Ever since the publication of his debut novel Ghulaam Baagh [The Slave Garden] in 2006, Mirza Athar Baig has continued with his knack for surprising his readers, stretching the form of the Urdu novel as well as experimenting with language.

After Ghulaam Baagh he came out with two other novels; Sifar Sey Aik Tak: Cyberspace Ke Munshi Ki Sarguzasht [From Zero to One: Chronicles of the Secretary of Cyberspace] in 2010 and Hassan Ki Soorat-i-Haal: Khaali Jaghein Pur Karo in 2014, which was translated into English five years later by Haider Shahbaz as Hassan's State of Affairs.

Many people consider Baig's novels 'experimental' - a term he does not fancy. In an interview with Urdu novelist Muhammad Asim Butt, published as 'Mirza Athar Baig Se Novel Ki Zabaan Aur Usloob Per Muqaalma' [A Dialogue with Mirza Athar Baig on the Language and Form of a Novel] in a special edition of the literary journal Adbiyaat, Baig says: ''Experimental' is a word which is used here more than the rest of the world. When we want to call [a novel] useless, we dub it 'experimental'. In fact, anything creative is experimental. That's also a definition of creation, that is, anything which didn't exist before. Whatever is creative is definitely experimental.'

Notwithstanding the views of critics, Baig has just published a new novel that seems to have the same intention as his previous works, of shocking the readers. The book is given the lengthy and intriguing title of Khafeef Makhfi Ki Khwaab Beeti: Bhayanak Maawra-i-Amoomi Waaqiyaat Par Mabni Yaadaashtain [The Dream Life of Khafeef Makhfi: Memoirs Based on Horrible Paranormal Incidents].

In Mirza Athar Baig's latest novel set in the mountains, valleys and caves of the Potohar region, nothing happens many times while its protagonists keep searching in futility for the occult

The titular Khafeef Makhfi is a peanut farmer in the Potohar region of Punjab, with a passion for researching the occult. Working under the guidance of Monsieur L'Enfant, a researcher from France, Khafeef publishes his work in a Pakistani magazine of the occult called Asraar [Secrets], while L'Enfant adds to Khafeef's research and publishes the augmented works in France.

The novel spans over the events of some days, beginning when Khafeef Makhfi - real name Sultan Zaman - embarks on adventures in search of the paranormal in the mountains, valleys and caves of Potohar. Accompanying him is his servant, Mohkam Din, whom Khafeef considers an assistant in...

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