SFU writer in residence Anosh Irani launches his latest novel

Anosh Irani's latest novel explores catharsis, belonging to marginalized communities, and what identity is.

September 13 was SFU world literature’s writer in residence Anosh Irani’s book launch for The Parcel, hosted at the Vancouver Film School Café. It was a big turnout, with every seat in the café filled with close friends and family of Irani’s, as well as SFU staff and students.

Fellow BC-based author Aislinn Hunter gave a warm introduction for Irani, celebrating his newly completed novel. She sang Irani’s praises, noting that he as a novelist is a storyteller, and in being a storyteller Irani becomes a guide who takes the reader to a new world.

The world of The Parcel is the red-light district in Bombay, which Irani spent his childhood across from and which he returned to as an adult. The Parcel follows the story of a retired transgender sex worker. As Hunter said, “It’s not always an easy book to read,” as it deals with the brutal realities of sex trafficking and poverty in India.

Despite the dark subject matter, Irani still manages to wield prose that Hunter called “honey in the mouth.” Hunter, amongst other writers and critics are calling this a very important book; one that gives readers a special insight and reveals what a community needs to hear as Irani bridges the gap between worlds with The Parcel. “The world is a village,” said Hunter, and it is as important as ever to share the history of our diversity.

Following Hunter’s introduction, Irani took the stage and thanked his supporters, along with the teachers who encouraged him along the way. Irani has a new appreciation for his teachers, given that he’s now a teacher himself. “God help them,” he said with a laugh.

Irani then delved into his novel, explaining how he was searching for an entry point to begin his writing. He’d found the first point of entry when he interviewed a sex worker in a Bombay brothel, telling her that he had grown up not far from where she was now. She had looked at him, stunned, and said, “Do you think I get out of this place?”

This exchange jarred Irani, bringing him to the realization that we are often so consumed by our own realities that we forget the realities of others.

It was at this point in the evening that Irani treated the audience to a reading of an excerpt of The Parcel, where his vibrant prose filled the air and transported us to a place thousands of miles away. There is such clarity to the setting and to the protagonist, Madhu, that you cannot help but envision them right before your very eyes.  

Carefully crafted, The Parcel was an emotional odyssey for Irani, and to be finished this masterwork has left him with a strange feeling. Asked how he feels about his novel finally being finished, Irani told the audience, “I don’t know how I feel yet, it’s too soon.” Having put his heart and soul into this work, it’s difficult to imagine the surreal feeling that envelops an artist after their work has been completed.  

As for Irani’s future plans, he said that he will return his focus to his upcoming play Men in White, which debuts February 2017 at the Arts Club Theatre Company. As an established playwright and novelist, Irani enjoys alternating between the two artistic forms, because it gives him a refreshed mindset as he delves back into a familiar style.

Having spent six years working on The Parcel, it is time for Anosh Irani to return to the theatre.