Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Land of Brutal Beauty, Humanity and Brutality

The other day the Guardian published a long, wandering, and not particularly interesting article about what they call "non-monogamus marriage", or what used to be called "open marriage". You know the Guardian approves of something when it doesn't lace its paragraphs with spurious references to "observers say this is an awful thing", as they always do when writing about Israel - so clearly the editorial line is that non-monogamus-thingies are Good Things.

When writing about faraway places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, however, the Guardian generally prefers the noble savages to the soldiers from America (or Britain). Which is a bit odd, if you ever ask yourself what the noble savages might have to say about a culture which spawns open partnerships. If you're having trouble with your pondering, I warmly recommend a short and powerful new book, The Wandering Falcon, by Jamil Ahmad.

It's actually not such a new book. Mr. Ahmad, born in 1930, was a high-ish Pakistani civil servant who spent much of his time in the less tamed parts of Pakistan, before ending up at the Pakistani embassy in Kabul. At some point he wrote a series of short stories about the people among whom he was spending his life, and put them in his drawer. Only recently someone convinced him they were worthy of being published - and how very right they were.

Have you ever read Frank Herbert's  Dune books? Well, Ahmad's is a book about the real, original. A society which ekes out a subsistence existence in a harsh desert world. Its members live by a harsh code of honor, which for all I know may help them cope with the severity of life, though I rather doubt it. You read the codes of the Torah, writen thousands of years ago for a society which also had its harsh elements, and you understand that violence is something which needs to be tamed, not only channelled. Still, the power of Ahmad's book is that he describes his wandering tribespeople, without judging them, and he does so from their own persepctive or something close to it. Some parts of his book, the first chapter in particular, are very poignant, and they're all deeply human.

Read it, and see if you can find any connection to the world of the Guardian. I wasn't able to.

1 comment:

Markus said...

In case you'd wonder, I guess many people will have kept their subscription of your RSS feed, just like I did. The blogosphere would be lucky were it getting to read more of you in the future. Happy holidays!