Suhayl Saadi was born Sohail Ahmed on 23rd October 1961 in Beverly, East Yorkshire to Pakistani parents but the family moved to Paisley during his early childhood. He lived on the extreme south-eastern edge of the town, which in those days was much less built-up than it is now and Saadi maintains that the ability to roam around the countryside and be actively imaginative in his early years helped lay the foundations for his later creativity. He attended Paisley Grammar School from 1968-1979 and went on to study at Glasgow University. After a period away from Central Scotland, he moved back to Paisley and began to take up writing and in the early 1990s Saadi joined the excellent Paisley Writers’ Group, which at that time was being facilitated by Agnes Owens.
The hallucinatory realist novel, Psychoraag (Black and White Publishing, 2004) was widely recognised as a ground-breaking work of fiction, being designated by the Scottish Book Trust as one of the ‘100 Best Scottish Books’ of all time. The word, Psychoraag could be translated to mean, ‘a symphony of madness’ or ‘a symphony of the mind’ and the novel is set in a radio station and plays out a dark night of the soul through the eclectic play-list of the Asian-Scots DJ, Zaf. The music encompasses work over a hundred-year period by everyone from the Beatles, Byrds, Stranglers and Primal Scream to classic Indian screen-songs to Igor Stravinsky to various contemporary raga-rock and ‘cross-over’ European, African and Asian artists. Psychoraag won a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award (California, USA, 2005), was short-listed for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (UK, 2005) and the Patras Bokhari Prize (Pakistan, 2005), was nominated for the Impac Prize (Ireland, 2006) and in 2007 will be published in French by the Paris-based publisher, Editions Métailié.
Saadi and his work have appeared around the world and he has written for national newspapers and for various stations of the BBC. A Millennium Commission Award recipient, he also won prizes in the Bridport and Macallan/Scotland-on-Sunday Competitions. His short story collection, The Burning Mirror (Polygon, 2001) was acclaimed as an eclectic masterpiece and was short-listed for the Saltire First Book Prize (UK, 2001). A magical stage-play, Saame Sita, set among the indigenous peoples of northern Scandinavia, played during 2003 in Edinburgh and a radio-play, The Dark Island was broadcast on BBC Radio Four in 2004. The atmospheric novella, The White Cliffs (Sandstone Press, 2004) was a love story with a difference set in Eastbourne in 1966, which in 2005 was adapted for the stage and The Snake (Creation Books, 1997) was a literary erotic fiction, a demonic work set in Portugal, which was published under the pseudonym, ‘Melanie Desmoulins’ and which was in fact the very first novel ever written by a black Scot.
He has been on the committees and boards of various arts organisations and currently is a co-director of the pioneering arts production company, Heer Productions Ltd, which in 2005 established, in Glasgow, the first-ever Pakistani Film Festival to have been held outside Pakistan. The festival received excellent reviews, toured Edinburgh in 2006 to sell-out screenings and moved to London in 2006/ 2007.
Saadi has written song-lyrics for the classical Dunedin Consort (The People’s Mass, Delphian CD 2004) and music, heteroglossia and liminality remain central to his art. Currently, he is working on both stage plays and song-lyrics and is writing another novel. Suhayl Saadi is married with a daughter and lives in Glasgow, but still has close relatives who live in Paisley.
Suhayl’s novel “Joseph’s Box” was published in August 2009 by Two Raven Press.