by Aamer Hussein
Review by Ramona Wadi
A poignant book delving into poetry, culture, relationships, memory and exile, The Cloud Messenger seeks to discover the essence of existence, acknowledging the fact that memory betrays the very recollections which are an integral part of identity.
Hussein's prose shifts hues as he veers from one observation to another, from incidents to memory, from academia to the essence of poetry. Through this constant motion, The Cloud Messenger is a narration that is able to evoke the ethereal and the slivers of truth, contrasting a world of words with a world of reticence.
Conditioned by the realisation of impermanence, Mehran fails to interact faithfully with the people around him. Close friendships and loves seem imbalanced, depending on who commands the narration. But there is a certainty throughout the book - Mehran remains true to his concept of self, aloof, willing to wander and discover himself within Urdu and Persian poetry, seeking a fragment of belonging which his closest friends and loves have been unable to communicate.
At once mundane and surreal, Aamer Hussein evokes the sense of exile within one's self. Creating an identity between Karachi, London and Rome, Mehran's identity is shaped by recollections. The immediate realm fails to register a sense of belonging - it is only by evoking the past that an identity is discovered.
Tragedy plays a significant part in the novel. Whether wrought by disease or a streak of self-destruction, Mahran watches and clings to Riccarda and Marvi - there is an awareness that through these two women's complex attitude towards life, Mehran manages to cultivate the character of a nomad, both metaphorically and in reality. Travel, tragedy, and memory - a character exiled in the world who finds solace within a realm that binds him to the structure of words and verses from his native land.