There is an ancient saying that when lovers fall out, a plane goes down. "A Case of Exploding Mangoes" is the story of one such plane. Why did a Hercules C130, the world's sturdiest plane, carrying Pakistan's military dictator General Zia ul Haq, go down on 17 August, 1988? Was it because of: mechanical failure; human error; the CIA's impatience; ...
There is an ancient saying that when lovers fall out, a plane goes down. "A Case of Exploding Mangoes" is the story of one such plane. Why did a Hercules C130, the world's sturdiest plane, carrying Pakistan's military dictator General Zia ul Haq, go down on 17 August, 1988? Was it because of: mechanical failure; human error; the CIA's impatience; a blind woman's curse; generals not happy with their pension plans; the mango season Or could it be your narrator, Ali Shigri? Here are the facts such as: a military dictator reads the Quran every morning as if it was his daily horoscope; under officer Ali Shigri carries a deadly message on the tip of his sword; his friend Obaid answers all life's questions with a splash of eau de cologne and a quote from Rilke; and a crow has crossed the Pakistani border illegally.As young Shigri moves from a mosque hall to his military barracks before ending up in a Mughal dungeon, there are questions that haunt him: What does it mean to betray someone and still love them? How many names does Allah really have? Who killed his father, Colonel Shigri? Who will kill his killers? And where the hell has Obaid disappeared to? Teasing, provocative, and very funny, Mohammed Hanif's debut novel takes one of the subcontinent's enduring mysteries and out if it spins a tale as rich and colourful as a beggar's dream.
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Before I read this book, I'd never even heard of Zia ul-Haq, the president of Pakistan who was killed in the crash of a C-130 airplane, along with the American ambassador Arnold Raphel and others. Hanif's wonderful book presents some theories (albeit some needed to be taken tongue-in-cheek) as to what may have actually caused the death of the president. They range from tapeworms to a crow; deadly gas, snake venom given to the main character by a laundry worker named Starchy, a blind woman in prison for being sexually assaulted or even mango seeds coated with fast-acting toxic gas . Hanif, a former air force officer for Pakistan, has got a winner of a book here. Some of it is actually funny, and you may find yourself laughing out loud in some parts. At the very beginning of the book we find out that the president dies in an airplane crash; the rest of the book looks back at part of his tenure in office and the people surrounding him, as well as people who see him as an enemy who not only needs ousting, but needs to be dead. Set during the time of the Soviet-Afghan conflict, there's even a visit from a shady character who goes by the initials of OBL, the head of Laden Construction Company during the course of a somewhat garish barbeque party given by the Americans for a fourth of July. A Case of Exploding Mangoes is a wonderful book and it will definitely keep you reading. The characters are true to life (even the shadier ones), the prose is amazing and the story itself is fantastic. The fact that it has a basis in fact adds another element to the reader's enjoyment. Definitely recommended, and recommended highly. Why this did not make the Booker Prize shortlist I'll never know.
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