I read A Case of Exploding Mangoes few months ago, and absolutely loved it. The story is set in Pakistan in the late 80’s — several months before the death of General Zia ul-Haq. It revolves around some very interesting characters – many of which would, one way or the other, get associated with that mysterious plane crash in which the dictator died. What exactly caused that plane crash remains a mystery till-date, but the author proposes several farcical theories ranging from a blind woman’s curse to… well, exploding mangoes. Consistently amusing and often hilarious, Hanif’s witty and satirical trance, and the fast-paced storyline make this book a stimulating read.
A biography of the great Indian mathematician Ramanujan was not as interesting as I though it would be. I felt that The Man Who Knew Infinity lacked an involving narration, the story-telling was too… “text-bookish”. It’s filled with myriad tiny details about Ramanujan and people around him. I congratulate the author for his meticulous research as he pinpoints almost each and every character that came in contact with the eccentric mathematician. But the narration was somewhat sluggish, and some details often hindered the flow of events.
I don’t read a lot of fiction so my judgment can be biased, but I think In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is probably one of the best debut non-fiction work coming out of South Asia in many years. It’s a collection of short stories, some of which were released in the New Yorker magazine over the years (Here’s one of them.) The stories are set in different classes of society and locality, and they involve different generations of people but they all have a cohesive thread and are deeply moving.
I haven’t finished reading The Hindus: An Alternative History yet but I am inclined to move on to other books that are lying on my book-shelf for a while. This book started with promising introductory and first chapters, but somewhere along the line my interest meandered. Since I have not completed this book, I will refrain from giving any verdict.
[Picture courtesy: NY Times]