Saturday, 24 March 2012
A New History of Torments
Author: Zulfikar Ghose
Year of publication: 1982, Black Swan edition 1984
Back cover blurb: 'Erotic, fantastic, sardonic, A New History of Torments is a work of extraordinary imaginative scope by a writer at the very height of his powers - a novel which blends allegory and thrilling action, illusion and disillusion, passion and suspense into a rich adventure set in the South American jungle.'
Quick flick reveals: It's a fickle fate, being a respected author of literary fiction. One day you're earning praise as a master of magical realism, admired by such diverse figures as Paul Theroux, Edna O'Brien and Michael Moorcock, and then a mere thirty years later, none of your books are in print, and you are at no. 2,171,781 in the Amazon chart.
The front cover quote of A New History of Torments is from the Telegraph, which says that it 'may well be one of the great novels' and I am interested to find out if it is. The cover and blurb give little away as to what it's actually about, but the writing seems far more direct than, say, that of Marquez, and mercifully the paragraphs are a lot shorter. There are details that make me think of Paul Bowles, Malcolm Lowry and Werner Herzog. I feel like I may have stumbled across a writer who is ripe for rediscovery.
Random paragraph: 'Raphael did not know what he had expected, but he would certainly never have imagined this huge fortress in the middle of the jungle. By now, since leaving his own house, he had taken so many turns, driven at high altitudes and then in valleys, that he had lost all sense of direction and did not know where he was or how far had come.'