The Tale of the Missing Man

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Publication Date
August 2018
Page Count
308 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

The Tale of the Missing Man

A Novel
Manzoor Ahtesham, translated from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum and Ulrike Stark

The Tale of the Missing Man (Dastan-e Lapata) is a milestone in Indo-Muslim literature. A refreshingly playful novel, it explores modern Muslim life in the wake of the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. Zamir Ahmad Khan suffers from a mix of alienation, guilt, and postmodern anxiety that defies diagnosis. His wife abandons him to his reflections about his childhood, writing, ill-fated affairs, and his hometown, Bhopal, as he attempts to unravel the lies that brought him to his current state (while weaving new ones).

A novel of a heroic quest gone awry, The Tale of the Missing Man artfully twists the conventions of the Urdu romance, or dastan, tradition, where heroes chase brave exploits that are invariably rewarded by love. The hero of Ahtesham’s tale, living in the fast-changing city of Bhopal during the 1970s and ’80s, suffers an identity crisis of epic proportions: he is lost, missing, and unknown both to himself and to others. The result is a twofold quest in which the fate of protagonist and writer become inextricably and ironically linked. The lost hero sets out in search of himself, while the author goes in search of the lost hero, his fictionalized alter ego.

New York magazine cited the book as one of “the world's best untranslated novels.” In addition to raising important questions about Muslim identity, Ahtesham offers a very funny and thoroughly self-reflective commentary on the modern author’s difficulties in writing autobiography.
About the Author

MANZOOR AHTESHAM is an Indian writer who was born in Bhopal. He is the author of five novels and several short-story collections in Hindi, many of which have received accolades and awards. In 2003, Ahtesham was honored by the government of India for his contributions to literature.

JASON GRUNEBAUM and ULRIKE STARK received a National Endowment of the Arts grant to translate The Tale of the Missing Man. They are both based in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.