The Centre

Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi

06 July 2023
517 pages


'Absolutely stunning . . . thrilling and unique' - Gillian Flynn
'Creepy, provocative and wildly entertaining' - Emma Stonex
'A banger!' - Chelsea G Summers
'Fantastic . . . compelling . . . wonderful' - The Observer

Welcome to The Centre. You'll never be the same . . .

Anisa Ellahi spends her days writing subtitles for Bollywood films in her London flat, all the while longing to be a translator of ‘great works of literature’. Her boyfriend Adam’s extraordinary aptitude for languages only makes her feel worse, but when Adam learns to speak Urdu practically overnight, Anisa forces him to reveal his secret.

Adam tells Anisa about the Centre, an elite, invite-only programme that guarantees total fluency in any language in just ten days. Sceptical but intrigued, Anisa enrols. Stripped of her belongings and contact with the outside world, she undergoes the Centre’s strange and rigorous processes. But as she enmeshes herself further within the organization, seduced by all that it’s made possible, she soon realizes the disturbing, hidden cost of its services.

By turns dark, funny and surreal, The Centre takes the reader on a journey through Karachi, London and New Delhi, interrogating the sticky politics of language, translation and appropriation with biting specificity, and ultimately asking: what price would you be willing to pay for success?

A remarkable debut from Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi, announcing the arrival of an extraordinary new talent.

Fantastic . . . This Black Mirror take on the world of language opens up questions of cultural appropriation, the power of language, memory and privilege . . . Siddiqi’s easy storytelling and her heroine Anisa’s sweet narrative voice slip down like summer rosé. Siddiqi has the gift of maintaining propulsion and mystery, while keeping things human and realistic . . . compelling . . . wonderful
An absolutely stunning and unique novel . . . A book that is not only thrilling but deeply thought provoking, a combination that is truly rare
Siddiqi . . . has the gift of maintaining propulsion and mystery, while keeping things human and realistic . . . a wonderful novel