Thursday, February 2, 2012
Mohammed Hanif, A Case of Exploding Mangoes
The book begins with a fast forward to its ending — the crash in 1988 of an airplane carrying Pakistani dictator General Zia, taking the lives of all on board, including several high-ranking military officials. Hanif then interweaves a number of entertainingly far-fetched plots, all of them contributing to not one but several conspiracies to assassinate Zia — and all of them converging on that fateful flight.
What's exhilarating is the freedom Hanif takes in his rendering of the real-life characters. All of them are portrayed as more-or-less hapless clowns in a grand-scale collision of hubris, ambitions, ignorance, paranoia, and professional jealousies. And you realize that in a media-dominated age, where most of what we know about public figures is PR, spin, hype, and rumor anyway, a novelist is pretty much free to invent his own characterizations of them.
You can fault the book for its length, its occasional wandering off-course, and its lack of historical accuracy, but it is no more than what it sets out to be. The novel is a wild ride that attempts to reflect the absurdity of human behavior when what's at stake are positions of power and the vast sums of money that power attracts to itself.
A Case of Exploding Mangoes is currently available at amazon, AbeBooks, and for kindle and the nook. Friday's Forgotten Books is the bright idea of Patti Abbott over at pattinase.
Coming up: James Stewart, Night Passage (1957)