Monday, August 17, 2009

A case of exploding mangoes

Author: Mohammed Hanif Publication Date: 2008 Category: Literary Fiction, Humour, Love, Murder & Mystery
Point of no return: The ambiguous title caught me. Classic line/s: Pg 1: "His smart casual look hides a superior diplomatic mind; he is a composer of sharp, incisive memos and has the ability to remain polite in the most hostile exchanges."
Pg 18: " 'See you at the square, Baby O.'
I felt jealous, not because of the intimacy that it implied, but because I wished I had come up with this nickname for Obaid." What's it all about? It's part love story, part murder-mystery and part tragic comedy. It's a wonderful book that I didn't want to end - I was enjoying the company of part time narrator Ali Shigri so much. Apart from the captivating storyline, this book is beautifully written - it's like reading a lilting poem. The story revolves around the mysterious explosion of a C130 Hercules, in which Pakistan's military dictator General Zia dies in August 1988. General Zia "knows" someone wants to kill him, but doesn't know who. General Zia might as well be in a "choose your own adventure" story as far as that goes: Will he be poisoned? Will a curse kill him? Will one or two of his Generals betray him?
If you get the chance, listen to the author at the 2009 Sydney Writers' Festival. This session was a real bonus as Mohammed Hanif read quite a bit from the book. I think my experience of the book was much enhanced from being at this session - it gave me the accents and the humour. I guess this is what made Ali Shigri so real to me.
Publisher: Jonathan Cape


Anonymous said...

Sounds very intersting - love the title & might start calling my lil one baby O.

Anonymous said...

Favorite quote: "You want freedom and they give you chicken korma."

It was interesting to see how baby O was punished for the obsessions of the narrator, Shigri. Without giving away too much, one example was where O was humiliated because he wasn't cut out for silent drill (you have to read the book for the silent drill alone, it's priceless) where Shigri got the glory of personally meeting his nemesis, General Zia.

There are other examples, and better ones at that, but I don't want to give the book away. Just watch what happens to O compared to Shirgi.