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HOSPITAL by Sanya Rushdi
Translated by Arunava Sinha
Even with the insight of lived experience, few things are more fraught in their fictional depiction than mental illness. Too many novels that attempt it seem either to stray unintentionally into sensationalism or otherwise fail to compassionately conjure a convincing picture without undue sentimentality. For this reason alone, Sanya Rushdi’s Hospital is a must-read. Drawn from the author’s own life, and autofictional to the point of its protagonist being called Sanya, Hospital is possibly the best portrayal of psychosis I’ve read. However, to reduce it to that alone would miss what a wonderfully affirming story of small triumphs against massive adversity it is.
So while there is the creeping paranoia, the constant misinterpretation of basic social cues, the crushing, Kafkaesque absurdity of involuntary institutionalisation, and the constant battle raging over the need for medication, the real magic of this book is found in how Rushdi navigates it all. She is unsparing yet curious with her fictional self, and warmly astute when it comes to the other patients as well as her family and the various care workers, though one must wonder about the reliability of her perception. It all makes for an engrossing read; sweet, frustrating, surprising and always thought-provoking.
Hospital by Sanya Rushdi (Tr. Arunava Sinha)