The White Lie is a dystopian political thriller. Following the Foreign Minister Shahzain Bugti and his right-hand man Hasan Murtaza as they organise the 2036 OIC Summit in the Halore. It is in this setting that we see lives get disturbed, ugly truths unfold and a love story manifest.
Although A White Lie is fiction, Janjua borrows heavily from real life incidents and events to create the environment within which his characters exist. From local politics which is dominated by landowners progeny; to urban social classes juxtaposing amongst hallowed halls of schools from the colonial era; to attacks on journalists such as Saleem Shahzad; to Milanese fashion houses selling Peshawai chappals; to social media trends using the hashtags, Janjua seems to take what forms his reality and pours it into his book.
This is where the fantasy element comes in. To observe one’s world and existence and then to write about is what the essence of story telling is. Now how one moulds it into a story is where genres differentiate – a satire is meant to have a purpose and that is to tell the ugly truth in a manner that is palatable. Non-fiction is where facts, information and other factual elements are documented to act as a means of source, advocacy or inform the public at large. Fiction is a means of escape, the other worlds that are created to enable readers to fantasise of other lives and places; it can also act as a mirror, where one finds comfort in knowing their lived experiences are not in isolation.
Janujua seems to find comfort in pouring the real world onto paper in a fictional world. The flow of his words and his characters seem familiar to him and he breaks down each element of the real world by putting it in the story as a means of coming to terms with it. This happened, this happened. He seems to stress upon the bizarreness of reality by normalising it as his characters make their way through everyday situations. He blurs the bluntness of reality by fictionalising with a prose that swims off the pages completely engulfing the reader as he travels from region to region and character to character.
But what does strike one is the timeline – the non-fictional elements he chooses to incorporate span years and years of atrocities, developments, trends, events, people and more. Yet in The White Lie, it is all neatly packed into a liner form as if it’s just water flowing by, engulfing all of the world’s truths and maintaining its form.
A brave novella, A White Lie’s prose is admirable and there are moments of the rawness of the human life. Janjua addresses so many truths that are known in reality but remain unspoken. Maybe this is the only way those sensitive to the plight of others can process the truth by fictionalising it and hoping, hoping somehow that a connection is made by recognising each others lived experiences to bring a change.