Friday, September 23, 2011

Hanif takes darker turn in new novel

Mohammed Hanif’s 2008 debut, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, employed satire and the distance of a recent historical setting to bravely grapple with issues of military dominance and authoritarianism that continue to afflict Pakistani society.

Mr. Hanif has followed this success up with Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, a novel set in contemporary Pakistan which is darker, less humorous and perhaps more daring than his earlier work.

The novel centers around Alice Bhatti, a beautiful, scrappy 27-year-old whose father is a drain cleaner from French Colony, a poor Christian quarter of Karachi, as she tries to make her way in life by training as a nurse, marrying a bodybuilder and becoming a mother.

Karachi, one of the world’s most violent cities, is a faintly-sketched backdrop for the daily degradations that Alice must face as both a woman and a poor Christian. She’s attacked at nursing college by a group of Muslim girls for being a “kafir” and later jailed for an operational procedure gone wrong that was not her fault. She is sexually assaulted by a rich, gun-toting man from an “old money” family in the VIP room of a hospital, with a casualness which is sickening.

Full report here WSJ blogs

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