In the spirit of Joyce's Dubliners and Turgenev's A Sportsman's Sketches, Daniyal Mueenuddin's collection of linked stories illuminates a place and a people through an examination of the entwined lives of landowners and their retainers on the Gurmani family farm in the countryside outside of Lahore, Pakistan. An aging feudal landlord's household staff, the villagers who depend on his favor, and a network of relations near and far who have sought their fortune in the cities confront the advantages and constraints of station, the dissolution of old ways, and the shock of change.
Mueenuddin baresat times humorously, at times tragicallythe complexities of Pakistani class and culture and presents a vivid picture of a time and a place, of the old powers and the new, as the Pakistani feudal order is undermined and transformed.
A complete short story from In Other Rooms, Other Wonders......
Saleema was born in the Jhulan clan, blackmailers and bootleggers, Muslim refugees at Partition from the country northwest of Delhi. They were lucky, the new border lay only thirty or forty miles distant, and from thieving expeditions they knew how to travel unobserved along canals and tracks. Skirting the edge of the Cholistan Desert, crossing into Pakistan, on the fourth night they came to a Hindu village abandoned by all but a few old women. They drove them away and occupied the houses, finding pots and pans, buckets, even guard dogs, which grew accustomed to them.
During Saleema’s childhood twenty years later the village was gradually being absorbed into the slums cast off by an adjacent provincial town called Kotla Sardar. Her father became a heroin addict, and died of it, her mother slept around for money and favors, and she herself at fourteen became the plaything of a small ...
As in the best collections, the stories enhance each other, forging connections between recurrent characters and building a world where real locations like Islamabad and Lahore blend with imagined households... Themes of struggle and progress may be familiar, but Mueenuddin's rich stories make them fresh and powerful, marking a debut as auspicious as any so far this year.
(Reviewed by Karen Rigby).
Full Review (1126 words).
Daniyal Mueenuddin on Farming, Traveling West, and Returning Home to Write
"For many years I have run a farm in Pakistan's southern Punjab. Most of the stories in this book have their origins in my experiences there, and many were written there. Half Pakistani and half American, I have spent equal amounts of time in each country, and so, knowing both cultures well and belonging to both, I equally belong to neither, look at both with an outsider's eye. These stories are written from that place in between, written to help both me and my reader bridge the gap.
My father was a graduate of Oxford, a member first of the Indian and then, after Partition, of the Pakistani civil service - and, most fundamentally, a land owner of the old Punjabi...
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