Maps for Lost Lovers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 August, 2005, 12:00am

Maps for Lost Lovers


by Nadeem Aslam


Faber and Faber, $120


Nadeem Aslam's tale of love and hatred is set in an English town that its mostly South Asian Muslim residents call Dasht-e-Tanhaii (the Desert of Loneliness). This cloistered community has seen the white attitude towards dark-skinned immigrants change over the decades from, 'I don't want to see them or work next to them' to 'I don't mind them socialising in the same place as me ... as long as I don't have to live next to them'. The intolerance is reciprocated by many of the pious Pakistani townsfolk. Kaukab's inability to shake off religious indoctrination has driven her three children away from home and pitted her against her husband, Shamas, a former poet and now a social worker. Maps for Lost Lovers tells of the year following the disappearance of Shamas' younger brother and his girlfriend, both believed to have been victims of honour killings because they lived in sin. The novel, long-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2004, is compelling yet exhausting in its non-stop, breathtaking description. Taken in small doses, however, the book sparkles. More important is Aslam's bravery in writing about love from both sides of the religious divide.