The Journey of a Burning Boat is a work of fiction which sweeps its reader deep into the unrelentingly brutal, inhuman, world of the flesh trade. A subterranean world whose existence everyone is aware of and which manifests itself often in newspaper headlines, only to be forgotten or pushed to the peripheries of our collective consciousness as other more ‘significant’ political and social issues occupy our minds.
Abdus Samad, the author of the novel is a political scientist and Urdu fiction writer whose engagement with the politics of oppression is evident in his earlier works including his first novel Do Gaz Zameen for which he won the Sahitya Akademi award. While his earlier works deal mainly with the politics of rural Bihar several strands and threads from those early novels are picked up in The Journey of a Burning Boat and interwoven in-to a narrative which is not limited to a specific location. Sheila didi, the scandalous daughter of the honest village schoolmaster, whose success is evidently based on her association with the flesh trade, has already made her appearance in an earlier novel Dhamak which dealt with the gang rape of dalit girls in rural Bihar.