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The Essence of Camphor Paperback – 15 Feb 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Katha (15 Feb. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8185586829
  • ISBN-13: 978-8185586823
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 14 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,113,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This collection of Naiyer Masud's fiction transports the reader to the magic realm of a glass wharf and the shades and sorrows of a community of wastelanders. From the visceral immediacy of filial bonds to the ineffable intricacy of haunting memories, Masud's fictional world is a moving experience.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Azhar Ali Abidi on 19 Jan. 2001
Format: Hardcover
It is not often that we see an English translation of Urdu literature but here is one of them. I would recommend that readers start with The Myna of Peacock Garden, one of the best stories in the collection. Besides being a fine story, it tells the tale of the 1857 Mutiny through the eyes of the natives - a perspective virtually unheard of in the English-speaking world. I found reading this book like eating real curry - not like the restuarant fare found in the West. For readers weary of the fare offered by Rushdie, Roy and others, the stories of Naiyer Masud should taste like the real curry.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
very evocative and rooted. 30 Oct. 2000
By K. Agrawal - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Essence of Camphor is a wonderful story. It is mesmerizing how closely the childhood memories of a perfumer overlap the imaginary and the real. The camphor base of his perfumes mirror his loneliness, and the loss of a friend - she had said that like camphor, death is a cure for many pains. Most of the other characters appear ghostly or distant, as sometimes adults appear to children. At the same time, the image of the 'camphor sparrow' becomes very real, it literally takes flight from its frame in the living room. It reappears on a tree, reached it is dead -- hollow with ants, or again, sighted flying above the rooftop with a string attached, it is alive and free. These precise images are offset by a sketchy background of families of women where men are mostly absent. The boy-protagonist's adventures are very much his own, and passionate in his creation of objects which to him are 'real', more real probably than things around him. What are his creations and how real are they? Images telegraph back and forth till a sense of the past and the future is blurred, as the house once abandoned where people sat with their heads bowed is later inhabited with people who bring with them a similar uncanny melancholy. In the narrative, camphor becomes a metaphor for healing, for emptiness, for renewal, and for death. Heavily layered, read it carefully. Highly recommended reading!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This Book Blew Me Away! 30 May 2003
By PurpleKat - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What subtle writing! When I read this book, I was struck by how ephemeral the imagery is, the strange, half-real world of a boy in circumstances that I consider exotic, the ways that he accepted (and didn't accept) his surroundings. I was struck by the re-occurring images, the melancholy air of the story.
And then I got to the end, and I just burst out crying. All of those little images that seemed interesting but disconnected all came together within the space of a single paragraph, and it's the most powerful paragraph in literature I've read thusfar. I had to set the book down because I was crying so hard. It was a very powerful experience.
I would recommend this book to anyone who's looking for a writing style that's different from the traditional western storytelling style, but not so challanging as to be unapproachable. Fans of movies like 'Unbreakable' and 'Signs' will probably appreciate it.
Stories from Rural India 16 July 2012
By James W. Fonseca - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A collection of short stories from India with a lot of local color. I'll call them "mood stories:" a lot of atmosphere but very little plot. In the title story, a young, artistic man grows up observing his neighbors and neighborhood and develops a crush on a young woman who is dying. He mainly sees her on family visits and makes artistic gifts for her. This is old India, so it's not like they are going to run up to the bedroom and close the door. Another story is a bit of a ghost story focused on an old house. Another is almost a medieval tale of a laborer who steals a peacock for his daughter from the royal zoo. In another story, a death leads to a family melee over the deceased's jewelry. There is some elegant writing but little action or even psychological depth. The stories are translated from Urdu, the language of Pakistan, but these tales are set in northeast India where that language is also spoken.
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