Between Clay and Dust

by Musharraf Ali Farooqi

September 2, 2014
5 x 7.5 paper 234 pages
CDN $19.95

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Finalist for the Man Asian Literary Prize
Longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature

Ustad Ramzi was once the greatest wrestler in the land, famed for his strength and unmatched technique. Young apprentices flocked to his akhara to learn his technique, fans adored him, and rival wrestling clans feared his unyielding resolve. The courtesan Gohar Jan was just as renowned. Celebrated throughout the country for her beauty and the power of her singing, her kotha was thronged by nobles, rich men, and infatuated admirers.

Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s latest novel presents these extraordinary characters in the twilight of their lives. Their skills are no longer what they once were, new challengers to their eminence have risen, and the adoring crowds and followers are long gone. An immense catastrophe has laid waste to the country; its new inheritors have no time for the old ways. Stripped of their resources and their old powers, Ustad Ramzi and Gohar Jan must face their greatest challenge yet.

Powerful and haunting, Between Clay and Dust is a triumph of storytelling and a poignant exploration of love, honour, redemption, and the strength that great souls find to go on when all is lost.


“There is a bell-like clarity to Farooqi’s delineation of his characters, his slow unraveling of their motivations and desires . . . This is a quietly affecting book, with a profound understanding of tragedy; that what happens to us is as much a function of how we respond to events as the events themselves.” – The Sunday Guardian

“This is the most poignant, the most subtle, the most moving novel I have read in the past few years from this, or any, region. A natural storyteller, Farooqi imagines a world we thought we were familiar with and then pulls the rug out from under our feet.” — The Caravan

“A privileged peek into the mind of the Pahalwan and Courtesan, the subcontinent’s most intriguing symbols of romance. Storytelling at its best.”  Naseeruddin Shah


Reviews and Interviews

“The novel would be a great addition to any South Asian postcolonial literature course, and is an easy yet profound leisure read.” — The Bull CalfFebruary 9, 2015.

“What does one do in the wake of a tremendous loss, and how does one manage their own participation in the circumstances which led to it?” — Buried in Print, January 23, 2015.

“I’ve only found a few books like this in my reading travels: short yet very affecting.” — I’ve Read This, January 22, 2015.

“[I]ts richness in capturing a culture at the moment of expiry is the stuff of epics. . . timelessness, sorrow, and so much emotional delicacy.” — Quill and Quire starred review, September 2014.

“Farooqi’s atmospheric prose is spare and lucid. . . The novel is a melancholic portrait of characters adrift in a new world where tradition inevitably loses in the match against time.” — Publishers Weekly starred review, July 21, 2014.

Interview with The RumpusJanuary 2014.