2021 Trillium Book Award Shortlist
An extraordinary debut set in Toronto, unfurling against the backdrop of an ancient Persian love story.
The story of Layla and Majnun, made immortal by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi in the 12th century, has been retold thousands of times, in thousands of different ways, throughout literature. Against the backdrop of this story, to the sound-track of modern hip-hop, and amid the struggle of an immigrant family to instill an old faith under new conditions, Irfan Ali's Accretion hurtles towards an unsustainable, "greater madness." Majnun, one of the foundational literary characters who haunt Accretion, is also an Arabic epithet for "possessed." In this tradition, Ali has written a book from the places where the self is no longer the self; places where, in order not to shut down forever, the debris must be cleared, and the soul must inch towards love and hope, "on memory's dusty beams."
Accretion is written in a contemporary lyricism that honours ancient poetic traditions. It is a familiar story, imbued with a particularity and honesty that only Irfan Ali could bring to the table.
About the author
Irfan Ali is a poet, essayist, writer, and educator. His short poetry collection, "Who I Think About When I Think About You" was shortlisted for the 2015 Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. Accretion is his first full-length work. Irfan was born, raised, and still lives in Toronto.
Accretion, Irfan Ali's triumph of a debut, masterfully unravels the third culture experience with deceiving simplicity, humour, grace and candour. Standing at the threshold of what it means to be a son, a South Asian man, a Muslim, and a human, Ali resists the temptation of binaries—faith is not linear, identity is not fixed, and culture is not singular. Ali's genius lies in his effortless ability to hold space for what is unsaid and unknown. Like Majnun from the famous Sufi fable, Ali sets out on a journey only to discover that his Beloved is the mirror within him." — Jury Citation, 2021 Trillium Book Award for Poetry
"Irfan Ali delves fearlessly into the beauty and cruelty of a utilitarian city and the chasms between people. The struggle between head and heart binds these poems. In fact, Accretion might be considered a roadmap for finding love in everything—ourselves, family, soul mates, urban life, and faith." — Emily Pohl-Weary, author of Ghost Sick