The Karakoram Mountains, located for the most part in north-eastern Pakistan, contains four of the world’s fourteen 8000m peaks and four of the longest glaciers outside the polar regions. Photographer Colin Prior has been “fascinated” by the Karakoram for the better part of a half-century, and traveling there for a quarter-century, and it shows.
The title promises racy South Asia noir: what happened, who did it, and whether they got away with it. But Samira Shackle’s Karachi Vice actually concerns the lives of five people in that city, as violence—criminal and political—consumes everything around them. They receive no protection from the state as they go about their daily lives. Through their lives we understand this city, one where criminals fight it out while people around them simply try to survive. This is a book about the after-effects of many crimes.
Once home to the cultured, artistic world of courtesans, Heera Mandi is now a crumbling red-light district in Lahore. Raina is a young tour guide committed to fighting the injustice and violence now endemic there. But she’s part of the world she’s fighting: her mother Jahaan-e-Rumi works there; her father, Sherji, manages her mother’s career and uses those earnings to run a fundamentalist madrassa.
Zuleikha had an aptitude for the piano during her childhood in Lahore, but her black-marketer father could only afford an electronic Casio keyboard. Years later, her dream of owning her own proper piano comes about upon leaving Pakistan for an arranged marriage to Iskander, a US citizen and resident of Irving, Texas. So begins Suman Mallick’s new novel, The Black-Marketer’s Daughter.
Minority communities in South Asia are fascinating examples of movement of ideas, people, and religion. After the 1947 Partition, Hindus and Sikhs migrated from the newly formed Pakistan to the world over, and especially to India. The conversations about war and peace between the two countries tend to revolve around Hindus and Muslims. The religion of Sikhism may not configure into these issues, especially for the Western readers, and yet the Radcliffe line that partitioned the subcontinent also separates two of the holiest shrines of the Sikhs.
Part memoir and part fiction, Ship of Sorrows, translation of the modernist Urdu novel Safina e Gham e Dil by Qurratulain Hyder, is a complex take on the representation of the Partition. Hyder uses the historical event to dwell on the intellectual and artistic angles of the act of living in an era that writers normally use as a backdrop for human drama.
Robert Macfarlane and Kathleen Jamie are the two most critically vaunted practitioners of the wildly fertile British publishing phenomenon known as “new nature writing”—though both reportedly resist that genre designation, and both are as much writers of history and human culture as of nature. Both explore these themes in similarly exquisite prose, but their tones and emphases are quite different, and their authorial performances have at times been contrastingly—and in Jamie’s case, one suspects, deliberately—gendered. While Macfarlane was bivouacking in the mountains, Jamie was watching falcons through the kitchen window; it was she who coined the phrase surely destined to dog Macfarlane for the rest of his days: the “lone enraptured male”.