By Pasha Malla
The wild and poignant story of two young men—Ash Dhar, who is grieving the death of his father, and his best friend Matt, a pot-head drifter—who embark on a Don Quixote-like quest from Canada to Kashmir, India. A brilliantly entertaining novel by an award-winning, Giller Prize-nominated author.
Pasha Malla burst onto the literary scene in 2009 with his first book, a collection of stories called The Withdrawal Method that won the Trillium Book Award, was a Globe Top 100 pick, and was nominated for the Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. In 2012, he published his first novel, People Park, which was shortlisted for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award. Now, with the extraordinary Fugue States, he gives us a layered, mature work—equal parts funny and poignant, thought-provoking and compulsively, effortlessly readable.
Fugue States opens with the eulogy at a funeral: a eulogy delivered by Ash, a radio host, upon the death of his father, Brij, a Kashmir-born doctor and would-be writer. Later, while sorting through his father’s belongings, Ash comes across a mysterious document: a half-completed and utterly baffling work of fiction set (possibly) in Kashmir. Ash begins to wonder about his Indian heritage and the ancestral home he knows only through his father’s stories—as a place of brutality and stunning natural beauty. And yet he resists going to visit, skeptical of being another Westerner visiting a war-torn homeland; instead, Ash’s best friend Matt—a drifter, pot-head, career bartender, massage therapy student, and self-described “maker of memories” (in other words, a “fool” in the best sense, in the spirit of Shakespeare and Cervantes and Nabokov’s Pnin)—takes it upon himself to go in Ash’s place…with strange, unexpected, hilarious and excruciating results.
Fugue States is a spectacular novel, at once a parody of clueless tourism and western meddling in world affairs and a subtle, immensely affecting book about homesickness and the deep melancholy that abides in people who, like Ash and his father, and even like the foolish Matt, have never felt completely at home in the world.
“Malla’s novel is a timely tragicomedy about western intervention in areas of political turmoil.”
–Quill and Quire
Knopf Canada, May 2017