Maps for Lost Lovers
Certain writers are mostly plot; think Stephen King, Tolkien, Pullman. Others are mostly about language, beauty of; think John Banville, Mark Helprin, James Joyce. Yet others seem to travel the wonderful path between the first two groups: gifted with amazing language and the depth and skill to write almost poetically, while also keeping a very interesting plot alive and burning (Banville once said he hardly even cared about plot—when it comes to plot he uses his alias Benjamin Black).
Nadeem Aslam, by my lights, delivers the best of both worlds. A language so rich and filling it sometimes resemble very thick, sweet, cream, traversing a story that on occasion (and unexpectedly) literally (pun intended) explodes into action.
Reading Aslam is like walking a dense jungle, you take care where you place your feet and you take in an atmosphere and surrounding that, at times, is almost too rich to comprehend. So, you re-read the sentence, or paragraph which now makes perfect sense: sings perfect sense.
This book moved me on many levels. For one, it raised the bar on how well something can be written while it, for two, also opened my eyes (and I mean A Clockwork Orange style opened my eyes) to the mind of the devout Muslim. This terrified me a little—until I realize that we encounter the same mind in the devout, fundamentalist Christian: only the words and names of prophets differ.
I must say that I am surprised that Aslam has not join Rushdie’s fate, he is that open (and, I assume, critical) about the often unreasonable and now and then bordering on insane dictates of the prophet. He also makes it very, very clear that women hardly even exist for the devout Muslim; she has very few, if any rights, beyond conceiving and giving birth (to, we pray, boys).
There is a gripping plot-thread running through this amazing narrative, that resolves in an amazing fashion toward the end of the novel. I wondered how Aslam was going to handle this, and he handles it admirably.
To beat a cliché to death: I could not recommend this book any higher.