A combination of immigrant academics in Scandinavia, a Muslim taxi driver, girlfriends, marital discord and homosexuals gives rise to dangerous prejudices in this slender, darkly ironic fable from a noted Indian writer.
Khair’s (The Thing About Thugs, 2012, etc.) curious fusion of social observation, romantic philosophy, comedy and morality tale is played out by a cast of assorted nationalities centered on an apartment house in Århus, Denmark, after Ravi, an Indian Hindu, and the unnamed narrator, a Pakistani Muslim, decide impulsively to move in with devout taxi driver Karim Bhai. Ravi and the narrator, colleagues at the local university, are intrigued by their landlord, who hosts Quranic study sessions at the apartment on Fridays, takes mysterious phone calls, is constantly in need of funds and sometimes disappears overnight. But they are more preoccupied with their search for women, which eventually results in a perfect partner for Ravi and a good enough one—"a half [glass] of love"—for the narrator. While notions of terrorism are constantly hinted at, Khair spends more time considering relationships, a strange balance that renders the act of violence that eventually occurs almost incidental. It does, however, give expression to the latent Islamophobia found both in society at large and nearer home, while the truth about Karim Bhai, when it emerges, is more humane than horrific.
Witty and incisive but insubstantial.