I have read a few Indian/Pakistani writers in the past couple of years and admit to being fascinated by the insight to a culture so different from my own experiences.
Based on real characters and real events, A Case of Exploding Mangoes explores the events leading up the death of Pakistan’s military dictator General Zia up Haq in 1988. Set during a period of unrest and uncertainty in Eastern politics, Hanif uses his experience as both a pilot with the Pakistan Air Force and latterly as a journalist to tell a convincing tale.
Through young air force officer Ali Shigri, Hanif explores the strained relationships between the leading political and military figures in Pakistan at the time and the pettiness of their ambitions and desires.
The book switches between two parallel narratives, following Ali in his plan to assassinate his country’s leader, and that of General Haq himself.
There is a wonderful cast of characters, some adding to the humour of the book, others to the more sinister elements.
Despite the serious nature of the subject matter, the book is witty and captivating. Not being particularly knowledgeable of Pakistan’s history, I can’t make any comments about the accuracy or otherwise of the plot or characters. What I can say with conviction is that Mohammed Hanif has written an enthralling and very funny book.