My Novel Incandescence
by Mehreen Ahmed
Please welcome Mehreen Ahmed with her feature about her journey to her newest novel.
My Novel Incandescence published by Dark Myth Publications, USA, 2022
I am an introspective writer. As one, I am attracted to words and language processes in the mind, rather than the written word itself on paper. This book was inspired by Tagore’s The Last Poem. I had read that book quite a few times at different stages of my life. Each time something new was unveiled. I had Tagore in mind when I started to write this book. But the book was hinged on the civil war which occurred in former East Pakistan out of which Bangladesh was born. I was about Mila Chowdhury, the protagonist’s age at the time. I took the war as the core plot of the novel which gradually evolved resonating Tagore but in a new light.
The timeline is a nonlinear journey, where the plot takes off to the past in a back-and-forth motion. At first, it seemed a little daunting that I would even take on this risky venture of embarking on such a hard task of following the characters’ mind’s journeys—particularly, those of Mrs. Chowdhury and her granddaughter Mila Chowdhury. However, as the novel’s fate had it, I began to write it anyway and finished it in about five years. In order to test, I published standalone chapters from it in several places and they were welcomed with overwhelming acceptance.
I forwarded it to Stephanie Bardy, the editor-in-chief of Dark Myth Publications. They were the first, I ever approached. She was absolutely thrilled to have read it and accepted it straight away. In due course, the board of directors then sent me a contract.
Regarding this novel Incandescence, there is much to say. The story is set in the East. It is about a young impressionable girl, Mila Chowdhury, and her growing up in a dysfunctional, amoral fallen aristocratic family. Living with her extended family consisting of her grandmother, uncles and aunts, mother, and a father, and fumbling through her adolescence, her unique exposure to life’s predicaments makes her privy to a paradox of existence. She wants to learn about the true nature of morality and the correct path to life, and how life manifests after death—the relationships of life with time in life and afterward. Time, teetering on the edge of life and death is a teaser that steals away surreptitiously the essence of life to the bare bone.
The story spans over three generations and every generation adds a new perspective to the novel. Mila finds out more about her mysterious family from a diary bequeathed by her grandmother. As she jots her thoughts to it, the pages of the diary transform into an intergenerational family saga. More jottings are imminent with the new generation and are unstoppable as life is. The diary which has a life of its own evolves in its own right as characters in it are intrinsically drawn to it to add a new entry every time—like an open book of life in which unfinished stories of many dots wait for the next entry to connect to a new dot.
The family saga is ongoing as the diary, but it reshapes into something new just like the human genome. When a child is born it takes the genes of his/her parents but becomes a new personality. The weather-beaten brown diary is thus old and dilapidated. Its pages are torn, used, and tired—it has had a long life but life is continuing and so is the diary.
The book ends nearly about three generations when the diary is also handed down to the fourth generation. The protagonist has a nominal role. It is the togetherness of all the characters which brings vibrancy to the book. The old house in which they live is not a relic but an extended character that has silently taken in the sighs and the despairs, and the love and the happiness of its residents. It immortalizes them somewhat in an unspoken history imbibed on its cold, old walls.
In a tale within a tale, the novel continues to weave many a tale from its various takes to the lead-up to the emotional maturity of the characters as viewed through the lenses of Mila Chowdhury—her growing up, the civil war, and her relationships with the members of the family, all tell many a tale of an unforgettable chain of events and memories.
Esoteric is another element that strongly binds the narrative. This is an insightful observation by a visionary who sees time and its relationship with humans not in the narrow sense of life only, but also the afterlife. Hence, there are several depictions of visions that tie to the context of the narrative.
From a feminist angle, Incandescence can be viewed as a novel that has slowly been woven into one without any deliberate attempt at any particular agenda. The protagonist is a female who was greatly influenced by her equally strong grandmother who led the pushcart at a time when the feminist movement wasn’t even born. The grandmother made radical choices as did her granddaughter. Although, by then the movement had established itself. Unbeknownst to the movement thereof, the novel falls straight into the lap of an untapped territory of the feminists for those characters.
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Bio: Multiple contest winner for short fiction, Mehreen Ahmed is an Australian novelist born in Bangladesh. Her historical fiction, The Pacifist, is a Drunken Druid's Editor's Choice and an Amazon Audible Bestseller. Gatherings is nominated for the James Tait Black Prize for fiction. Her flash fiction has also been nominated for 3xbotN, Pushcart. Her novels have been critically acclaimed by Midwest Book Review, DD Magazine, and The Wild Atlantic Book Club to name a few. Contest Wins: Academy of the Heart and Mind, May Flower contest, 2022 Waterloo Festival, May 2020