The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam
From the wilds of Afghanistan to the heart of the family left behind. Jeo and Mikal are foster brothers from a small Pakistani town who go to Afghanistan just after 9/11, but not to fight with or against the Taliban.They want to help care for the wounded civilians. This book is full of dangerous situations but also has romance, family loyalties, and beautiful descriptive language.
I have been privileged to have been given this book, pre-publication, in order to review it. This writer is incredibly skilled in his story telling and the prose is poetic and technically perfect.
The story concerns the life of a family in Pakistan shortly after 9/11. The story is very morally complicated and the American invasion of Afghanistan is seen as a reason for young men to travel from Pakistan to Afghanistan to be involved in all that is happening.
There is romance and heartache in this book and some beautifully etched philosophy. In chapter nine there is a conversation between Rohan, the head of the family and a Fakir bound in chains representing people’s wrongdoings. The Fakir explains the world as being divided into two groups, people of the heart, and people of the greed.
‘The first people will not trample anyone to obtain what they desire. The second will.’ So concise and simple a description.
I learned a lot from this story about the losses endured by some families and the misunderstandings of culture of the invading forces. In the middle of chapter nineteen there is a description of humiliating torture of Mikel by an American soldier which resonates in Mikel all the thing that are wrong with Pakistan, the lack of food, medicine, petrol, houses with no water, and all the things that make the torturers contemptuous of him, as they have no understanding of his life. These passages are flawlessly written and are evocative of the great divide between East and West.
This writer can, amazingly, write thirty-six line sentences which flow perfectly and make one envious of his skill.
The tension towards the end of the book was built up gradually till I felt I was having to read faster and faster to find out what happened, then I had to go back and reread passages to get the full flavour. There are some absolute gems of word pictures in Rohan’s garden, on the journeys, and in describing the call to prayer
‘… the call to prayer issuing from the minaret, the concentric circles of sound expanding in the air, making it seem that this is the very centre of the earth.’
A very beautiful, well paced, well written book