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)
July 11, 2023
6 x 9
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?