The Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif tells the story of General Zia, the long-time military ruler of Pakistan, General Akhtar, his second in command who wants the top job, and Brigadier TM, the personal bodyguard for Genral Zia. On one level, this is a story of plots (real and imagined), counter-plots (effective and futile), and luck (good and bad).
The story is told by Junior Under Officer Ali Shigri, whose father was a famous army officer. His father was murdered, so Ali Shigri is both a participant and victim of these various plots. In the end, only Ali Shigri survives.
On another level the book, written by a Pakistan native, provides an interesting window onto Pakistan. However, while the details of ancient ruins and desert storms are interesting, like many stories of modern dictatorships, it seems as if Franz Kafka said it first and better.
Recommended with anyone with an interest in Pakistani political history.
LGBT Book Watch: This is a story about life in the Pakistan military with few female characters. Allusions to females are as Begums (spoiled wives), widows, prostitutes, and a blind rape victim. There are a few allusions to homosexual encounters and the prevailing condemnation of such activities, but the overall tone accepts the behavior and part of life and less odious that much of life under General Zia's regime.
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