In the United Arab Emirates, foreign nationals constitute over 80 percent of the population. Some are brought in for the construction purposes of the towering monuments to wealth that punctuate the skylines of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This whole lot of labor force works without the rights of citizenship, endures miserable living conditions, and is ultimately forced to leave the country.
Till now the humanitarian crisis of the so-called “guest workers” of the Gulf has barely been addressed in fiction. With this debut novel ‘Temporary People’, Deepak Unnikrishnan delves into their histories, myths, struggles, and triumphs.
The linguistic invention of Salman Rushdie and the satirical vision of George Saunders are revisited by the author and presents twenty-eight linked stories about the construction workers who shapeshift into luggage and escape a labor camp:
a woman who stitches back together the bodies of those who’ve fallen from buildings in progress:
to a man who grows ideal workers designed to live twelve years and then perish:
Unnikrishnan brilliantly maps new global English. He highlights the disturbing ways in which “progress” on a global scale is bound up with dehumanization.