The Giant Dark by Sarvat Hasin

Sarvat Hasin's new book, a loose retelling of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, is heavy with the bloodied consequences of romantic collapse

Book Review by Anahit Behrooz | 05 Jul 2021
  • The Giant Dark
Book title: The Giant Dark
Author: Sarvat Hasin

In Greek mythology, Orpheus and Eurydice’s love burned so bright that when she died, the boundaries of the underworld gave way before his grief. The myth’s basis in maddened love, a love that endures despite all rationality and realism and better sense, is the blueprint for Sarvat Hasin’s The Giant Dark, a loose retelling that transplants the action to the modern day.

Orpheus becomes Aida, a sensitive rock star who falls (again) for her ex-boyfriend Ehsan, and whose cultish fanbase are an eerie Greek chorus that haunts the narrative. An epigraph by Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali (“Your legend now equals our thirst, Beloved — your word has spread across broken nations”) speaks to their fanaticism, yet just as easily applies to Aida and Ehsan’s all-consuming, dysfunctional obsession. This is a love that you feel in your throat and lungs, a love that drowns you.

Hasin’s prose shifts between razor-sharp imagism and disarming frankness, a sensitive lyricism that metamorphoses everyday lust and heartache into dizzying epic. There is a sense throughout that Hasin is trying to uncover, with surgical, attentive precision, the specificity of being in love: the chemicals and the temporality and the sheer, unbearable agony of it all. The result is a book heavy with the bloodied consequences of romantic collapse, an all-too-familiar story that leaves a visceral trail of desire and loss in its wake.

Dialogue Books, 8 Jul, £16.99