The Obscure Logic of the Heart
by Alice Horn
February 3rd, 2012
This came as a great surprise to me. Co-founder of the organisation ‘Authors for Peace’, Basil aims to use literature as a way of promoting global peace – so, in the midst of illegal arms trafficking and inter-religious racism, it would seem that the love story is relatively low down on her agenda. In a revealing opportunity to speak to the author herself, a book group in the university’s English department discussed their own experiences of love, religion and politics in response to Basil’s most recent novel The Obscure Logic of the Heart.
The Obscure Logic of the Heart is the story of Lina and Anil and their battle for love that must cross many borders: religious and geographical, social and political. A practising Muslim, Lina tries to resist the power of her feelings for someone she knows she cannot marry: a Sikh. Lina’s grappling with the desires of her heart and the contrary dictates of her devoutly religious parents leads us through a tragic tale of her difficult decisions. Not only must Lina choose between her heart and her religion, the love of her life and the love of her family, but the suspicious circumstances surrounding Anil’s family wealth lead her to make discoveries which she would rather forget.
The diversity of her characters’ beliefs and opinions fuels an underlying tension that proves inescapable for Lina and Anil, but which forces the reader to consider alternative points of view. As an atheist, Basil herself sees the novel as a way of working through her own struggles with terrorism in the name of religion by creating a devoutly religious character through whom Islam can be expressed in a measured manner evocative of peace, not violence. And it would seem that her attempts to promote a more sympathetic, open-minded view of Islam have been successful as she tells us of the positive responses she has had from the Islamic community. Not so well received in Kenya, however, having been criticised for her harsh condemnation of the Kenyan government.
As such extreme reception shows, it is difficult not to focus on the political and cultural aspects of The Obscure Logic of the Heart. But using the familiar ‘Romeo and Juliet’ narrative form is a clever way of addressing controversial issues whilst making it easily accessible to every reader and despite the sometimes clichéd romantic descriptions, I was soon captivated by the characters and their problems. As the book group progressed, it was interesting to see how the different readers had personally responded to the text, including religious and non-religious members of the group. To a reader experiencing similar obstacles facing inter-religious love, Basil advised: “follow your heart!”
And this seemed to be the overall sentiment of the novel. If love can triumph across all these seemingly irreconcilable boundaries, then perhaps there is hope of peace for the future. No matter what the author herself focuses on, The Obscure Logic of the Heart is not just the same old ‘love story’: it is a vital opening-up of closed debates on terrorism, leading towards peace in its ceaseless efforts to understand mankind.