‘Unnikrishnan refuses to occupy a single style or register, as if to inoculate the reader against settling on any one idea of what the U.A.E. is, or of what it means… [It] works wonders, jolting the readerly brain away from abstraction and directing it toward the fine grain of life. Unnikrishnan isn’t papering over the frequent harshness of noncitizen life, or denying how degrading it can be. But he is insisting that there is more to the story—that the people in the place have rich interior lives shot through with memories, desires, and confusions.’
Peter C. Baker, The New Yorker
In the United Arab Emirates, foreign nationals constitute over 80 percent of the population. Brought in to construct and serve the towering monuments to wealth that punctuate the skylines of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, this labour force is not given the option of citizenship. Some ride their luck to good fortune. Others suffer different fates. Until now, the humanitarian crisis of the so-called “guest workers” of the Gulf has barely been addressed in fiction. With his stunning, mind-altering debut novel Temporary People, Deepak Unnikrishnan delves into their histories, myths, struggles, and triumphs.
Combining the linguistic invention of Salman Rushdie and the satirical vision of George Saunders, Unnikrishnan presents twenty-eight linked stories that careen from construction workers who shapeshift into luggage and escape a labour camp, to 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—until they don’t, and found a rebel community in the desert. With this polyphony of voices, Unnikrishnan maps a new, unruly global English and gives personhood back to the anonymous workers of the Gulf.
Won - The Moore Prize, 2018
Won - Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, 2017
Won - The Hindu Prize, 2017
Nominee - International Dublin Literary Award, 2019