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More than he could chew!
on 15 April 2013
I rate Nadeem Aslam very highly as a writer. His background probably gives him an insight into the whole knotty nexus where the intelligent and idealistic young Pakistani meets, not only western values but also western incomprehension and militant violence, as well as traditional Afghanistani/Pakistani brutality and Islamic fundamentalism. Obviously this an area which is incredibly difficult not only to understand and to be fair to but also very tricky to incorporate into a workable plot for a novel. In his previous book 'The Wasted Vigil' Nadeem pretty well managed it and produced what is in my opinion one of the best novels of recent years, as near as dammit, a masterpiece, so I have been eagerly waiting for his next, unfortunately this time, applying the rigorous standards which his talent deserves, he hasn't managed to dominate the always interesting ingredients and construct a satisfying work.
It's always interesting, full of fine moments, but also of unconvincing ones and unbelievable coincidences. Nor is the personal drama fulfilled in a dramatic or mythic way.
If you know little of Pakistan and Afghanistan, if you haven't thought much about American actions there, haven't much idea of how living in an Islamic society might be, then read it. You'll learn something but if you're looking for a satisfying, well constructed piece of literature you may be disappointed, as I was. Though I will obviously and eagerly read his next.