Author : Benyamin
Translated by Joseph Koyippally
9780143416333 | PB | pp. 255 | 2012 | Penguin Books
This award-winning novel by Benyamin is a poignant tale of an Indian immigrant’s struggle in the lonely deserts of Saudi Arabia and his feelings of alienation, endurance, faith and love. Revolving around the happenings of Najeeb’s life, the story is based on true events.
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The author begins the story by introducing the protagonist Najeeb, who hails from the Indian state of Kerala. With an aspiration to get a good job and earn more money, newly married Najeeb decides to travel to the oil rich Gulf States, as is the case with numerous young Indians. But Najeeb’s world turns on its head, when he is taken away from a Saudi Arabian airport to be a slave. What follows is the consuming tale of how his dreams about making a wonderful future for himself and his family go terribly wrong.
As the novel proceeds, Benyamin gives out appalling details about how Najeeb is mercilessly kept captive and made to work laboriously for a rich Arab in his goat farm. He takes this opportunity in the plot to tastefully describe the beauty of the lush green scenery of Kerala in which Najeeb grew up around family and friends. And, he compares this to the lonely and alienated days he is forced to spend in the scorching sand dunes. He captures beautifully, the turmoils in Najeeb’s mind, his feelings of helplessness, and his desire for revenge.
There are also other characters in the story just like Najeeb’s which stand as a mirror to the sorry state of innocent and exploited immigrants. Najeeb even makes friends with a couple of them in the hope of finding a way out. At the end, it is for the reader to find out if or not the young and tormented Najeeb succeeds in escaping this horrendous state of living and manages to actualize his dreams.
Goat Days intends to address the glitzy idea of migrating to other countries in order to acquire better lives, one of the biggest mirages chased by youngsters of this age. It presents a profoundly rhetorical question about whether this idea is as promising as it seems to be.
Originally written in Malayalam, Goat Days was first published in 2008 and became a sensational hit. It won the author the prestigious Kerala Literary Academy Award in 2009. It is presently part of the prescribed syllabus for those studying Malayalam literature in several universities across Kerala. This English version was translated by Joseph Koyippally and was long listed for the Man Asian Literature Prize in 2012.
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