Khuda Ki Basti

Of my world and yet most emphatically not of my world, this is the first Urdu novel I’ve read as a novel – without awkwardness, without the consciousness of reading an ‘Urdu’ book especially, with a grim and futile determination to ‘improve my level of Urdu’.

No, this book I read in a day and half, as I would have read any English or French novel of the same length which I liked particularly well. I understood about seven to eight of every ten words, but I pushed on regardless, because the story had me quite inexorably in its grip.

In retrospect, I do not understand. Why do I like this book? The setting is Zola-ishly wretched (and I don’t generally like Zola), and the storyline, objectively viewed, is not a little clichéd. Perhaps the magic lies in the style? Of that I am no fit critic; it works for me, voila tout.

As for clichés, well. Cinderella is a cliché, Snow white is a cliché, Baba Yaga is a cliché, and they are all awesome stories. Perhaps clichés do become clichés for a reason.

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