Book review: The Golden Legend – beauty and pain in Pakistan


“Two of their buildings fell down and they think they know about the world’s darkness, about how unsafe a place it is capable of being!” remarks a character in Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil (2008). That was a novel set in Afghanistan amid the ruins of war, juxtaposing Eastern and Western characters united by the experience of loss.

He continued with this setting in his The Blind Man’s Garden (2013), this time populating Afghanistan with characters from his native Pakistan. Now, in his fifth novel, Aslam returns to Pakistan itself for the first time since his 1993 debut, Season of the Rainbirds. And the country he depicts is one bent on completing what the West has begun with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, by revealing quite how dark and unsafe the world can be. This is a landscape of irrational sectarian violence, rivalry and cruelty.

The novel opens with the death of middle-aged architect Massud, who leaves behind his wife and collaborator, Nargis. Together, they have created a collection of exquisite buildings and fought for culture in a hostile world. He is accidentally shot during the inauguration of a new library they’ve designed in the fictional city of Zamana, as they form part of a mile-long human chain to transport the precious books to their new home. Read more

Source: South China Morning Post

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