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The Wandering Falcon Paperback – 31 May 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (31 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241954053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241954058
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 169,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Brilliantly evokes the harshness of nomadic life. Chilling. (Metro)

One of the finest collections of short stories to come out of south Asia in decades. Rarely has a writer shown greater empathy for its people, or brought such wisdom and knowledge to writing about a terrain largely inaccessible (Guardian)

Authentic and poetic (The Times)

Mesmerising (The Times)

Superb. The work of a gifted story teller who has lived in the world of his fiction, and who offers his readers rare insight, wisdom and - above all - pleasure (Mohsin Hamid -)

A wonderful debut (The Economist)

About the Author

Jamil Ahmad was born in Jalandhar in 1933. As a member of the Civil Service of Pakistan, he served mainly in the Frontier Province and in Balochistan. He was Political Agent in Quetta, Chaghi, Khyber and Malakand and later, commissioner in Dera Ismail Khan and Swat. He was posted as minister in Pakistan's embassy in Kabul at a critical time, before and during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and his last assignment in the government was Chief Secretary Balochistan. He lives in Islamabad with his wife, Helga Ahmad.

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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover
Jamil Ahmad's 'The Wandering Falcon' is set in the heart of the stateless stretch of mountains where the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran meet: an area mythologized by news bulletins as lawless, tribal Taliban hidey-holes, buzzing only with unmanned drones.
Ahmad gives a rare voice to this forbidden region's human collateral as he follows the wanderings of a boy named Tor Baz - the Black Falcon - through its many different, complex cultures and honour-bound societies.
Ahmad writes of a region pre-Taliban, but its roots are plain to see in a land where 'imputation of immorality meant certain death', and whose relentless hardships breed a perverted if somewhat understandable sense of justice:

'Despite their differences, the two tribes [Mahsuds and Wazirs] share more than merely their common heritage of poverty and misery. Nature has bred in both an unusual abundance of anger, enormous resilience, and a total refusal to accept their fate. If nature provides them with food for only ten days in a year, they believe it their right to demand the rest of their sustenance from their fellow men who live oily, fat and comfortable lives in the plains. To both tribes, survival is the ultimate virtue. In neither community is any stigma attached to a hired assassin, a thief, a kidnapper or an informer.'

The region is changing. Governments are beginning to patch up their porous borders, threatening to irrevocably alter the lifestyles of the wandering tribes who have migrated between mountains and plains for centuries. The young are beginning to look less towards their elders and more to the distant cousins who have grown rich selling opium in the city.
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Format: Hardcover
The Wandering Falcon is Jamil Ahmad's first book and he's 78 years old and started writing the stories in this book half a lifetime ago. He worked for the Pakistani civil service and was posted to the frontier area where Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran meet up. It's not the type of area where you could expect much of a welcome or to have an easy time but Ahmad clearly loved his time there and that love of the people and place comes through in these stories.

Is The Wandering Falcon a novel or a collection of short stories? It's not entirely true to say that either is strictly the case. A single character - Tor Baz, which translates as the Wandering Falcon - knits together the 9 stories, growing older as the book progresses so that we are able to follow the passage of time and its impact on the tribes and he appears in all but one of the chapters. Occasionally his presence seems a bit forced - a modification or an afterthought, pushed onto a page where he doesn't entirely belong - but Tor Baz is by his very nature a character who doesn't belong anywhere so even that sense of alienation on the page is compatible with the story.

Tor Baz is born in the first chapter which tells of a couple who run away together, the woman leaving her husband to run off with the man, her husband's servant. In the next story Tor Baz is living with a group of camel traders who rescue him when he's found alone and huddled against the corpse of his family's camel. He passes into the hands of a wealthy land owner and then on to a renegade mullah before reaching an age when he's no longer anybody's property or adopted son and begins to take on his own identity - as a guide, as a trader or as a man looking for a wife.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of those novels that could be read as a fairytale. Actually it contains all the elements of a good old fairytale, as it talks about habits, customs and traditions in the forever mysterious east, and tries to explain to the ever ignorant people of the west some of the things that however how hard they try they do not seem able to comprehend.
The main character in this story is a man that goes by the name of Tor Baz; a love child. Tor Baz was born at a military outpost in the middle of the desert, and grew up among the soldiers and his constantly worried parents, who were afraid that their sin would catch up with them. What sin was that? Well, they were not actually married, and his mother was the wife of his father's boss. As it turns out they were right to be afraid, as one day they would be discovered by the people they have wronged and thus lose their lives. Tor was spared his life but he was left behind all alone in an oasis in the desert, helplessly hoping to live to see another day. And that's exactly where an army officer found him and decided to save his life. So he had the six year old boy follow him to a far away town, where the kid was destined to discover an exciting new world; a world of written and oral knowledge, of modern and ancient wisdom. His teacher was an idiosyncratic mullah called Barrerai, a man who was bound to play an important role in the future history of the region. While times were changing and new realities were starting to emerge, and as "one set of values, one way of life had to die," he had to do the best he possibly could to protect his people from their worst instincts, to stand in the way of the bad things to come out of their ignorance and sometimes plain stupidity.
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