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One army minion plots an intricate revenge against the nation’s General for the suspected murder of his father.
The fictional protagonist, Under Officer Ali Shigri, leader of the “Silent Drill Squad” in the Pakistan Air Force Academy, weaves us a story and eventually lets on that he is really plotting revenge against the man he thinks killed his father. Shigri believes his father’s untimely death was made to look like suicide by the General Zia, then president of Pakistan.
Zia is simultaneously revered and abhorred by the nation, the butt of a commonly repeated joke: “Why doesn’t the First Lady let General Zia into her bedroom?” “Because the First Lady thinks he is too busy screwing the nation.“ (p.248, 311)
The plot thickens as we learn more about Shigri’s father and his connection to Zia. Ultimately, the story concludes with the ominous flight and a box of mangoes that might be waiting to explode.
Overall, the book is morbidly entertaining: morbid perhaps because it is based on real events and people, and entertaining as Hanif’s writing is quite thought-provoking. In fact, the writing is so dark and humourous that we as readers are simultaneously watching at arm’s length whilst slowly being pulled inside. This book won or was nominated for several well-deserving literary awards.
“You might be going to your death, but there is always someone else there pursuing his own agenda.” (p.193)
“The mountains sleep like giants who have lost their way.” (p.259)
1. Many entertaining novels and scripts have been based partly on fact and partly on fiction. What are the boundaries in which an author can write the fictional parts before having affected the facts too much? Or, are there any?
2. In a death surrounded by circumstantial evidence — Shigri was acting upon a hunch, after all — was Shigri right to avenge his father?
3. What are you willing to do to find out the truth? And how does this differ from what you are willing to do to “even up” the score?