Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

I'd read about The Wandering Falcon and Jamil Ahmad, its 80 year old author in glowing reviews.  Ahmad had worked as a bureaucrat in the remote northwest region of Pakistan and wrote the book over the course of years/decades.  When the book was offered through Amazon Vine, I snapped it up immediately!
The Wandering Falcon
The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

The blurb:
After decades working in the remote tribal regions of Pakistan, eighty-year-old debut author Jamil Ahmad sat down to write this novel about a formidable, wild place where Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan meet and the people living there, who are constantly subjected to extremes--both of place and culture.

The Wandering Falcon is an urgent, essential glimpse into a hidden world, with its inaccessible people, which has enormous geopolitical significance and yet remains largely a mystery to us.  Jamil Ahmad was moved after his years living and working among the tribes to reveal their way of life, and here he reminds us why we read, and how vital fiction is to illuminating lives throughout the world.

Eighty-year old Jamil Ahmad's debut novel is a work of a lifetime.  Working as a civil servant for decades in the northwest tribal regions of Pakistan, Ahmad learned about the area, the people, and their stories.  The Wandering Falcon takes place in this remote area and unforgiving landscape by Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq before it became a battleground.

Beautifully written, The Wandering Falcon is a short read.  In each of the 9 chapters, Ahmad gives a sympathetic portrayal of life, customs, culture and the ways of the tribal peoples of the area.  The book follows the life of Tor Baz, the Black Falcon.  Tor Baz is the grandson of a sardar (chief). His mother had left her husband to run away with one of the sardar's camel herder.  After the couple are found and killed, the young son is left alive in the desert. The young boy is found by a party of wandering Baluchis and he joins them on their journey. Through Tor Baz, Ahmad introduces different aspects of the cultural and political life of the area.   

Personally, I found it a fascinating read.  I was particularly affected by stories where the traditional tribal culture would come against the indifference, opportunism, and bureaucracy of local authorities and national governments.  While some stories show life before the national borders were enforced, one also covers the cost and the manner of their implementation.  The Wandering Falcon is an unusual and powerful read, a glimpse into little known and understood cultures and people.

ISBN-10: 1594488274 - Hardcover $25.95
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (October 13, 2011), 256 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program and the publisher.

About the Author:
Jamil Ahmad was born in 1930. He joined the Civil Service of Pakistan in 1954 and served mainly in the Frontier Province and Baluchistan. He was also development commissioner for the Frontier and chairman of the Tribal Development Corporation, and was posted as minister in Pakistan's embassy in Kabul at a critical time, before and during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He lives in Islamabad with his wife, Helga Ahmad, a nationally recognized environmentalist and social worker. This is his first book.

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