Archive for December, 2012

Jalil Ahmad’s The Wandering Falcon

December 30, 2012

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The Wandering Falcon is an enthralling must-read for its fresh, direct narrative of life in the rural tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The author is an 80-year-old retired member of the Pakistani civil service who worked for years in the areas that feature in this book. The work is a series of vignettes that loosely revolve about Tor Baz, an orphan who moves between tribes throughout his life. Tor Baz is rarely the chief character in any given episode, however, and the work covers a variety of figures. Some of the key themes are tensions between traditional ways of life and the demands of the modern state, the plight of women, and the price of honor.

Plenty has been written about Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent years, but a few things make this novel stand out. First, Ahmad writes in a non-judgmental but brutally honest voice. He neither condemns nor sugar-coats the sometimes abhorrent actions of his characters and focuses on allowing their stories to be told. Moreover, his writing style is deceptively simple and thus reflects an important feature of the social world in which his characters operate. I highly recommend this short novel.

David Lodge’s Trilogy

December 30, 2012

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David Lodge’s trilogy offers a humorous look at academic life in Britain and, to a lesser degree, the US. The work consists of three books: Changing Places (1974), Small World (1984), and Nice Work (1988). The value of the works descended with each sequel, and overall I would recommend Changing Places enthusiastically and the latter two only for those particularly interested in campus novels.

Changing Places details the experiences of Philip Swallow and Morris Zapp, a UK and US academic respectively, as they trade places, and hilarity ensues as they try to make sense of an entirely new academic world. Small World details the same characters a decade later as they’re both working the conference circuit. Nice Work changes casts and contrasts academic and industrial life in England.