Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Blind Man's Garden, by Nadeem Aslam

The Blind Man's GardenThe Blind Man's Garden by Nadeem Aslam
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tense, poetic, disturbing, indelible. THE BLIND MAN'S GARDEN takes place in a small city in Pakistan in the weeks and months following 9/11, when President Bush has vowed that "we will smoke them out." This is that experience from the other side, and the Americans don't look so good.

The blind man in question is still sighted at the beginning, and thinks his son and foster son are going off on a humanitarian mission to Afghanistan, when in fact they are joining the counter-militia that threatens their peaceful life as sons of a former schoolmaster. The school in question has been commandeered by a radical Islamist faction and churns out zealous young men and women prepared to fight the West for the supremacy of their fringe version of Islam. Complicating matters further, son Jeo is married to Naheed, who is secretly in love with foster brother Mikal.

The contrast between the beautiful gardens of the school grounds and the terror of the torture chamber is upsetting and chilling. To read this is to better understand how the West has kicked over a beehive; a region that has been in tenuous balance between peace and warfare for millenia does not react well to outside force.

Nor do the people in this book, who represent the many faces of modern Islamic society. This book is graphic, unsettling, and important. Aslam challenges the reader to put aside preconceived notions and take all sides into account before re-forming one's opinion of right and wrong, black and white, good and bad. If you are interested in the situation in the Middle East from a non-Western perspective, although this is fiction, the voices are real.

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