Pakistan is a rich source for this collection, being as it is a cauldron of culture, history, religion, politics and beliefs. There is a striking difference here between the beauty of some of the fiction and the brutality of the non-fiction pieces.
This edition of Granta kicks off with a cracking piece of short fiction from Nadeem Aslam about the tragedy of a young Muslim girl who is fated to only produce female heirs for her rich husband. It's shocking, moving and beautiful. Initially, Uzma Aslam Kahn's Ice Mating story didn't grab me, but as it switched between California and Pakistan, it unfolded to another interesting piece. Mohammed Hanif's shocking story of how not to woo a young nurse is both funny and sad. There are shocking moments of brutality in the non-fiction too - not least the short piece by Mohsin Hamid - A Beheading. More ancient tribal brutality is evident to Western eyes at least in Jamil Ahmad's The Sins of the Mother.
Jane Perlez presents a brief but thoughtful piece on the intentions of Pakistan-founder Jinnah and wonders what he would have made of the ongoing Islamist movement that there is little evidence that he intended for the country. Basharat Peer's piece on the problems in Kashmir is also deeply moving, particularly emphasising the impact is has had on the youth that have never known any different. Intizar Hussain's short piece entitled The House of Gallows is enlightening while Declan Walsh, borrowing his title from Kippling, in Arithmetic on the Frontier explores the threat of the Taliban in the Northern frontier. Physical distance clearly helps analysis as there is equally insightful contribution from London-based Kamila Shamsie in Pop Idol.
Of course it's hardly news that most if not all of Pakistan's problems stem from initially British imperialism attempting to create unity amongst disparate tribes, exacerbated by unforseen side effects of Western and particularly US foreign policy, not least of which the support of the Afghani resistance to the Russian invasion and the support of fundamental Islamist military power in the form of General Zia ul-Haq. What is equally clear though is that understanding the causes do little to identify the solution. There's a stark reminder of the impact of this on the West in Lorraine Adams' investigation of The Trials of Faisal Shahzad.
There's poetry from, amongst others, Daniyal Mueenuddin although given the quality of his superb collection of short stories, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, I was sorry not to see a short story from this highly talented writer. On the other hand, it is a reflection of the quality of writing that is coming out of this troubled country. Instead of Granta's traditional photographs, the edition is illustrated with sometimes interesting Pakistani art, much of it modern.