Author: Bandula Chandraratna
Publisher: Phoenix House
ISBN/UPC (if available): 1861591845
Mirage emerged from the 1999 Booker judging as an unexpected favorite of a number of judges, just missing the final shortlist. Previously privately published by the author, it was subsequently chosen by two of the Booker Prize judges as one of their books of that year.
There is a simplicity to Mirage, this story of star-crossed lovers whose brief happiness is cut short, which belies the skill of the telling. Set in a closed desert kingdom in our own time, it has the timeless appeal and delicacy of a fairytale, combined with the moral weight of the great nineteenth-century novelists.
It tells how Sayeed, a good but unexceptional man, finds love with a woman who might have been beyond his reach, had widowhood and misfortune not brought her within it. The scene for Sayeed's marriaqe is set with unpretending tenderness: the city hospital where he works, the shanty town he inhabits, his brother's village home, the simple wedding, the struggle to make a decent life for his new wife and her child. Heat, dirt and squalor form the backdrop to a tragedy. Petty jealousy, sexual desire and religious fervor are the engines of the tragedy, and Latifa, a village girl unused to the harsh conditions in the city, its ultimate victim.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK: We need novels as lucid, moving and compassionate as this one. - Boyd Tonkin, Independent.
Not only very moving, but also had that special quality I was looking for in a potential Booker Prize winner. - Gerald Kaufman, Chairman of the 1999 Booker Prize judges.