The Centre

Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi

What an absolutely stunning and unique novel! Ayesha has written a book that is not only thrilling, but also deeply thought provoking, a combination that is truly rare. And the voice! It’s dazzling.”

- Gillian Flynn, Gillian Flynn Books

One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2023 | ELLE, SheReads, Library Journal, CrimeReads, Jump Scares 

In this “dazzling” speculative debut, a London-based Pakistani translator furthers her stalled career by attending a mysterious language school that boasts near-instant fluency—but at a secret, sinister cost (Gillian Flynn)





Page count




Sale date

July 11, 2023


6 x 9

About the Book

Anisa Ellahi dreams of being a translator of “great works of literature,” but mostly spends her days subtitling Bollywood movies and living off her parents’ generous allowance. Adding to her growing sense of inadequacy, her mediocre white boyfriend, Adam, has successfully leveraged his savant-level aptitude for languages into an enviable career. But when Adam learns to speak Urdu practically overnight, Anisa forces him to reveal his secret.

Adam begrudgingly tells her about The Centre, an elite, invite-only program that guarantees complete fluency in any language, in just ten days. This sounds, to Anisa, like a step toward the life she’s always wanted. Stripped of her belongings and all contact with the outside world, she enrolls and undergoes The Centre’s strange and rigorous processes. But as Anisa enmeshes herself further within the organization, seduced by all that it’s made possible, she soon realizes the hidden cost of its services.


By turns darkly comic and surreal, and with twists as page-turning as they are shocking, The Centre journeys through Karachi, London, and New Delhi, interrogating the sticky politics of language, translation, and appropriation along the way. Through Anisa’s addictive tale of striving and self-actualization, Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi ultimately asks the reader: What is the real price we pay in our scramble to the center?


“The most fascinating debut I’ve read in years—enigmatic, biting, absurd, and right when you think you’ve got it figured out, utterly horrifying.”

- Daniel Kraus, New York Times bestselling author of Whalefall and The Shape of Water (with Guillermo del Toro)

“Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi has crafted a gripping, surreal mystery about language, identity, and greed. The Centre explores impossible success at an equally impossible price—and the difference between merely paying for something and truly understanding its dark cost.”

- Peng Shepherd, bestselling author of The Cartographers

“The Centre is as haunting as it is tempting; this book devoured me back.”

- Sarah Gailey, author of Just Like Home and Eat the Rich

“The Centre by Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi is a propulsive and profound read. I was gripped by the mystery haunting the core of the book— and equally gripped by Siddiqi’s exploration of the power of language, particularly for those pulled between multiple mother tongues. This is a debut of dazzling wit and insight.”

- Helen Phillips, author of The Need

“The Centre is a banger! I don’t know how Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi managed to write a book that feels both cheery and terrifying, but The Centre draws you in with a gentle hand until it throws the mallet down in the last thirty pages. A terrific meditation on language, diaspora, alienation, and culture, The Centre will stay with you long after you read its last, luscious, loopy sentence.”

- Chelsea G. Summers, author of A Certain Hunger

“What begins as a darkly propulsive thriller gradually reveals itself to be a haunting and incisive meditation on language, translation, identity, and the far-reaching reverberations of colonialism. The Centre is a wickedly ingenious debut that, like the mysterious institution at its heart, is far more complex than it first appears.”

- Antonia Angress, author of Sirens & Muses

“I haven’t read anything this wonderful or brilliant in ages. I profoundly loved this book.”

- Jennifer Croft, Man Booker International Prize-winning translator, critic, and writer

“At once a twisting mystery and nuanced exploration of identity and assimilation, The Centre cuts deep. Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi has written a compelling, witty, sometimes gruesome tale of how we use language to connect and to sever, appropriate, and explore. I’ll be mulling her brilliance for some time.”

- Julia Fine, author of Maddalena and the Dark and The Upstairs House

A vicious and entertaining speculative satire of late-stage capitalism.

- Molly Odintz, CrimeReads

Incredible . . . it’s creepy AF, in the best way possible. Highly recommend!

- Lamya H, author of Hijab Butch Blues

Siddiqi’s cleverly written debut is atmospheric and unsettling… the suspense builds quietly toward the final startling reveal and many interconnected social issues—immigration, language, class, privilege, gender roles—are carefully exposed. The questions raised by this heady story and its abrupt ending are perfect for book club discussions.

- Sarah Sullivan, Library Journal

Manazir Siddiqi’s ambitious debut packs insightful observations about racism, classism, and colonialism into a dark mystery…Anisa’s perceptive narration propels the novel, and Manazir Siddiqi’s sharp cultural analysis of England, Pakistan, and India deepens her devilish plot…this marks Manazir Siddiqi as a writer to watch.

- Publishers Weekly

Filled with astute insights into life as a brown person in a predominantly white country and how differences of class, religion, and nationality can bring about rifts in solidarity between people who share a racial or ethnic background, the novel offers a mystery rife with social critique…A fast-paced thriller with its finger firmly on the pulse of contemporary social discourse.

- Kirkus