27 October, 2020

A Book Of Life Through The Cracking Glass

Piquant stories from feudalism's fading, twilight world and retainers who swirl about, for profit or loss

A Book Of Life Through The Cracking Glass
In Daniyal Mueenuddin’s fiction the meek shall not inherit the earth. They never owned the vast acres, and should they do one day, there will be no retribution, no easy social justice. Mueenuddin, hailed as the new comet of English fiction out of Pakistan, sets the scene swiftly: "In this Pakistani desert, behind Multan, where the tubewells ran day and night...the farm lay strung along a narrow and pitted farm-to-market road, built in the 1970s when Harouni still had influence in the Lahore bureaucracy."

In landholdings such as this, the old feudal gentry exercises benign, long-distance neglect. K.K. Harouni, absentee landlord and grandee, pays occasional visits from the fading splendour of his Lahore mansion. At first it seems that Harouni, glimpsed as a link to these seven stories, is a clever literary conceit, like Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby or Mirza Hadi Ruswa’s Umrao Jan Ada— not so much complete characters as emblems of an age and its manners.

But we are pulled into the lives of Harouni’s employees—farmhands,...



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