A novel in linked stories in which guest workers of the United Arab Emirates embody multiple worlds and identities and long for home. Winner of the inaugural Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing
Combining surreal symbolism and linear narrative, wordplay and lists, family history and mythic retellings, Unnikrishnan uses fiction to '[illuminate] how temporary status affects psyches, families, memories, fables, and language(s).' In a brilliant, subversive move, Unnikrishnan connects his three 'books' with a single-word chapter, 'Pravasis' – Malayalam for migrant, or 'temporary people' in Unnikrishnan-speak, which he repeats three times in each book ... [an] unsettling, dazzling, astute collection ... Its publication couldn’t be more timely given the current outcries for and against immigrants, bans, raids, and mass deportations. As an antidote to border politics, Unnikrishnan’s stories serve as both testimony and oracle to be read with grave urgency.
Deepak Unnikrishnan’s new novel is made even more moving by the author’s statement about writing it: 'Temporary People is a work of fiction set in the UAE, where I was raised and where foreign nationals constitute over 80 percent of the population. It is a nation built by people who are eventually required to leave' ... There is nothing comfortable about Unnikrishnan’s Temporary People, but it is challenging, thought-provoking and timely.
With its casually fantastic elements and kinetic, propulsive prose, the lineage of Unnikrishnan’s fiction can be traced to George Saunders and Nikolai Gogol. In many of the stories, the fantastic illuminates deeper truths related to the condition of migrant workers ... While the premises of these stories are weird gems, the true wonder is Unnikrishnan’s masterful drive, his pushing of each story’s starting point to wild, interesting places. Temporary People is streaked with artistic genius — it is startling, deeply unnerving and urgent.