“Everyone talks about djinns matter-of-factly, like this is a book...,” Saad Z Hossain was saying, “this is a bottle,” he continued, and as he finished his sentence saying “and this is a djinn,” the microphone mysteriously turned off just before he said the word 'djinn'. Everyone in the audience howled with laughter and it became apparent that that was going to be a fun session.
Saad Z Hossain was speaking on the second day of Dhaka Lit Fest (DLF) 2017, when the Dhaka based fiction writer sat down with Dhaka Tribune's Features Editor Sabrina Fatma Ahmad to discuss his books, writing process and the secret behind his humour.
When the moderator asked how he comes up with his eccentric plots, Saad Hossain said, “I basically don't like research, the only possibility left for you is to make things up.”
His first book Escape from Baghdad
tells the story of the incarcerated Saddam-era torturer who bribes a pair of racketeers to smuggle him out of Baghdad. The author's latest book, Djinn City
is told from the perspective of a djinn.
Commenting on the quirkiness of his stories, Hossain said that strangeness is a relative thing. “The idea is that the reality we see is not the same for everyone,” he said.
The author said that he did not receive the expected amount of criticism for writing about a place that he hadn’t even visited. But he did go on to humorously explain how he convincingly writes about things he doesn’t have firsthand knowledge about.
“There is a trick, and it works,” the writer said. “You take a small area from the place you want to write about and describe it really well. For example, if you describe a person's nose in minute details then the reader will assume that you know the other features of that person too,” Saad Hossain said to his audience's laughter.
When asked how he is so “effortlessly funny” the author sarcastically remarked, “It's so effortless! I don't even have to look at the page when writing.”
Hossain’s next planned project is a dystopian sci-fi set in a Bangladesh that has gone underwater due to climate change. “The world is opening up to science fiction fantasy being written by coloured writers. This is a genre that is being dominated by white writers, but it is coming from other areas,” he said.