A first novel of the first orderprovocative, exuberant, wickedly cleverthat reimagines the conspiracies and coincidences leading to the mysterious 1988 plane crash that killed Pakistans dictator General Zia ul-Haq.
At the center is Ali Shigri: Pakistan Air Force pilot and Silent Drill Commander of Fury Squadron. His father, one of Zias colonels, committed suicide under suspicious circumstances. Ali is determined to understand what or who pushed his father to such desperationand to avenge his death.
What he quickly discovers is a snarl of events: Americans in Pakistan, Soviets in Afghanistan, dollars in every hand. But Ali remains patient, determined, a touch world-weary (You want freedom and they give you chicken korma), and unsurprised at finding Zia at every turn. He mounts an elaborate plot for revenge with an ever-changing crew (willing and not) that includes his silk-underwear-and- cologne-wearing roommate; a hash-smoking American lieutenant with questionable motives; the chief of Pakistans secret police, who mistakenly believes hes in cahoots with the CIA; a blind woman imprisoned for fornication; Uncle Starchy, the squadrons laundryman; and, not least of all, a mango-besotted crow. General Ziadevout Muslim and leering admirer of non-Muslim cleavagebegins every day by asking his chief of security: Whos trying to kill me? and the answer lies in a conspiracy trying its damnedest to happen . . .
Intrigue and subterfuge combine with misstep and luck in this darkly comic book about love, betrayal, tyranny, familyand a world that unexpectedly resembles our own.
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"A sure-footed, inventive debut that deftly undercuts its moral rage with comedy and deepens its comedy with moral rage . . . The novel has less in common with the sober literature of fact than it does with Latin American magical realism (especially novels about mythic dictators such as Gabriel García Márquezs Autumn of the Patriarch) and
absurdist military comedy (like Joseph Hellers Catch-22). Hanif adopts a playful, exuberant voice, as competing theories and assassination plots are ingeniously combined and overlaid." Kirkus Reviews.
"Publishers Weekly. Pakistans ongoing political turmoil adds a piquant edge to this fact-based farce . . . Hanifs depiction of military foibles recalls the satirical wallop of Catch-22. [He brings] heft to this sagely absurd depiction of his homelands history of political conspiracies and corruption." - Publishers Weekly.
"Entertaining and illuminating . . . Hanif has crafted a clever black comedy about military culture, love, tyranny, family, and the events that eventually brought us to September 11, 2001." - Booklist.
"Witty, elegant, and deliciously anarchic. Hanif has a lovely eye and an even better ear." John le Carré.
"Unputdownable and darkly hilarious . . . Mohammed Hanif is a brave, gifted writer. He has taken territory in desperate need of satireGeneral Zia, the military, Pakistan at the time of the Soviet-Afghan warand made it undeniably his own." Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist.
"The novel alternates chapters between Shigri's limited, first-person account of the two months and 17 days leading up to the death of General Zia, and a third-person re-creation of General Zia's last days, swept up in confrontations with his wife, his TV celebrity mistress, a spectacular parachuting disaster, and yes, the fateful peregrinations of a certain crow. Just like that crow, the unpredictable plot never flies where you think it's heading in this odd, frequently brilliant, satirical deconstruction of a dictator's last days." - Shelf Awareness.
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While Hanif writes about loyalty to family, country, and friendship, he also writes about military life in post-colonial Pakistan, decades-long conspiracies, and the politics of Third World and First World interactions.
This is historical fiction, with both comedic (stereotypes, dark humor) and serious (nations and outlaws with weapons) events. It's a reminder of how the past speaks to the present, including both the familiar and the frightening characters from international history.
Mohammed Hanif was born in Okara, Pakistan. After leaving the Pakistan Air Force Academy to pursue a career in journalism, he worked for Newsline, India Today, and The Washington Post. He has written plays for the stage and screen, including a critically acclaimed BBC drama and the feature film The Long Night (2002), Pakistan's first digital feature film. Hanif is a graduate of the University of East Anglia's creative writing programme. His first novel, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, was published in 2008. It was longlisted for the 2008 Booker Prize, and shortlisted for the 2008 Guardian First Book Award and the 2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize in the Best First Book category. He is currently head of the BBC's Urdu Service and lives in London.
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