cover image The 13th House

The 13th House

Adam Zameenzad. Random House (NY), $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57561-2

If Jonathan Swift were alive today and had the bad luck to live in one of the most poverty-plagued and politically turbulent countries--Pakistan--he might have written this mordantly surrealistic novel. Sahid, a trod-upon victim of his wife, his employers, the government and society in general, believes he has found the fulfillment of his life's dream when he rents a house at what he thinks is a bargain price. But there's an evil power about the place, or so everybody says; and everybody seems to be right. Zahid's close friend is assassinated by the police; his emotionally disturbed son becomes more deranged; and his wife is seduced by a religious guru. Finally another of Zahid's friends is killed and Zahid is jailed for the murder. The joke in the novel's title, if joke is the right word, is its insinuation that supernatural bad luck caused all these disasters. In fact, the author makes clear, man's inhumanity to man was responsible.Zameenzad, a Pakistani by birth, writes beautiful English prose. This book won Britain's 1987 David Highham Award for Best First Novel. (Apr.)