As a former journalist myself, I have always had a bit of a soft spot for novels that feature the Third Estate. I wasn’t a foreign correspondent like the author and the protagonist of his novel, but rather a current affairs and political journalist, but I travelled to my fair share of dangerous places (albeit not as dangerous as Iraq or Afghanistan) and have nothing but respect for those who do so. So it was that I came to In Truth, Madness by Imran Khan, a journalist who most recently has been a foreign correspondent for al-Jazeera English and who has reported from amongst other places as Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, and Libya.
In Truth, Madness is published by Unbound, the crowd-funding publisher, rather than a traditional publishing house. I’ve read a number of Unbound titles and they’ve all been extremely good, but they’ve all been a little quirky too, which might explain why they’ve been crowdfunded rather than found a home with a traditional publishing house. This goes for this title also. For while it could have been a story about a jaded journalist reporting in a war zone (and would have been perfectly good as such, a number of journalists have written very good novels along these lines) Khan does a little bit more.
The protagonist of In Truth, Madness is Malik Khalil, an experienced and brilliant journalist. He’s been the world over, reporting on wars and natural disasters, witnessing more than his fair share of strife and misery. But unsurprisingly, it’s taken its toll and all that trauma is catching up with him. As the story unfolds and he starts to unravel, he begins to argue with a God that he doesn’t believe in.
I’ll refrain from giving away more of the plot, for this is an excellent novel that needs to be read. It’s a story that tells of what it is like to work as a war correspondent and the plot addresses the situation in the middle east. But In Truth, Madness also covers myth and religion, history, and much, much more. Another reviewer drew comparisons with the novel Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, another novel that I’ve read and reviewed, and with its touch of magical realism, I have to agree that In Truth, Madness does indeed share many similarities with that work. There’s an increasing number of novels coming out of the Middle East and being translated into English, and while I’ve only read a few, magical realism is a way these authors try to make sense of the violent maelstrom that all too often wracks the region. While the author Imran Khan is British, his novel In Truth, Madness is very much in the tradition of these Middle Eastern novelists, and its narrative is a rich and compelling examination of a multitude of subjects.
In Truth, Madness is a beautifully written novel and has much to say about the troubles that plague the region, the reality of journalism, and humanity’s place in the world. This is a novel that addresses both earthly matters and the metaphysical such as belief in god. A thoughtful, compelling and original piece of literature, this is a fine read.
James Pierson 4/4
In Truth, Madness by Imran Khan
Unbound Digital 9781911586906 pbk Aug 2018