivals. Tricky and challenging but full of wit and repressed wisdom.’ The List
‘A second reading of this fine collection would undoubtedly reveal more structural and thematic connections. Its rich prose, which dares to be different with its unusual metaphors and striking turns of phrase, is the kind of language one often encounters with those not writing in their first language (Conrad, Nabokov, Kosinski), which is to say bold, fresh and wholly original. Of course, unlike them, Saadi’s native language is English, but just as the ancestral religious strains rise up through the young boy in “Bandanna,” so does an exotic linguistic strain work its way through Saadi’s prose, giving it an innovative, distinctive literary flair. It is a striking debut collection – moving, passionate, and intellectually stimulating – which leaves you longing for more.’ The Barcelona Review
We are grateful to the Scottish Arts Council for a grant towards the publication of Joseph's Box.