"Demolishes the foundations of Western civilization." -- Publishers Weekly
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"At turns heartbreaking and diabolically funny, Journey to Virginland is a trailblazing tour de force, delivered by a master storyteller.
The protagonist, a loutish and uber-cerebral antihero known simply as Dog, takes on the challenge to navigate the perilous paradigm shifts of our age, determined to find his proper place under the sun. Is he doomed to failure? Or will he pull it off by heeding his own irreducible voice, given the ebb of the old certainties?
Dog pursues the answer unrelentingly, through an impassioned quest for identity and meaning. He revisits his relationships with women, family, literature, and homeland, in the process illuminating his journey with commentaries on history, religion, politics, and culture that unravel our very fabric.
Marked by biting satire and tappings into lushest scholarship, Dog’s naked critique touches on some of the most pressing issues facing humanity: the arrogance of empire and organized religion; the persistence of bigotry, xenophobia, and social Darwinism; the double standards of sexual politics; the bankrupt rationale behind patriotism and state propaganda; and hypercapitalism and consumerism, among others.
An ocean of struggles and epiphanies takes Dog to a spiritual ground zero called Virginland, where the story unfolds. It is also in Virginland that Dog unearths an ancient calendar based on a cosmic worldview. His discovery reveals the mythological underpinnings of the Zodiac, subverting the current conventional wisdom about the subject.
What emerges from the protagonist’s odyssey is not only a cogent depiction of what makes us tick, but, as day follows night, a dazzling new vista for social and spiritual transformation.
With its vibrant style, thematic breadth, and, ultimately, unfettered sense of humanity, Journey to Virginland establishes itself as a groundbreaking literary enterprise and a true original."
I head home an hour before twilight from my research at the National Library of the Academy of Sciences of Virginland. The sleepless nights have worn me down. I need to unwind. The day has lengthened, the biting cold retreated. But it’s still early to go to Natashima. Out on the courtyard, the dogs are having a veritable feast—¬once again the trash trucks haven’t showed up. All for the better—my buddies are still alive. Ever since the army unleashed Operation Kill the Dogs, I get a jolt whenever I hear the clatter of machine gun fire echoing from indefinite directions. Sometimes I feel glad I wasn’t born a dog.
But really, am I, in fact, not a dog?
At any rate, I’m not in a particularly doglike frame of mind when the doorbell rings. It’s Kathy. She always calls before coming over. I sense that something is amiss. True enough, she is crying. I’ve never seen tears in her eyes.
Kathy is a tough one, with a knack for getting even more practical when facing a crisis. She takes my cock into her hearth, leaning against the wall in a doggy position, arms outstretched, hissing through her sobs, “Fuck me… Fuck me… Oh… fuck!”
Kathy tells me, in a nutshell, what she’d been through today, and then vanishes into the same taxi that had brought her here, whose driver she had instructed to park and wait for her in the empty lot across from the University of Satan in Virginabad.
I’m left in a daze, where all this feels like a dream. It takes me a while to regain a foothold on consciousness.
Kill the dog!
Sex is outlawed in Virginland.
For months, Kathy has been waiting to hear from the Treasury Department of God, where she had applied for a job. She certainly had the chops. A certified accountant, she had mastered a number of computer programs. Moreover, she had investigated and eventually exposed two major mafia clans that had colluded with Treasury employees to siphon off tax revenues to the tune of several million washingtons. Her good work enabled God to retrieve the loot. Given Virginland’s political climate in those days, this was an intricate and ominous affair, a stunt that Kathy nonetheless pulled off with great skill.
Still, the clans, which satiated themselves at the expense of the Redeemed and the Creator, went unpunished. A disdain for the law was the norm among the law-enforcement agencies of Paradise, with the Redeemed bearing the consequences. It was like this: Satan’s good efforts brought about Leninstan’s collapse, making it possible for Paradise to become independent and duly turn its muzzle to the United Nations of Man. What followed was a stampede of a million wraiths, while a famished God, at the head of a procession of piggish archangels, conquered Virginland-Paradise in the wink of an eye.
The Satanic Eye was cognizant of this fact. In Hell, whenever someone with the appearance of a paramecium—lapsus calami, read paradicium—was pulled over, the police first checked whether the suspect originally hailed from Dreamland or Paradise itself, and proceeded accordingly. Paradise was infected with the Lenino autoimmune syndrome. Yet Satan’s political interests moved him to lure 144,000 angels to Hell.
I learned my geography at the Dream Elementary School in Dreamland. My teacher was Miss Mary. Miss Mary used a long stick to point things out on a large wall atlas, as follows:
There are two countries in the world: Dreamland and Africa. Dreamland is a big country. Its borders are: to the north, the North Pole; to the south, the South Pole; to the east, the birthplace of the sun; and to the west, the sun’s grave. Dreamland changes its capital four times every century.
Paradise is Dreamland’s navel—its omphalus. Paradise is wedged between three seas, hence Triangle 1. Paradise has three lakes at its heart, hence Triangle 2. What we have then are two interlaced triangles—thus the Star of David, which Maimunus stole from the sons of Paradise before he tricked the sons of man into believing that his land is God’s country.
Much of Paradise has been devoured by Pasha. Pasha is a voracious animal. He has black horns, a rhino keras, scavenger teeth, and a long tail. When he howls, the mountains shake. When Pasha was getting ready to chomp the last bones of the Redeemed, Papa Lenin snatched a morsel from his mouth and kicked him out of the graveyard. This is why the Redeemed love Papa Lenin and hate Osman Pasha.
A country was created in the graveyard and christened Virginland, with Papa Lenin according the name his thumbs-up. Papa Lenin took exception to the names Paradise and Godland. However, being a schnook, he didn’t quite realize that in the Paradisean language Virginland is not only synonymous with Paradise, it expresses its very essence. The Redeemed pulled the wool over Papa Lenin’s eyes and never forgot the country’s ancient name, Paradise, to this day glorifying it in their songs and books. Virginland’s capital is Virginabad. Noteworthy attractions include Virgintorch, Virginville, Virgin Valley, Virgins Province, the city of Saint Virginborn, and Noah’s Grave.
After Satanland, the most famous provinces of Dreamland are Eyfelia, Shakespeareland, and Mercedesland. Eyfelia is ruled by Napoleon Bonaparte. Its capital is Napoli. The king of Shakespeareland is Shakespeare, who always smokes a cigar. The capital is Elizabeth City. Mercedesland is variously called Führerland and Hamburgerland, depending on the doctrine of the ruling political party of the day. The capital is Hamburg. This dominion is ruled alternately by Führer BenYehu and Mercedes the Shaitan.
Leninstan is the largest province of Dreamland. For a brief period, it was named Gorbachovland, but that was before it was destroyed by an earthquake. The survivors created a modest province called Kremlinland, which is known to foreigners as Natashaland. Kremlinlanders are God-fearing. Despite their horrid misfortunes, they never fail to pay tribute to the Almighty.
Sitting quietly on this side of Pasha’s empire is Grand Ayatollah, who vigilantly monitors Pasha’s steps. Lying on the other side of Pasha’s empire is Socratesland, where the official language is Byzantish, where there is constant philosophizing as to how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. This is why Pasha captured their capital, where he installed the throne of his mobile empire. As for the angels, he grilled and ate them.
Dreamland also includes a large and populous province, Chinmachin, whose monarch is quite fond of the King of Kings, Holy of Holies of Paradise. They say that the ruler of Chinmachin has even given his daughter’s hand to the King of Kings of Paradise. Nothing is known about Chinmachin because, like the planet Venus, it is covered by mysterious clouds. Rumor has it that God himself has yet to solve the mystery. As for the princess who has been given in marriage, it is believed that her brain juices were drained out before she arrived in Paradise. As a result, the Redeemed lady remembers nothing about her past.
Nothing changes at the nightclub—except for the show. They suggest dog tenderloin. We order humanoid chateaubriand. Not available tonight. Baby heart fondue? None. We nonetheless make a special request from the abattoir. At ten, they grace us with knife and serviette. Ah, they have already slaughtered the baby. We wait in drooling anticipation. At eleven, they bring something on a couple of plates. We sniff it. What meat? More like a Dead Sea scroll. They call it “Yoohoo meat.” Shush, Henri, it’s Yoohoo meat. And the pilaf? Pebbles! We send the concoction back and remain famished until eleven thirty, when we receive the very same Yoohoo meat, only dried ten times over, accompanied by a somewhat softened pilaf…
Appér, we’re way past our dinnertime. It’s late. Our religion does not allow us to consume human flesh at this hour. Please enjoy it yourselves.
They won’t eat it. Eat! No matter what we do, we can’t convince them. They tell us they don’t eat human flesh in Paradise. We don’t believe them. Eureka! Henri is suddenly enlightened by the idea that they are scared to eat it. It is the meat of a cadaver. You don’t eat it, do you? Ha ha ha ha… They worship the dead here. Ya tara, how many corpses must have been slaughtered for us!
Wisely they comp us some champagne. An aside from Henri: “You know what they’re trying to do… Get us drunk so we won’t know how awful the grub is.”
From the next table, a short beer-belly begins to sing, “Take, eat; this is my body. This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”
We object, informing him that he’s cantating the wrong prayer, that God won’t hear it. The beer-belly’s temper flares, the club goes haywire, the crooner runs for cover from the stage. To put the matter to rest, the waiters bring in a priest from the restroom of the shop next door, asking him to offer the correct version.
“No! Stop! You’re saying it the wrong way.”
“May you eat this meal in peace…”
“We said stop!”
“Boys, let us give glory to God.”
“Blasphemy! Let us give glory to Yoohoo. It is Yoohoo’s meat we’re eating.”
“Boys, you can’t do that. First, glory to God, then…”
“No! First to Yoohoo! It’s his meat we’re eating, son of man.”
“What if you had cow meat?”
“We would’ve given glory to the cow.”
“Nullifidians!” the priest roars.
“You slaughter the cow yet sing God’s glory, do you?” We bang on the table and jump up on our hind legs.
Fearing that these anti-Goddist dogs are preparing to eat him instead, the priest gifts us with some carved crosses, anointed by the Catholicos himself. (All the artists of Paradise make crosses and sell them to crossophiles at the Vernissage. Supply and demand). From a distance, the boys point crosses at us at the priest’s behest and pray fiercely. They vanquish us through the power of the cross. Amen… Amen…
Thus humbled, we begin to eat.
One day, Satan came to visit me in Paradise. We met in front of the Foreign Ministry building. Hey, Jingo, what’s up? Since dogs are not respected in Paradise, I found safety in Satan’s lap as we sat on the steps in front of the building and chatted. Caressing my snout, Satan said, “Where have you disappeared to, prodigal son?”
“It’s not happening, uncle. Not happening.”
“Friendship with God.”
“So what the hell have you been doing in Paradise all this time?”
“What do I know, uncle? I have yawed.”
“So I’ve been informed.”
“What would you like me to do now?”
Satan took out a piece of paper from his breast pocket, which sported a metal insignia featuring the image of Achilles, and prepared to read.
At that moment, a pair of girasol-headed kowtowers entered the building, spitting on us a quantity of sunflower-seed skins from their mouths.
“Do you see now, uncle, why friendship with God is not happening?”
“All right, leave that to me. I’ll tell Pasha to teach this one a lesson. Meanwhile, I want you to constantly bark the following six truths in Paradise.”
I prick my ears up.
“First: the sun is the center of the solar system. Did you get it? Second: the sun is composed of atoms. Third: the earth revolves around the sun. Fourth: life is a struggle. Fifth: man is master of the earth. Sixth: God created man, then woman.”
At that, Satan peered affectionately into my eyes, to be certain that I had understood everything.
“But what are you to gain from all this, khoja?”
Satan gave me a deep smile then said cryptically, “If you’re successful in fulfilling this small request of mine, I shall make you King of the World.”
“But, uncle, I am a son of a bitch and don’t sell time. By the way, how much do you pay the prophets?”
“What do you produce?”
“Shit. I take a dump several times a day.”
“In restrooms, of course.”
“Not really. Wherever I happen to be. In Paradise. In Hell.”
“Not a single washington. No, seriously, what do you produce?”
Satan was as shocked as he would be if God himself were sitting on his lap. He at once let go of me. He feigned to regain control of himself and smiled courteously as he said good-bye.
“What’s your phone number, hajji?” Dog barked from a distance behind him.
“I don’t have numbers, my son. I’m the one who numbers all.”
“How am I to find you again, hajji? What name do you go by here?”
“Ha ha ha… I’m the one who gives names, son. I myself don’t have a name.”
“I will give you both a number and a name, hajji. From this day your name is…”
“Ha ha ha…”
And Satan, the guardian of immortal life, left Dog alone in God Square and went up the stairs to meet with Number Five, God’s foreign minister, His Excellency Zulfikar James Lutfullah, who was looking down from his balcony at the goings-on of the street.
Dog shouted after Satan, “I know your number! 393206637.”
Turning pallid, Satan swallowed it and did not look back. He had already decided Dog’s fate.
Enormous shadows descended from the sky on Mount Ararat, slid and cascaded across the land below, settled by their thousands upon Virginabad, capital of Paradise.