The Wandering Falcon

The Wandering Falcon

Book - 2011
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A haunting literary debut set in the forbidding remote tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Jamil Ahmad was born in 1930. The Wandering Falcon begins with a young couple, refugees from their tribe, who have traveled to the middle of nowhere to escape the cruel punishments meted out upon those who transgress the boundaries of marriage and family. Their son, Tor Baz, descended from both chiefs and outlaws, becomes "The Wandering Falcon," a character who travels among the tribes, over the mountains and the plains, into the towns and the tents that constitute the homes of the tribal people. The media today speak about this unimaginably remote region, a geopolitical hotbed of conspiracies, drone attacks, and conflict, but in the rich, dramatic tones of a master storyteller, this stunning, honor-bound culture is revealed from the inside.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2011.
Edition: First American edition
ISBN: 9781594488276
Characteristics: 243 pages ;,19 cm.


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JCLChrisK Dec 24, 2015

Harsh, extreme, and so very complicated.

Not the writing, the subject: life in the middle of the last century in the tribal, mountainous region where Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran meet. Tribes are small and nomadic, each taking their own particular cultures and rules of interaction with them as they move around and through the others, coming into conflict with each other and their artificially imposed nations, international boundaries, and encroaching external conflicts. It is a brutal, often deadly existence, yet one they cling to proudly.

The writing echoes the fragmented nature of the society. Each long chapter is an episodic tale in which the titular character plays a minor role, wandering through the stories of others and their lives. While from one perspective this might feel like a disjointed narrative with no central focus, from a more important one that is the point. This region cannot be captured in a single story.

For someone like myself who is largely unfamiliar with that part of the world, the book was a fascinating journey through a strange and dynamic land. And it made me glad I'm not involved in its politics in any way, because it's hard for me to imagine a more difficult setting for that pursuit.

Oct 07, 2014

Raw, hyper-real stuff. The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad mesmerizes you with its spare, elegant prose. In this collection of interconnected stories, we get an unflinching glimpse at the lives of the people who live along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan: the Kuchi, the Pashtun, the Waziri, and others. It's a world rarely seen in books.

The quality of the writing alone in The Wandering Falcon is worth the read, a throwback to classic storytelling done right. There is a rhythm to the writing that mimics the way the caravans in the stories meander across the hills and mountain passes.

Some people might be frustrated by the fact that there isn't a distinct central character to root for in the book. We first see the protagonist as a child born in the first story, but in succeeding ones we see him move from one group to another without him being the focus. He eventually gets a name, Tor Baz or Black Falcon. Tor drifts in and out of other people's stories obliquely, which is a remarkably postmodern move in an otherwise straightforward, classic story. Ahmad doesn't spend any time developing Tor's character. As Tor drifts around, the role he plays changes—from orphan to informer to trader. He's a protagonist who doesn't want us to follow him. Nor does Ahmad want to reveal anything about him as an individual really. Probably because in the withholding, Ahmad reveals so much more.

Jan 23, 2014

This book contains nine interconnected stories about tribal nomads in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan at a time when their way of life is changing. It is an unsentimental, respectful glimpse into a hard life characterized by harsh tribal codes. Ahmad is a storyteller, which suits his subject matter.

Sep 17, 2012

I was excited to read this title and had a really hard time getting into it. While I appreciated the point of view and glimpse into another way of life, I found the flow of the book disjointed and hard to fully settle into.

Jan 03, 2012

This book is marvelous for many reasons - the author's story, how the book got published, the insight into a remote, complex society in a time of enforced, but baffling, change. Something to think about on every page. Can't recommend it strongly enough.

jayblock Nov 25, 2011

A beautiful and well written novel describing the migratory tribes that populate the border regions of Afghanistan,Pakistan and Iran. This is an excellent companion to The Carpet Wars by Christopher Kremmer.

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