Maps for Lost Lovers
is a stunningly brave and searingly brutal novel charting a year in the life of a working class community from the subcontinent--a group described by author Nadeem Aslam as "Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian and Sri Lankans living in a northern town". The older residents, who have left their homelands for the riches of England, have communally dubbed it Dasht-e-Tanhaii, which roughly translates as "the wilderness of solitude" or "the desert of loneliness". As the seasons change, from the first crystal flakes of snow that melt into "a monsoon raindrop", we slowly learn the fate of Jugnu and Chanda, a couple whose disappearance is rumoured to have been a result of their fatal decision to live in sin in a community where the phrase holds true meaning.
This uncompromisingly honest--and often uncomfortable to read--story is told through the eyes of Jugnu's brother's family who live next door. Shamas is director of the local Community Relations Council; a liberal, educated man he still mourns the passing of communism and yearns for passion in his later years. His wife Kaukub, daughter of a Pakistani cleric, is also in mourning for the passing of her devout Muslim upbringing and is forced to watch her three children turn "native". She tries increasingly desperate measures to turn them back to Islam. Pakistani-born Nadeem Aslam skilfully intertwines myths and legends with a harsh, modern reality. Tragic sub-plots of Romeo-and-Juliet proportions abound. And while some of the extended descriptive passages sit uneasily on the page and, towards the end, several rants against Islam forced through the mouths of characters become thinly-veiled lectures, nevertheless Maps for Lost Lovers is an epic work and an important milestone in British literature that deserves to be widely read by all multicultural societies seeking mutual tolerance and understanding. --Carey Green
Praise from the U.K. for Nadeem Aslam's "Maps for Lost Lovers
"It depicts an extraordinary panorama of life within a Muslim community . . . Thoughtful, revealing, lushly written and painful, this timely book deserves the widest audience."
- David Mitchell, author of "Cloud Atlas and "Ghostwritten
"A superb achievement, a book in which every detail is nuanced, every piece of drama carefully choreographed, even minor characters carefully drawn."
-Colm Toibin, author of "The Master and "Blackwater Lightship
"Haunting. [Aslam's] vivid and tender portrait of the strict Islamic mother, isolated by her unassailable belief, has stayed with me; as has his metamorphosis of a Northern English town into a poet's universe of flowers, trees and butterflies."
-Alan Hollinghurst, author of "The Line of Beauty and "The Swimming Pool Library
"A striking and impressive novel." -"The Sunday Times
"Rich in detail, languid in cadence and iridescent with remarkable images . . . Aslam takes us by the hand and, scattering his trail of bewitching images, leads us into his story . . . Rarely does Aslam put a foot wrong. This is that rare sort of book that gives a voice to those whose voices are seldom heard." -"The Observer
""Maps for Lost Lovers is a work of great courage both technically and spiritually . . . Stylistically the novel is equally daring . . . A filigree of quests for loves that never were, of passions cut short and of romances that are about to be. I was heartbroken when the dense, dark tapestry was finished." -"The Independent
"An extraordinary work, echoing Rohinton Mistry and Salman Rushdie, but entirely, and unmistakably, the product of a wholly originalmind." -"The Herald
"In this book, filled with stories of cruelty, injustice, bigotry and ignorance, love never steps out of the picture-it gleams at the edges of even the deepest wounds . . . [a] remarkable achievment." -"The Guardian
" 'Maps for Lost Lovers' is a novel of extraordinary quality. Islamists would be foolish to try and make political mischief out of it, while western readers would be foolish to ignore such a carefully crafted work." -"The Economist
"This is a Persian love poem for the 21st century, and Aslam is an author to watch."
"Aslam's prose soars, dazzling images abound . . . Through the opulence of his writing and the darkness of his message Aslam quite brilliantly and shockingly seduces his reader . . . Beautiful and only too real, this story born of romance and pain matches its artistry with courage. It is an important novel and also a very fine one." -"The Irish Times