Khalid Jawed's novel portrays the complexity of human existence and its inconsistencies.

Does death precede birth? Does anyone reminisce about the experience of meeting one's end in the embryonic stage? These curious but equally percipient questions are interwoven meticulously in the debut novel of Khalid Jawed, a young Urdu story writer who bagged the Katha prize. His collection of stories has been published by Penguin.

His novel Maut ki Kitab carries a distinct stamp of cerebration as it signals a pleasant deviation from the run-of-the mill novels. Death is an off-repeated theme of creative outpouring but, here, pre-birth experience of death provides the protagonist with the vigour to rise from his own ashes like a phoenix. The novel adroitly portrays the complexity and layering of human existence and its inconsistencies, paradoxes and fads and whims. Narrating various episodes, the protagonist scoffs and laughs at human affliction and circumstantial predicament with a subtle sense of self-mocking humour. Endless webs of deception and self-deception form his world and sprinkling of libido, satirical quips and humorous interludes betray the variegated experience of life.

Artistically crafted

One can find the cadence of Milan Kundera as Khalid Jawed transforms a tale of remorse and suffering into a story of passion that acquaints the reader with a new realisation of the nature of human passion and its perverse extremes. Divided into 19 chapters, which the author quaintly describes as “pages”, the book denotes a kind of stark realism and it seems to have the making of an artistically crafted project of self-extinction where love, longing and loss are never below the surface. Indiscretion and self-mocking humour marks the main character and unfolds the intricate emotional fabric of the characters.

The protagonist underscores the deceitful malevolence of people around him: wife, beloved, friends, and mother. He seems to be quite content to die unsung and unwept as for him human existence has no mainstay. Khalid Jawed juxtaposes conscious and unconscious activities creatively and in the novel a conscious activity - longing for suicide - rescues the central character time and again when he teeters on the brink of cardiac collapse. For the hero, suicide is a process of exaltation as the possibility of giving up one's life provides him with much-needed respite from the monotony of life.

Khalid Jawed does not bury the plot behind the heavy pall of magic realism technique and his style is imbued with a new artistic coherence and he weaves a series of memories and wistful experiences into a viable pattern. It is hoped that the Maut ki Kitab will be noticed in literary circles.

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