A Case of Exploding Mangoes
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?
Was it because of:
1. Mechanical failure
2. Human error
3. The CIA’s impatience
4. A blind woman’s curse
5. Generals not happy with their pension plans
6. The mango season
Or could it be your narrator, Ali Shigri?
Here are the facts:
• A military dictator reads the Quran every morning as if it was his daily horoscope.
• 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.
• A crow has crossed the Pakistani border illegally.
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?
From the Hardcover edition.
READ AN EXCERPT
1. What do you think of Obaid and Ali’s relationship?
2. 'Life is in Allah's hands but I pack my own parachute.' After this strong statement were you surprised that Bridgier TM died?
3. At the heart of the book is an unsolved mystery. How does this affect your reading of the book? Why do you think...
–John le Carré
"Unputdownable and darkly hilarious . . . Mohammed Hanif is a brave, gifted writer. He has taken territory in desperate need of satire – General Zia, the military, Pakistan at the time of the Soviet-Afghan war – and made it undeniably his own."
–Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist
"A sure-footed, inventive debut that deftly undercuts its moral rage with comedy and deepens its comedy with moral rage . . . The novel has less in common with the sober literature of fact than it does with Latin American magical realism (especially novels about mythic dictators such as Gabriel García Márquez’s Autumn of the Patriarch) and absurdist military comedy (like Joseph Heller’s Catch-22). Hanif adopts a playful, exuberant voice, as competing theories and assassination plots are ingeniously combined and overlaid."
"Pakistan’s ongoing political turmoil adds a piquant edge to this fact-based farce . . . Hanif’s depiction of military foibles recalls the satirical wallop of Catch-22. [He brings] heft to this sagely absurd depiction of his homeland’s history of political conspiracies and corruption."
"Entertaining and illuminating . . . Hanif has crafted a clever black comedy about military culture, love, tyranny, family, and the events that eventually brought us to September 11, 2001."
“Insanely brilliant. . . . [Hanif] writes with great generosity and depth.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“Funny, subversive, erotic and sad. Anyone thinking of applying for the job of unhinged, religious dictator should read it first.”
–Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
From the Hardcover edition.