The Wandering Falcon – Jamil Ahmad

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The Wandering Falcon Long listed for 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize

Five words from the blurb: Pakistan, remote, tribal, honour, conflict

The Wandering Falcon is set in the remote border region of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan where nomadic tribes travel in order to find food and water. When Partition occurred in 1947 the border controls were tightened, leaving entire communities at risk of drought as they were denied access to the springs they had visited for generations. This book follows a young boy, Tor Baz (meaning the black falcon) as he grows up in this threatened culture.

The book started off really well. The first chapter was a roller-coaster of emotion, ending on a heartbreaking scene which gave me high expectations for the rest of the book. Unfortunately I soon discovered that the story wasn’t continued in a linear fashion, but told through a series of short stories. These showed all the important moments in Tor’s life, but the fragmented approach meant that the reader is just thrown from one life changing moment to the next.

The Wandering Falcon provides a fascinating insight into a little known culture and is packed with period atmosphere. At times it read more like a non-fiction book, but it was always engaging and easy to read.

The Mahsuds, because they always hunt in groups, are known as the wolves of Waziristan. A Wazir hunts alone. He is known as ‘the leopard’ to other men. Despite their differences, the two tribes share more than merely their common heritage of poverty and misery. Nature has bred in both an unusual abundance of anger, enormous resilience, and a total refusal to accept their fate. If nature provides them food for only ten days in a year, they believe in their right to demand the rest of their sustenance from their fellow men who live oily, fat and comfortable lives in the plains. To both tribes, survival is the ultimate virtue.

At less than 200 pages it was a very quick read, but I can’t decide if this is a positive or negative. I’d prefer a longer book, with all those gaps filled in, but I can appreciate the power of this book’s simplicity.

The Wandering Falcon is a very important book, revealing the details of this traditional community and I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about this region of the world.

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The thoughts of other bloggers:

A brilliant book.  Highly recommended. ANZ Litlovers Litblog

….a beautiful meditation on the life of a nomad in an increasingly modernizing world. S. Krishna’s Books

….a real portrayal of the tribes men not just our western view of them. Winstonsdad’s Blog

 


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12 Comments

  1. I don’t think this one would be for me. I’m not a big fan of short stories, and I really love clear descriptions and no big gaps.

    1. Jackie says:

      Mrs Q, I’m not a fan of short stories either. This book had the benefit of them all being about a single person, but I wish they’d been more connected to each other.

  2. Audra says:

    Sounds like a compelling read, and I can’t decide if it’s for me or not. Loving the setting and premise, but the vignette-y style usually makes me insane.

    1. Jackie says:

      Audra, I’m not normally a fan of this style either and it was a major drawback from my point of view, but the setting and knowledge I now have about this culture more than makes up for my problems. The small snapshots we see were all fascinating and if the setting interests you then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. It may not become a favourite, but I recommend you give it a try – you aren’t going to find (m)any other books about this period of history.

  3. Tony says:

    I think a short one can be good, especially when you’re not really sure about whether or not you really want to read it :) I must say though that this does seem to be winning people over, from the recent blog reviews I’ve seen anyway.

    1. Jackie says:

      Tony, Yes, everyone does seem to like it so far. Mine is the most negative review I’ve seen, but I’m a fussy bean and I did get a lot from reading it. I recommend it.

  4. joanna says:

    Sounds really interesting – I love books you can learn something from!

    1. Jackie says:

      joanna, Yes, it is great to be educated and entertained at the same time :-)

  5. Aths says:

    I’ve been looking forward to reading this one. I am a bit concerned about the format of the book, but seeing as how it feels very informative, I think I will give it a try!

    1. Jackie says:

      Aths, I think the information you’ll gain from reading this book outweighs the problems with it. I hope you decide to give it a try.

  6. stujallen says:

    I loved the fact thae Jamil obviously knows these people so well he brought them to life ,I think this is at moment my favourite for man asian prize as every review I ve read has loved it ,all the best stu

  7. JoV says:

    Since you and Stu said it’s good, I think I should keep a look out for it. Thanks for the review, as always.

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