Book review: The Blind Man's Garden, by Nadeem Aslam
What Troy was for the ancients, the World Trade Centre attacks and retaliations seem destined to be for our own time.
by Nadeem Aslam
What Troy was for the ancients, the World Trade Centre attacks and retaliations seem destined to be for our own time. It is hard to get any credible purchase on the subject, as many bad books and worse movies have shown. Nadeem Aslam's new novel, however, succeeds
The book is set in the first few months following the attacks. The action moves between the small town of Heer in Pakistan and the mountains of Afghanistan, where American soldiers have begun the fight against the Taliban and the hunt for al-Qaeda terrorists. At its core is an intricately knotted group of characters based around a school in Heer, whose devoutly Muslim founder, Rohan, still lives in its tended grounds, though the school itself has been taken over by hardline Islamists.
Rohan's recently married son, Jeo, a trainee doctor, sets off for Afghanistan with his adopted brother Mikal, a poetically minded mechanic who knows everything about cars and stars and is secretly, in love with Jeo's wife, Naheed, who also happens to be in love with him.
The story itself moves in terse jabs of present-tense narrative; short scenes are built around two or three bright shards of action or dialogue that light up whole universes of thought and outlook. By any measure is an impressive accomplishment; a gripping and moving piece of storytelling that gets the calamitous first act in the "War on Terror" onto the page with grace, intelligence and rare authenticity.