Goat Days, 2012 Longlist
Translated by Joseph Koyippally
Benyamin was born in Kulanda, a small town in Kerala, in 1971. Although an acclaimed novelist and short-story writer, writing is not his primary profession. Having studied to become an engineer, he currently works as a project coordinator for an electro-mechanical company in Bahrain.
In fact, his tryst with literature happened quite by accident after he moved to Bahrain in 1992. It was before the advent of globalization, when a visa to the Gulf countries heralded the promise of escape to many unemployed young men in Kerala. But once in Bahrain, he was beset by a gnawing sense of loneliness, he sought refuge in an old hobby: reading. He devoured everything from pulp fiction novels to classics of world literature, from poetry to science writing. Attempts at writing followed suit—first the occasional book review and then, slowly and gradually, works of fiction. In his own words, ‘Loneliness, boredom, depression, numbness and excess time in the Gulf made me a writer.’
Goat Days is a moving story about one of the great human concerns of the present century: migration in search of a better life.
Najeeb’s dearest wish is to work in the Gulf and earn enough money to send back home. He achieves his dream only to be propelled by a series of incidents, grim and absurd, into a slave-like existence herding goats in the middle of the Saudi desert. Memories of the lush, verdant landscape of his village and of his loving family haunt Najeeb whose only solace is the companionship of goats. In the end, the lonely young man contrives a hazardous scheme to escape his desert prison.
Goat Days was published to acclaim in Malayalam and became a bestseller. One of the brilliant new talents of Malayalam literature, Benyamin’s wry and tender telling transforms this strange and bitter comedy of Najeeb’s life in the desert into a universal tale of loneliness and alienation.
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