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Finding humour in tense anxious situations has been the forte of award-winning and acclaimed author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes, Mohammed Hanif. While he has been under flak in his own country, Pakistan, after the aforesaid book was translated to Urdu, he had been invited to Hong Kong to give the PEN ( Poets, Essayists, Novelists) Hong Kong Literature & Human Rights lecture at Hong Kong University.

In a report published this year based on an interview at that time, we are told he had a tough time making it across the violence to the talk which needed to be rescheduled. Said a frazzled Hanif: “I’d rather have running water and safe streets, I’d rather have boring normality. If that means dull litera­ture, I’ll happily make that bargain.”

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In 2008, the year it was published, A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif was long-listed for the Booker Prize. In 2009, it won the Best First Book Award from Commonwealth Book Prize. The writer won a national award in 2018, the third-highest civilian award of Pakistan, the Sitara-e-Imtiaz.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes is centred around General Zia ul Haq’s mysterious assassination in 1988. It is a comical take of the incident with real and fictionalised characters calling out for a laugh — a satire at best. The writer says “writing the novel was his attempt to make sense of Zia’s dictatorship and the military.” He added, “By mocking them…You’re also in a way trying to humanize them.”

The book was originally written in English and, therefore not easily read by many in Pakistan.  All the trouble started after the book was translated to Urdu. Now, the army is cracking down on the book — 250 copies have been confiscated.