Essence of Camphor

Hauntingly beautiful short stories with strong affinities to Kafka and Borges, by one of the most original voices to emerge from India

“A skillful mix of otherworldly imitations and psychological pungency. . . . Mesmerizes.” —Boston Globe

Indian author Naiyer Masud has long been hailed as a leading writer in his native Lucknow, where he has won several prestigious literary awards. Now seven of Masud’s most highly regarded stories have been translated from Urdu for the first time, introducing to a wider audience the work of a master of the short story and opening a window on an exciting literary tradition. In spare, abstract language reminiscent of Kafka and Borges, Masud creates a lush landscape of dreams and disillusion. A parfumier mixes memory with desire to recall the older girl who influenced his destiny. A dispossessed boy learns difficult lessons of love and its transparencies from a young girl who has never set foot on land. A man escapes his incestuous longings to become a building inspector with the unusual ability to detect in houses their obscure realms of fear and desire. Masud's “irreducibly authentic” (Safdir Mir, Dawn) and “enlightening” (Muzaffar Ali Syed, The Friday Times) work reflects his careful ear for the strange and uneven rhythms beneath a highly routinized everydayness, which lend these stories their mystical yet deeply human tone.

Praise

“A brilliant writer whose tales seem spun from the lush threads of a narrative magic carpet.”
Elle
“Masud is eminently successful in bringing a sense of vivid reality to his abstract vision of a life which is no more.”
—Safdir Mir, Dawn
“One may turn to Masud for a genuine sense of tragedy which is also vigorous and enlightening.”
—Muzaffar Ali Syed, The Friday Times
“The most extraordinary fictional voice to have emerged in world literature this decade.”
—Amit Chaudhuri, author of Freedom Song