The universe is shaking as Hedayat, the "glossolalist" narrator of Fire in the Unnameable Country is born on a flying carpet in the skies above an obscure land whose leader has manufactured the ability to hear every unspoken utterance of the nation. He records the contents of his citizens' minds onto tape reels for archival storage. Later in Hedayat's young life, as the unnameable country collapses into disarray around him, he begins an epistle, wherein, interspersed with accounts of contemporary terrorist attacks and the outbreak of a mysterious viral epidemic, he invokes the memories of his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to revisit the troubled country's history and expose the roots of its crisis.
Hedayat's dark world is entirely foreign but oddly familiar, echoing the banality of our daily diversions and adding a terrifying twist. The Mirror, a gruesome, never-ending reality show, turns the city of La Maga into a permanent Hollywood-style film set where people gamble body parts and live in fear of the Black Organs, the paramilitary manifestation of the eviscerators that threaten to infect the nation. Islam's vibrant, ingenious construction sends the plot twisting down rabbit holes and caterwauling through secret doorways to emerge anywhere from a domestic living room to a bomb technician's workshop to the deep recesses of the state's repressive political apparatus.
An utterly remarkable debut, filled with original characters caught up in wonderfully imaginative circumstances and rendered in uniquely inventive language, Fire in the Unnameable Country is a book like no other.
About the author
Ghalib Islam was born in Bangladesh and immigrated to Canada at age seven. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto’s creative writing M.A. program. Fire in the Unnameable Country is his first novel.
“Islam’s defiance of almost every rule of realistic storytelling is breathtaking and marked by beauty. . . when a book like this springs out of the ether, so indifferent to convention, so much itself, and manifests new and powerful tendencies, even its flaws hint at greater possibilities. . . You must report it, as you would a natural event.” —Globe and Mail
"Ghalib Islam has written one of the buzziest novels of the season.” —Toronto Life
“Dizzyingly good. Parsing the exploded, fragmentary story of Hedayat’s ancestors is a vertiginous thrill.” —The Walrus
“The 1001 Nights of its time — rooms opening into rooms, stories into stories, in the same literary mansion as Calvino, Burroughs, and other metafabulist satirists: horrifying, funny, written in a language all its own.” —Margaret Atwood
“In the Unnameable Country the rules of gravity, time, even corporeality are suspended. Inventing a dazzling and vertiginous syntax Ghalib Islam connects everything—politics, war, corruption, private lives, loves—until we understand that we are all thought experiments, doomed and/or redeemed by our collective nightmare/dream. A dazzling mirror of our 21st Century world.” — Rosemary Sullivan, author of Villa Air-Bel
“While reading Fire in the Unnameable Country, the big ones come to mind. I'm talking Joyce, Marquez, Rushdie — but Ghalib Islam is a world onto his own. A post-apocalyptic mind-fuck, a wild ride through the nether worlds of the war on terror and the the pitiful self, Fire in the Unnameable Country is a tour de force. A stunning achievement, and a first novel at that. We'll be hearing more from Ghalib Islam in the years to come.” —Jonathan Garfinkel, Author of Ambivalence
“Chock full of tart-to-caustic appraisals of what it means to live, suffer and die in a history-soaked 21st-century flailing Third World country.” —National Post