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 films in her flat in London while living off her parents’ generous allowance and discussing the ‘underside of life’ with her best friend, Naima. Then she meets Adam, who has successfully leveraged his savant-level aptitude for languages into an enviable career. At first, this only adds to her sense of inadequacy, but when Adam learns to speak Urdu with native fluency practically overnight, Anisa forces him to reveal his secret.
Adam tells Anisa about the Centre, an elite, invite-only program that guarantees absolute fluency in any language in just ten days. Sceptical but intrigued, Anisa enrols. Stripped of her belongings and all contact with the outside world, she undergoes the Centre’s strange and rigorous processes. But as she enmeshes herself further within the organisation, seduced by all that it’s made possible, she soon realizes the disturbing, hidden 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 price would you be willing to pay for success?