Residue is that which remains in us, and allows us to regrow, as we move across national borders and move on from events.

Named for the revolutionary Trotsky by a missing communist father he never saw, Leon Ali is a Kashmiri born in Britain and brought up by a single mother in Delhi. Keya Raina is a Kashmiri scholar of exile, an insecure immigrant, who collects other people’s stories. Marked by the oppressive history of Kashmir, they meet in Berlin, the city of Cold War partitions, and begin a journey of discovery, which reveals to them the story of Shula Farid, the bohemian wife of a staid Bengali diplomat. Through their travels, these two young Kashmiris outside Kashmir, find startling truths about themselves in the midst of unwitting identities and multiple belongings; the residue of shared human emotions.

A riveting  exploration of mobility and affinity across the borders of nation and faith, Residue provides fascinating glimpses of class-stratified urban India, divided Berlin, and complications of identity in England. It is a remarkable novel about divided lands and fortress continents, lines inked in blood and memory, and the absences they create in people’s lives and imaginations.

Residue is about Kashmiris outside of Kashmir. It charts the eventful journeys in England, Berlin and India, of Leon Ali and Keya Raina, a young Kashmiri Muslim man and a Kashmiri Hindu woman, as they travel through these divided places.


“The world of exile has spawned literature of various hues. Residue, the debut novel of academic, poet and author Nitasha Kaul is an important contribution to the literary works on exile, providing a rare insight into the prejudices, inhibitions and the litany of woes associated with it...lies in the creation and resolution of crises, leading to the emergence of well fleshed out characters. This book is all about overcoming prejudices, discovering startling truths about self and going back to one’s roots. Residue leaves behind a residue of hope, ambition and aspiration and the resolve to triumph over one’s inner demons”. The Kashmir Wallah

“Shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Book Prize, the modern times and history of Kashmir and its emigrants catch the reader’s attention...Leon and Keya’s slow movement towards each other and the final trip to Srinagar evokes the memory of their background and history. The writer seems to be suggesting a political resolution”. The Deccan Herald

“Another gripping, powerful novel on Kashmir by a daughter of the soil has hit the stands. Profound and penetrating. Perhaps the best one in terms of range and depth, the first one by a young woman”. Greater Kashmir

“The book is the story of longing, of human expectations, of loss, of love, of relationships that transcend the common notions...I see the book as the author’s emotional connection with the land which has hauntingly remained in the memory and needed to be expressed in the form of human relationships, emotions, sufferings as has been expressed in this book. It is nothing but the memory of the good times that have been the inheritance of every Kashmiri living in these cursed lands much before the human greed caused the upheaval which disintegrated the human values for worse. As the blurb of the book declares “Residue is that which remains in us, and allows us to regrow, as we move across national borders and move on from events.” In nutshell the “residue” is about the idea of Kashmir and of being Kashmiri”. Rising Kashmir

“Kaul seems to have achieved a deep position of sympathy for all her characters. Her insight into their thoughts and personal journeys is both revelatory and poignant in parts, making the novel a great pleasure to read...Overall, Residue is a novel whose story and essence themselves shine through in several ways. These alone make it worth reading and deeply enjoying”. Kindle Magazine

“In a world riven with prejudice, hatred and sectarianism, Nitasha Kaul, through her first novel Residue, gives us a host of characters who do not wallow in such muck...On the whole, Residue left a very pleasant aftertaste in me and I recommend this book to all those who want to see this world become a better place, free of sectarian prejudices and all those who like to read a good story”. Winnowed

“Nitasha Kaul’s novel Residue reminds one of the epigraph with which Marquez’s novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold, opens. The epigraph of that novel is a line by 14th century Portugese poet Gil Vicente – “The hunt for love is haughty falconry.” All the characters of Residue seem to inhabit a lonely planet of their own—hunting for that iota of love that touched them and passed them by in a moment...Kaul’s novel is a refreshing read, for it approaches politics through very personal struggles”. New Indian Express

“With this meeting of the two characters, the aim of the novel is brought in focus. In stark political language, it would be imagining Kashmir as a space where the histories of the Muslim and Pandit communities meet in a final embrace; the harmonious embrace which was rent asunder by unfortunate events. Leon and Keya are characters, who through their troubled lives are trying to arrive at a phenomenon which Salim Sinai in Midnight’s Children aptly called ‘a new way of being’. How this is done and how far the novel captures the politics of this effort is the reason why people should read Residue. It’s a novel of possibilities. Leon Ali and Keya Raina are not people who simply exist; they are people who should exist in our society...Residue will be remembered for the political questions it engages with and seeks to find an answer to”. Greater Kashmir

RESIDUE was shortlisted for the MAN ASIAN LITERARY PRIZE in 2009 (Judged by Colm Tóibín, Gish Jen, Pankaj Mishra) when it was an unpublished manuscript. 

At the time that it was shortlisted, RESIDUE had no agent, no publishing contract; it was a debut novel, the only one by a woman on the shortlist, and the first one ever by a Kashmiri woman writer.

Following this literary recognition, the book received much attention from around the world. Here is a flavour of some press coverage and events in the immediate aftermath:

Chair of the judging panel Colm Tóibín, commented

“Reading these books was a fascinating experience because of the range of styles and subjects. The variety of ways in which voice and tone was used in these novels, the sense of commitment to story, the range in the methods of exploring both self and society, the interest in experimenting and making it new, made the time spent judging this prize rewarding and enlightening.”

Alison Flood at The Guardian (UK) newspaper asked me for my reactions to the shortlisting, and summed them up very nicely at:

Reading from Residue, shortlisted author event, organised by the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival, The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, China, 15 November 2009.

I wrote a “Letter (to my fictional characters in the city of Berlin)" in Heather Reyes and Katy Derbyshire (eds) Berlin City-Lit, London: Oxygen Books, pp. 220-222, ISBN 978-0-9559700-4-7.

Words We Die For: Passport, Identity, and Exile”, lecture/reading based on my novel Residue, Centre for Integrated Studies (CIS), Central University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India, 8 January 2010.

In the summer of 2010, Residue was discussed at literature events in London:

'Contemporary Literary Festival' event on "Migration and Displacement: New Writing From India" (moderator Sukhdev Sandhu, co-panelists Neel Mukherjee, Tishani Doshi), at National Portrait Gallery (NPG), London, UK, 27 May 2010.
And at 
'Migration and Displacement: New South Asian Fiction' event (moderator Sathnam Sanghera, co-panelists Neel Mukherjee, Tishani Doshi) at the Festival of Asian Literature, Asia House, London, 26 May 2010.

And, also discussed on BBC Asian Network Radio titled “Writing and Identity” (Show hosted by Satnam Rana on 25/5/10).

Here is a quote from a write-up titled "Valley of Metaphors", on Kashmir and writing, in Indian national newspaper,
The Hindustan Times (16/7/11):

"2010-2011 has also been a year of ‘firsts.’ Residue by academic-poet-novelist Nitasha Kaul, for example, when published, will probably be the first novel in English by a Kashmiri  woman author. The journey of Leon, a Kashmiri Muslim, and Keya, a Kashmiri Hindu is actually a reflection of Kaul’s 'testament of memory to come out of a conflicted inheritance' — her relation to Kashmir. 'I tried for years not to write about Kashmir,' says Kaul, 'forcing myself to avoid Kashmir even when I talked about democracy and identity in other places. Later, I could not bear not to talk about it…. Since 2010, people cannot dismiss the legitimate demands of the Kashmiri people by calling them ‘Islamist’ or ‘foreign-backed.’ The young generation of Kashmir has made their voice heard.'"