Cover image for Mirage
Chandraratna, Bandula.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : David R. Godine, 2003.

Physical Description:
214 pages ; 21 cm
General Note:
"A Black Sparrow book."

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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There is a simplicity to "Mirage, this story of star-crossed lovers whose brief happiness is cut short, that belies the skill of its telling. Set in a closed Arab kingdom in our own time, it has the timeless appeal and delicacy of a fairy tale, yet also the moral weight--and all the human sadness--of a novel by Thomas Hardy. It tells how Sayeed, a good but unexceptional Muslim, finds happiness with Lalifa, a girl who might have been beyond his reach had widowhood and misfortune not brought her within it. The scene for Sayeed's marriage is set with unpretending tenderness and in unerring detail: the city hospital where he works, the shanty town where he lives, his brother's desert home, the pleasant wedding, the struggle to make a decent life for his new wife and her child. Heat, dirt, and squalor form the backdrop of tragedy, one fueled by pretty jealousy, sexual desire, and religious fervor, with Latifa, a village girl unused to the ways of the city, its ultimate victim. "Mirage was published inEngland in,1999 at the author's own expense. It emerged from that year's Booker Prize deliberations the unexpected favorite of a number of the judges, just missing the final short-list. Boyd Tonkin, literary editor of the "London Independent, chose it as his Book of the Year, saying "we need novels as lucid, moving, and compassionate as this one."

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A purely told tale of humble lives, Chandraratna's first novel is as spellbinding as it is devastating. Orphaned as a boy, Sayeed has sacrificed his own happiness to care for his younger brother, leaving him and his growing family their parents' home and land in a verdant village in an unnamed Muslim country to move to the city, where he lives precariously in a dusty shantytown and works as a hospital porter. On a visit home, he surprises himself by agreeing to his brother's plan for him to marry a young widow, hoping fervently that she and her little daughter won't find city life too odious. Fablelike in its clarity and careful pacing, lushly beautiful and exquisitely touching in its lingering descriptions, Chandraratna's quietly powerful and tragic tale slowly and inexorably reveals the malevolence brewing beneath the surface of this spare but volatile world as traditional ways of life break down and jealousy, resentment, and vindictive religious extremism intensify. Self-published in England, Chandraratna's tale just missed being short-listed for the Booker Prize. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2003 Booklist

Library Journal Review

This powerful first novel surfaced as a contender for the 1999 Booker Prize after being privately published by the author. Set in an unnamed Arab kingdom, it offers a compelling portrait of the affable, industrious Sayeed, who has migrated from his family's farm to the city. In clear, concise language, Sri Lankan-born Chandraratna describes this pious Muslim's daily life as a hospital porter enduring harsh urban realities. When Sayeed's family arranges his marriage, his life becomes even more challenging. Besides paying a dowry, Sayeed must help his new wife, the recently widowed Latifa, and her child adjust to squalid living conditions intensified by ardently religious neighbors troubled over the influx of Western customs. Just as the family begins to bond, several combustible factors ignite in a shocking, explosive conclusion to an otherwise simple, unassuming tale. Throughout, Chandraratna demonstrates a keen eye and considerable talent for sharing the most mundane minutiae without arresting his novel's naturalistic force. Highly recommended.-Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.