REVIEW : 29th August 2004, Mid-Day

The Black Book by Aabid Surti
English Edition, Rs 150, 172 pages
Rating: 7/10

The Black Book by Aabid Surti is a strange enterprise. It tells the story of Yam-Zalal, a new messiah born to a woman and an animal. Yam-Zalal is the prophet of the Black Book and goes through the dizzying upturns and downturns of the prophetic life before he is finally cursed, stoned and crucified.

The point of presenting the life of this Prophet of Untruth seems to be to show how easily the people are swayed by the rhetorics of new prophets and new ways to nirvana. Perhaps the best way, today, is to keep out of the paths of prophets altogether.

"The purpose of writing this book,' Surti is quoted as saying, 'was to question blind followers of every religion; to provoke doubt, which is the foundation of the true religion.' Although Aabid Surti tells his story in 50 brief chapters presented in Old Testament style, he brings in elements from various religions and the Indian traditions, including the Krishna stories.

The book was written in Gujarati and then translated into Hindi, and this English translation is by Rima Kashyap. It is accompanied by interesting illustrations by Surti. The Black Book' is not for everyone, but if you can plough your way through the stormy prose, it does make you think.

Uma Mahadevan-Dasgupta