A darkly comic, boundary-pushing debut following an adrift Pakistani translator in London who attends a mysterious language school which boasts complete fluency in just ten days, but at a secret, sinister cost.
Anisa Ellahi dreams of being a translator of ‘great works of literature,’ but instead mostly spends her days subtitling Bollywood movies, living off her parents’ generous allowance, and discussing the ‘underside of life’ with her best friend, Naima. Anisa’s mediocre white boyfriend, Adam, only adds to her growing sense of inadequacy with his savant-level aptitude for languages, successfully leveraging his expansive knowledge into an enviable career.
But when Adam learns to speak Urdu with native fluency practically overnight, Anisa forces him to reveal his secret. Adam begrudgingly tells Anisa about the Centre, an elite, invite-only program that guarantees near-instant fluency in any language. Skeptical but intrigued, Anisa enrolls–stripped of her belongings and contact with the outside world–and emerges ten days later fluent in German. As Anisa enmeshes herself further within the Centre, seduced by all that it’s made possible, she soon realizes the true cost of its services. By turns dark, funny, and surreal, and with twists page-turning and shocking,
The Centre takes the reader on a journey through Karachi, London, and New Delhi, interrogating the sticky politics of language, translation, and appropriation with biting specificity, and ultimately asking: what is success really worth? A remarkable debut from Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi, announcing the arrival of an extraordinary new talent.