Feroz Rather’s remarkable debut is as much a paean to the beauty of Kashmir and the courage of its people as it is a dirge to a paradise lost.
HarperCollins India has published Kashmiri writer Feroz Rather’s debut book, a novel-in-stories titled The Night of Broken Glass and has termed it as the ‘literary debut to look out for in 2018’.
Describing the book, HarperCollins India says, “Feroz Rather provides the readers a glimpse of the courage and daily life of its people as it is a dirge to a paradise lost, a paean to the beauty of Kashmir. It is one of the first fiction books on Kashmir dealing with the Insurgency. A novel in short stories, with each of the stories interconnected, the book is one of our lead literary fiction debuts for this year. This fascinating collection of writings on Kashmir promises to be a thrilling and compelling read.”
The blurb of the book situates the novel as the first ever fictional account on Kashmir’s insurgency, “Over the last three decades, Kashmir has been ravaged by insurgency. While reams have been written on it – in human rights documents, academic theses, non-fiction accounts of the turmoil, and government and military reports – the effects of the violence on its inhabitants have rarely been rendered in fiction,” the blurb says.
“Feroz Rather’s The Night of Broken Glass corrects that anomaly,” it says.
“Through a series of interconnected stories, within which the same characters move in and out, the author weaves a tapestry of the horror Kashmir has come to represent. His visceral imagery explores the psychological impact of the turmoil on its natives – Showkat who is made to wipe off graffiti on the wall of his shop with his tongue; Rosy, a progressive, jeans-wearing ‘upper-caste’ girl who is in love with ‘lower-caste’ Jamshid; Jamshid’s father Gulam, a cobbler by profession who never finds his son’s bullet-riddled body; the ineffectual Nadim ‘Pasture’ who proclaims himself a full-fledged rebel; even the barbaric and tyrannical Major S who has to contend with his own nightmares.”
“His visceral imagery explores the psychological impact of the turmoil on its natives – Showkat who is made to wipe off graffiti on the wall of his shop with his tongue; Rosy, a progressive, jeans-wearing ‘upper-caste’ girl who is in love with ‘lower-caste’ Jamshid; Jamshid’s father Gulam, a cobbler by profession who never finds his son’s bullet-riddled body; the ineffectual Nadim ‘Pasture’ who proclaims himself a full-fledged rebel; even the barbaric and tyrannical Major S who has to contend with his own nightmares.”
Feroz Rather, who is presently a doctoral student of Creative Writing at Florida State University, USA told Wande Magazine that it has been many years of thinking before he actually started writing the novel from the summer of 2015 to the summer of 2017. “I really did not plan the final form The Night of Broken Glass took. I wrote stories and they had major and minor characters. In the parts that came later, I got into the minor characters and wrote entire stories from their points of view. It was a narrative adventure that I enjoyed and it helped me proliferate multiple internal worlds while going back to the same characters or plot lines,” he said.
Rather is a prolific writer whose work has appeared in The Millions, The Rumpus, The Southeast Review, Caravan, Warscapes, Berfrois, and Himal. His most recent essay, ‘Poet in Srinagar’, appeared in the anthology Mad Heart, Be Brave: On the Poetry of Agha Shahid Ali. The Night of Broken Glass is his first book.
The subject of the novel is the Kashmir insurgency that broke out in the early nineties. On how Kashmir's insurgent past and present impacts his imagination as a writer, Rather says, “I believe the novel embodies the space where a society interrogates its most cherished beliefs. I believe that the novel is a space where a people reflects on its history. That is why writing fiction is important for its purpose is to contemplate consciousness. But in the process of contemplation, the aim of the writer is not only to address his or her own people but evoke realms of humanity which are universally appealing or relatable. Given the amount of military violence that has been inflicted on us, I am someone who is obsessed with history, both as event and force. But in writing Kashmir, I hope to create fictive beings which readers from outside my own immediate setting could relate to.”
Rather credits Irish novelist James Joyce’s Dubliners for inspiring an entire story in his book. “When I was revising The Night of Broken Glass, I read Dubliners religiously. I think I got an entire story— “The Summer of 2010”—from Joyce. It is a sombre story, set in Pampore, and is very close to me,” he said. “If there is one book that I’ll read again and again, if there is one book that I’d want every girl and boy to read in Kashmir, it is James Joyce’s Dubliners. It is a slim book but enormous in terms of its emotional range. Joyce really realizes the intricate psychologies of his characters. The setting also constantly somehow reminds of what is melancholy in the disposition of Kashmir.”
The novel has received excellent advance praise from well known writers. Kashmiri novelist and author Mirza Waheed has hailed The Night of Broken Glass as, “An extraordinary, haunting debut.” In his blurb of the book, he writes, “The dazzling characters that inhabit The Night of Broken Glass will stay with you for years after you’ve finished reading this stunning collection. Bravo!”
Well-known Kashmiri journalist and writer Basharat Peer, in his praise of the book has called The Night of Broken Glass as, “a work of terrifying and hypnotic beauty.” Siddhartha Deb, whose 2011 book The Beautiful and the Damned: A Portrait of the New India won the 2012 PEN/Open Book award, in his blurb for the book has called it, “A haunting and mesmerizing debut that announces the arrival of a major new talent.”
The novel will be released formally in New Delhi on 5 July and is available for pre-order at Amazon here. ♦