Rotting away in an immigration detention center, Yahya Bas cuts out his own tongue – never again will he be misheard, misconstrued – and sets pen to paper to write his own story so it might finally be understood by his captors, by his god, and, ultimately, by himself. In a very loose riff on David Copperfield, Gunaratne follows Yahya from his childhood of poverty and abandonment in East London to his years as a poet capable of inciting violence, a fatherless jihadist, an exile, and a political prisoner. Yahya becomes a cipher for the world's broken logic at the onset of the West's forever war. The writing is vivid, visceral, and bracing; totally unputdownable. Yet at the same time, the book is tender and deeply humane. Gunaratne understands that violence, at its core, is never really political. His willingness to follow that understanding to very uncomfortable places makes this book so necessary. And so, Yahya tells his own story – one that’s not about finding his voice but rather about cutting out all the voices of others that have come to inhabit (to invade, colonize, and occupy) his mouth.— Chris Lee
A blazingly propulsive novel from the prize-winning author of In Our Mad and Furious City, following a captured jihadist and poet-preacher as he recounts his path to international notoriety
Who is Yahya Bas? Revolutionary poet, notorious jihadist, misbegotten son, self-styled idiot-boy. When the enigmatic Yahya finds himself languishing in a detention center after fleeing the conflict in Syria, he has many questions to face.
What was he doing in the desert? Why did he betray his home country? What led him to write the incendiary verses that launched him into international infamy? Mister, his interrogator, wants answers. So Yahya resolves to tell his own story, in his own words, and on his own terms.
Mister, Mister is what follows: a coming-of-age story of radical self-invention, a quest for a long-lost father, and a discovery of another way to live in the shadow of war. Brash, biting, yet ultimately tender and bracingly imaginative, Mister, Mister follows a child of the tumultuous 90s and the ravaged aughts as he becomes the unwitting voice of a generation.
Who is Yahya Bas? An anti-hero for our modern era, in which we've just begun to survey the wreckage of the West's forever-wars.
About the Author
GUY GUNARATNE is the author of Mister, Mister and In Our Mad and Furious City, winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Jhalak Prize, and was longlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. Guy was a Visiting Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge, and is a trustee at English PEN. They have also served on various literary prize judging panels including the Goldsmiths Prize in 2019 and the Rathbones Folio Prize in 2023.
"Brilliantly evocative of the effects of recent horrors many people are all-too keen to forget, Gunaratne’s latest affirms that they are a writer with a unique voice and a magnificent ear for dialogue."