After the South African, contemporary and hardboiled thriller, Zulu by Caryl Férey, let’s go to the 80s in Pakistan with A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif.
Why did a Hercules C130, the world’s sturdiest plane, carrying Pakistan’s military dictator, General Zia ul Haq, go down on 17 August, 1988? An old adage says that a plane falls from the sky when two lovers separate… Under Officer Ali Shigri carries a deadly message on the tip of his sword. His friend Obaid answers all life’s questions with a splash of eau de cologne and a quote from Rilke. As young Shigri moves from a mosque hall to his military barracks before ending up in a Mughal dungeon, there are questions that haunt him: What does it mean to betray someone and still love them? How many names does Allah really have? Who killed his father, Colonel Shigri? Who will kill his killers? And where the hell has Obaid disappeared to? Meanwhile, a military dictator reads the Quran every morning as if it was his daily horoscope. A crow has crossed the Pakistani border illegally. And the mangoes… yes, what about the mangoes?
A Case of Exploding Mangoes :
Former army pilot of the Pakistan Air, former American and English journalist, the writer Mohammed Hanif delights to describe a period where war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. coming to an end in Afghanistan. On the trail of the under officer Ali Shigri, son of the famous and dead Colonel Shigri, a long flashback sequence explains us the situations that led to an incredible and mysterious air crash that really occurred in 1988. Army corrupt, religious fundamentalism, low political maneuvering, intelligence service and his inhuman methods, the style of the author spares no one.
With the amazing, corrosive and harboiled narrative by Mohammed Hanif, we sail between conspiracy and plot until a conclusion, a bit disappointing.
Reading the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize of the Best First Book 2009, A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif, will dive you in the heart of the 80s in Pakistan, already linked to the history of Afghanistan of course, and will permit you to better comprehend a current situation still confused.