I have been looking forward to this one – Pakistan has a fascinating history, and with many new writers emerging for English-language readers it is an exciting time to learn more about what makes the country tick.
In reading any novel about Pakistan, a bit of an understanding of the history is important. Please bear with me here – it is a little complicated, but we will get there in the end!
The Partition of British India in 1947 which led to the formation of two states along religious lines – Pakistan (Muslim) and India (Hindu) – lies at the heart of many novels set in both countries. This is understandable, it led to massive upheaval for those who were forced to flee their homes so they could be on “the right side” of the lines of division, as well as to horrific sectarian violence and bloodshed, often between people who had been friends and neighbors for a lifetime.
But Partition was not as simple as simply dividing British India into two. The Muslim population was concentrated in two different areas, the north-west of the Indian subcontinent and a delta to the very east, on the Bay of Bengal. So when the two states of Pakistan and India were created, Pakistan itself was divided into two with one part in the west and another more than a thousand miles away to the east – in between was India.
This set the scene for more conflict, when in March 1971 the more politically powerful West Pakistan launched a military operation against Bengali civilians in East Pakistan who were calling for independence. This resulted in a civil war, complete with guerrilla operations and a flood of refugees to India. India decided to support the East and this led to conflict on the India-West Pakistan border. In December 1971 the West Pakistani forces were defeated in East Pakistan, which became the independent nation of Bangladesh.
A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam explores this conflict through the eyes of one family – a young widow Rehana Haque and her two teenage children. Initially oblivious to the political dissent around her, Rehana is soon caught up in the rebellion and resulting conflict. The novel is the first of a proposed trilogy, with the second instalment The Good Muslim just about to be released.
If you would prefer to explore more contemporary Pakistan in this challenge, rather than delve into the history, here are a few ideas.
But for this challenge I am going for something a little off-beat.
Apart from anything else A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif has one of the most intriguing titles I have come across for some time!
A fictional take on the death of Pakistan’s dictator General Zia in a mysterious plane crash in August 1988, this novel is touted as a comedy. Apparently many of the characters and events portrayed in the book are real – and the reviewers on Amazon promise me and “unpredictable but very enjoyable read”. That’s enough for me!
What is your choice for the Pakistan World Party Reading Challenge? If nothing here strikes your fancy, then have a look at the other books set in Parkistan we have found. And then let us know what you are reading in the comments below…..
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UPDATE: Read my review for A Case of Exploding Mangoes
Enjoyed this post? Have a look at our other World Party Reading Challenge selections.