peteg's blog - noise - books - 2015 09 07 JamilAhmad TheWanderingFalcon

Jamil Ahmad: The Wandering Falcon

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Another eBook from the Chicago Public Library. According to Wikipedia, Ahmad spent a lifetime in the tribal areas along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan and he shares some of his experiences and accumulated knowledge here. Unfortunately he started late and this is the entirety of his literary output. In some ways it is like Kipling's Kim, reflecting on colonialism, the reverberations of the Great Game and so forth. His account of the closing of the Af-Pak border to the nomadic peoples is despondent. Score one more to the nation state. There is little of beauty here — more hard-scrabble people eking out hard lives in breathtaking surroundings — and while the women are accounted for, they never amount to personalities or have much volition. There is, of course, generational tribal/family feuding and slave trading, some city life. The overarching conceit is of a violently-orphaned boy who learns to survive, even thrive, by doing as needs must. He appears in all the stories but is almost never at their centre.

Basharat Peer and Kamila Shamsie both reviewed it for the Guardian. (I somewhat disagree with her about the portrayal of women, though I don't fault Ahmad for this given the culturally-enforced separation of gender.)

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