The Critical Case of a Man Called K

The Critical Case of a Man Called K

Publishing House: Hoopoe

Publication Year: 2021

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 266

“The Critical Case of a Man Called K” by Aziz Mohammed, translated by Humphrey Davies, delves into the life of a young man grappling with leukemia. Prior to his diagnosis, he already battles a deep-seated existential despair. The novel’s title evokes Kafka, a writer with whom the narrator deeply identifies, but its first sentence echoes Sartre’s “Nausea,” reflecting a similar existential angst, now intensified by his illness and treatment.

Structured as a diary, the novel spans 40 weeks, with some weeks missing due to the narrator’s inability to write consistently. The protagonist, an IT graduate working in computer security, lives a life marked by familial ties and a job that, while not demanding, lacks fulfillment. His reading habit is a significant aspect of his life, offering an escape, though his illness later shifts his literary preferences from dense classics to more accessible works.

The narrative paints a vivid picture of his family life, revealing a lack of deep connections with his siblings and the looming changes with his brother’s marriage and the potential sale of their family home. Despite his father’s tacit support for his literary interests and his mother’s less enthusiastic view, the narrator’s passion for reading and writing remains a key part of his identity.

As he confronts his illness and the taxing treatments, the concept of a “cure” becomes elusive. The physical and psychological toll of his condition and therapy erases any hope of a normal life, with each realization feeling like a fresh discovery of his illness. The cancer, in his view, is a physical manifestation of a long-existing inner turmoil.

The novel’s strength lies in its portrayal of characters, from family members to colleagues, while maintaining a sense of anonymity. Set in a city presumably in Saudi Arabia, it avoids specific geographic details, emphasizing a universal human experience. The story is heavily centered on the protagonist’s illness, which, while authentic to his experience, can sometimes feel overwhelming.

“The Critical Case of a Man Called K” offers a somber reflection on patience, endurance, and the resignation of life’s temporary states, leading to an eventual release through death. Mohammed’s skillful writing and the socio-cultural backdrop lend the novel a unique perspective, providing a fresh take on a familiar narrative of personal struggle and existential despair.

Read More About Aziz Mohammed

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