The style reminded me of T. C. Boyle but with an added south asian flourish and exuberance. Delightful read!
Riporto la recensione che ci dà il sito dell’Internazionale, tratta dal Daily Jang.
Anni fa un giornalista chiese a Joseph Heller, il celebre autore di Comma 22, come mai non avesse scritto più nulla all'altezza del suo capolavoro. "Perché, qualcun altro lo ha fatto?", rispose Heller. Il giornalista non seppe che dire, ma se la conversazione si fosse svolta oggi avrebbe potuto rispondere: "Certo, qualcuno ce l'ha fatta, non in Europa o in America, ma in un paese improbabile chiamato Pakistan, le consiglio di leggere Il caso dei manghi esplosivi di Mohammed Hanif". Per saggezza e acume questo romanzo è davvero un Comma 22 in stile pachistano. Ma le somiglianze finiscono qui. Il libro di Heller era pervaso dalla retorica antimilitarista degli anni cinquanta, mentre quello di Hanif è un caloroso tributo alla vita. Il caso dei manghi esplosivi è un'esilarante commedia sulla cultura militare del Pakistan e una tagliente satira sull'intervento americano negli affari interni del paese. Il romanzo ha un intreccio teso e compatto come quello di un thriller o di un giallo, e racconta una delle pagine più misteriose della storia pachistana. Il 17 agosto del 1988 l'aereo che trasportava il dittatore del paese, il generale Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, precipitò. Molte persone, per i motivi più vari, avevano interesse a veder morto il generale. Via via che il romanzo si avvicina al suo culmine grottesco ed esplosivo, e ci spinge a fare ipotesi su chi riuscirà a sbarazzarsi di Zia, diventiamo certi di una cosa: che il piccolo mondo della narrativa pachistana ha trovato una voce nuova e originale.–Arif Waqar, Daily Jang
Two people suggested that I should read this book: Kristin and Clauds, but I couldn’t find it anywhere! This is supposed to be the revenge of Pakistani literature over the much-praised Indian literature in English, but I swear that no bookshop in London seemed to have it, apparently because it’s out of print and the paperback hasn’t come out yet. Finally, I found it in a small Waterstone’s in Notting Hill. It’s funny that whenever I asked for this book the shop assistant would laugh and sometimes say that he/she would remember a book with such a strange title. And indeed it is a strange title: Clauds and I were wondering how they were going to translate the word “case” in Italian, as “cassa” (a container) or as “caso” (investignation)? In the end they translated it as “caso”, the investigation (of the exploding mangoes).
I really liked the book, even though it was a bit strange: I had never read a book entirely about the army. This is a detective story, a mystery book and a satirical book altogether, isn’t it amazing? The style is funny and entertaining, but sometimes the plot is a bit complicated and confused (on purpose, maybe?). I’ll give you an example of Hanif’s style:
“He realised the need for this, as Bill (the director of the CIA) kept reminding him that the CIA was running the biggest covert operation against the Soviets from Pakistan since their biggest covert operation against the Soviets from somewhere else. Bill kept reminding everyone that he had the Russkis by their balls in Afghanistan. Bill was always telling his old chum Ronald Reagan that it was the Wild West all over again, that the Afghans were cowboys with turbans and that they were kicking Soviet ass as it had never been kicked before.”
Among the acknowledgments, there are Vargas Llosa’s La fiesta del chivo (The Feast of the Goat) and Garcia Marquez’s El otoño del patriarca (The Autumn of the Patriarch). I’ve never finished the first one (although it was also on the acknowledgments of Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and this should be enough to convince me) and the second is one of the few books by Garcia Marquez that I haven’t had my hands on yet. Despite these two inspiration there is nothing magic or South American in this book, on the contrary everything is very realistic (Hanif is a former officer in the army, after all). Ok, some parts are a bit weird, like the part with the crow crossing the border or the importance of the mangoes in the presidential plane.
However, A Case of Exploding Mangoes was longlisted for the Booker Prize and I find it’s one of the best books on the list, together with A Fraction of the Whole (I wasn’t particularly impressed by The White Tiger but I’m eager to read Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies!).
Stylishly dark and nihilistic in an unusual setting - the military - security circles around the Zia presidency in Pakistan. Touches of Catch 22 in the resigned disengagement of the main character.
one of my favourite novels of the year.
a must-read book to understand how some of the troubles Pakistan and Afghanistan are facing nowadays started.
oh! and the depiction of dictator Zia ul-Haqq is just great!!!