When Nigel Qureshi’s Indian father was home between business trips ‘almost everything seemed detached from time’. This observation by Nigel leads to the memory of the orange frisbee he received for his sixth birthday and his father’s mastery at playing with it. His father also wrote short fairytales in a big book which he occasionally read out loud. The strange adventures of the book’s weird creatures gave Nigel a feeling of well-being and made him forget the world beyond the stories.
Shortly afterwards Nigel recalls a number of family members: his grandfather the barber, Uncle Euan the violist, Aunt Karen who was made pregnant by an unknown black man. The creative narrator takes full advantage of his power to invent and transform. Zonder wijzers is a novel of stories in which the adult Nigel looks back on his childhood. It can be seen as a literary coming of age. All the stories are characterised by elusive fathers and decrepit bodies. Gradually it emerges that Nigel’s father abandoned his family while Nigel was still small. They later realised that this was because he was seriously ill and had decided to die alone. The child learned to protect himself from such traumatic experiences by heightening his powers of imagination.
Russell Artus is a master of invention. He manipulates chronology and introduces unreliable gossip, doubtful stories and enigmatic perspectives into his narrative-but all with a purpose. By emphasising the importance of weighing things up, the main character sets the stage for the final story in which he imagines how and why his father withdrew from life. The truthfulness of monologue is irrelevant. All that matters is whether it works, whether it attains the truth of a literary achievement. This is an unconventional novel of ‘father and son’, and at the same time a declaration of faith in the imaginative power which enables a writer to transform ‘Poetry’ into ‘Truth’. In his very first book Russell Artus shows clearly that he is a talent to be reckoned with.