Between Clay and Dust


Between Clay and Dust


by Musharraf Ali Farooqi

A finalist for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize

"The book works like an ache in the heart.... A story that purports to be about decay resounds with the stuff of life. This is a book to be savored like a fine single malt."

Forbes India

"A crisp and elegiac novel….Farooqi’s atmospheric prose is spare and lucid."

—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Book Details

Paperback List Price: $14.99 • ISBN: 9781632060372 • Publication: 9/8/15 • 5.5” x 8.25” • 216 pages • Fiction / South Asia / Pakistani Literature • Territory: U.S. • eBook ISBN: 9780989983204

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About the Book

Shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, Between Clay and Dust is a moving and beautifully told story of a wrestling champion and a courtesan struggling to hold onto the world they once knew amidst the eruptions of history.

In a ruined city after the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Ustad Ramzi is still famed as a wrestler of unparalleled strength and technique. But now Ramzi’s power—if not his indomitable will—is on the wane. The courtesan Gohar Jan, once celebrated throughout the country for her beauty and the seductive power of her singing, is now out of tune with her discordant new surroundings. In this unforgettable novel, Musharraf Ali Farooqi weaves together the stories of these two extraordinary characters in the twilight of their lives as their world crumbles around them. Between Clay and Dust is an arresting account of love, honor, betrayal, and the ways in which we wrestle with history.



"Musharraf Ali Farooqi is the angel of history. The storm called progress is blowing him into the future. It is piling wreckage at his feet, but there is so much to be done between clay and dust: as this marvelous novel shows, language is to be practiced with the rigor of style; gesture supported by graciousness; ordinary life to be rescued by ritual; and nostalgia distilled into knowledge."

—Amitava Kumar, author of Lunch with a Bigot and A Matter of Rats

"A crisp and elegiac novel….Farooqi’s atmospheric prose is spare and lucid."

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Farooqi’s spare prose, his deliberate understatedness makes his work as much about what it doesn’t say as what it does…. The book works like an ache in the heart, evoking cultures and values that, while not necessarily perfect, represented something larger than the self; their replacements, by contrast, are small and mean…. The pages come alive with the grunts of the trainee pehelwans and capture the last echoes of Gohar Jan’s sitar. A story that purports to be about decay resounds with the stuff of life. This is a book to be savoured like a fine single malt.”

—Sumana Mukherjee, Forbes India

“Farooqi traces the unravelling of their world with near-uncanny attentiveness….Farooqi’s narrative voice is cool and hypnotic…  Farooqi’s true victory in this book is Ustad Ramzi, a patriarch who evokes both our sympathy and our discomfort. His sins may seem smaller than those of a society rushing headlong into the future, but Farooqi’s writing is too wise and too elegant to make this a romance instead of a tragedy. As in Syed’s poem, we are left with the notion that every history is underwritten by the minute, private failures of human beings.”

The Wall Street Journal

Between Clay and Dust is a stirring novel of a few individuals fighting to make their way in a world shifting beneath their feet. The simplicity of sentence structures juxtaposed with the complexity of the characters makes this a beautiful read. Musharraf Ali Farooqi creates characters so compelling that the reader feels the weight of the struggles and decisions they face. Particularly captivating is the relationship between Ustad Ramzi and his younger brother and protegé, Tamami. Farooqi created an intriguing dynamic between these two characters as they negotiate conflicting desires and their own personal flaws. Part of what makes his characters so relatable is his omniscient descriptions of their inner thoughts and debates as they consider their own motives and desires. I would recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in a culturally immersive experience and an appreciation for well-written characterization.”

San Diego Review of Books

"Between Clay and Dust glides on understated, soulful prose, an English that feels almost like Urdu in its sensibility, for it captures the cadence of a culture in decline in post-Partition India and Pakistan[...]: a shared, plural composite culture and the refinement of pleasure and the arts, of which courtesans and wrestlers are perhaps its most enduring, romantic and graceful ciphers. Farooqi’s restrained prose that creates a certain lushness and heightened mood, is surely drawn from the eclipsed traditions of the kotha and akhara that it distills so wonderfully and with such dignity[.]”

Asian Review of Books

"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."

Shalini Mukerji, Caravan Magazine

"[Farooqi] is entirely successful in showing us that we still retain the power, if not to shape our destinies, to at least react to our waning fortunes with a contradictory brew of emotions that range from despair to forbearance."

Muneeza Shamsie, Newsline Magazine

"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."

—Trisha Gupta, The Sunday Guardian

“The novel richly describes a lovely but ruined time and place.”

—Lisa Howorth, Square Books (Oxford, MS)


About the Author

© Penguin India

© Penguin India

Musharraf Ali Farooqi is an author, novelist, and translator. He was born in 1968 in Hyderabad, Pakistan, and now divides his time between Toronto and Karachi. His acclaimed new novel, Between Clay and Dust, was shortlisted for The Man Asian Literary Prize 2012 and longlisted for the 2013 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. In 2016, Restless Books will publish Farooqi's second novel, The Story of a Widow, which was shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2011 and longlisted for the 2010 IMPAC-Dublin Literary Award. His most recent children's fiction is the novel Tik-Tik, The Master of Time, Pakistan's first English language novel for children. His other children's fiction includes the picture book The Cobbler's Holiday Or Why Ants Don't Wear Shoes and the collection The Amazing Moustaches of Mocchhander the Iron Man and Other Stories, shortlisted for the India ComicCon award in the Best Publication for Children category. He is the author of the critically acclaimed translations of Urdu classics, The Adventures of Amir Hamza, and the first book of a projected 24-volume magical fantasy epic, Hoshruba. Find out more at his website.


Books by Musharraf Ali Farooqi