First person: The book that changed my life

by Khuram Shahzad

It would be most unfair to say that only one book has made me the awful writer that I am. It’s always the amalgamation of pretty colours that makes that one horrid colour. If I had to name one book which has had the most influence on me, this accolade should go to none other than The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Being Asian and Muslim, most of our reading is stumbled on autonomously. We are never recommended or influenced to pursue literature. Literature is treated as something boring that puts annoying kids to sleep.

The reason why Oscar Wilde has influenced me is because of the humbling process I underwent to reach him. Sometimes in life we learn to love those things from which we try to stay away from. Then one day we are caught off guard and we delve into the 101 only to slap ourselves for not making this trip earlier. There is only so much a shallow mind can read, and I’ve learnt that if you want to be great, then be open, because sharks don’t swim in shallow.

I think the jump came to read Oscar Wilde came when I told a friend about Oscar Wilde and why I didn’t read him; and my friend’s answer was so laconically beautiful, that it left me pondering. Regarding the sexuality of Wilde, he retorted that it was his fault, not yours. Those words just made sense that moment in time and whilst these words were fresh in my head I bought myself a copy of the complete works of Wilde, the next day. I definitely don’t regret it and it has been one of the greatest literature discoveries for me. Now his sexuality doesn’t matter to me, but rather it is his words that I am concerned with. What matters is we have this man of great stature and thought, whose immortal words are left behind for many generations to enjoy.  Never let prejudice creep into your mind because it will only hold you prisoner. The more your mind is open, the better person and reader it will make you.

So this is my story about an author or book that has influenced me. And with it I’d like to end with the (altered) words from the preface of Dorian Gray: ‘There is no straight or queer book. Books are either well written or badly written.’