The Wandering Falcon: A Novel. Jamil Ahmad. Riverhead Trade Paperback. October 2012. 256 pp. ISBN #: 9781594486166.
Put aside the stereotypical depictions of people from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whether or not you believe what you hear from media, perhaps and probably there are a huge host of peoples who have lives that are different from you and me and yet in some ways they are just like us. Jamil Ahmad has written a novel in which he introduces us to men and women who live by a code of honor that is as powerful as any law in Western society. They seek to profit as businessmen. They exhibit a cleverness in making treaties that is remarkable. They demonstrate passion and love of country and family/tribe. Their story is clear, honest, heart-rending, and difficult in a society that is just beginning to offer the chance of living beyond the cusp of poverty!
Here you will meet the "subedar" who will not violate tribal rules and laws but will offer shelter and food for a couple who are being hunted for violating an honor code. That simple act of mercy results in five years more of life for the parents and the birth of a boy who will rise to be a well-respected leader, Tor Baz, trained by wise and practical mentors.
Consider the behavior of Sardor Karim Khan Kharot who for years has guided people in and out of the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, respected by all until progress arrives and there is no job. The respect he loses with this job is the ubiquitous state of the elderly who no longer find purpose once they are no longer employed. We are rooting for him on every page.
Read about how different tribes and groups were pulled hither and yon by the Germans and British, leaving these native men wondering how to choose the right side and in a sense rise above living like tools of the occupiers. And what about woman sold to save their family from total starvation and the way they come to love, as well as yield, to their new spouse and family?
There is so much in this brief but potent and poignant novel. What a refreshing, revealing canvas of characters lies herein, a work of art that will leave readers deeply moved and greatly informed of a whole slice of life that has for too long been hidden in darkness. Jamil Ahmad is a master of words who has gifted the world with a unique group of literate stories. This is award-winning writing and a must read for those who would like exposure to a larger picture of life in the Mideast countries of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. Splendid!