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The Wandering Falcon

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<b>For readers of Khaled Hosseini, Daniyal Mueenuddin, and Mohsin Hamid, a story set among the mountain tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan.</b> <p></p>In this extraordinary tale, Tor Baz, the young boy descended from both chiefs and outlaws who becomes the Wandering Falcon, moves between the tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan and their uncertain worlds full of brutality, humanity, deep love, honor, poverty, and grace. The wild area he travels -- the Federally Administered Tribal Area -- has become a political quagmire known for terrorism and inaccessibility. Yet in these pages, eighty-year-old debut author Jamil Ahmad lyrically and insightfully reveals the people who populate those lands, their tribes and traditions, and their older, timeless ways in the face of sometimes ruthless modernity. This story is an essential glimpse into a hidden world, one that has enormous geopolitical significance today and still remains largely a mystery to us. <p></p>Jamil Ahmad is a storyteller in the classic sense -- there is an authenticity and wisdom to his writing that harkens back to another time. <i>The Wandering Falcon </i>reminds us why we read and how vital fiction is in opening new worlds to our imagination and understanding.

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For readers of Khaled Hosseini, Daniyal Mueenuddin, and Mohsin Hamid, a story set among the mountain tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In this extraordinary tale, Tor Baz, the young boy descended from both chiefs and outlaws who becomes the Wandering Falcon, moves between the tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan and their uncertain worlds full of brutality, humanity, deep love, honor, poverty, and grace. The wild area he travels -- the Federally Administered Tribal Area -- has become a political quagmire known for terrorism and inaccessibility. Yet in these pages, eighty-year-old debut author Jamil Ahmad lyrically and insightfully reveals the people who populate those lands, their tribes and traditions, and their older, timeless ways in the face of sometimes ruthless modernity. This story is an essential glimpse into a hidden world, one that has enormous geopolitical significance today and still remains largely a mystery to us.

Jamil Ahmad is a storyteller in the classic sense -- there is an authenticity and wisdom to his writing that harkens back to another time. The Wandering Falcon reminds us why we read and how vital fiction is in opening new worlds to our imagination and understanding.For readers of Khaled Hosseini, Daniyal Mueenuddin, and Mohsin Hamid, a story set among the mountain tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In this extraordinary tale, Tor Baz, the young boy descended from both chiefs and outlaws who becomes the Wandering Falcon, moves between the tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan and their uncertain worlds full of brutality, humanity, deep love, honor, poverty, and grace. The wild area he travels -- the Federally Administered Tribal Area -- has become a political quagmire known for terrorism and inaccessibility. Yet in these pages, eighty-year-old debut author Jamil Ahmad lyrically and insightfully reveals the people who populate those lands, their tribes and traditions, and their older, timeless ways in the face of sometimes ruthless modernity. This story is an essential glimpse into a hidden world, one that has enormous geopolitical significance today and still remains largely a mystery to us.

Jamil Ahmad is a storyteller in the classic sense -- there is an authenticity and wisdom to his writing that harkens back to another time. The Wandering Falcon reminds us why we read and how vital fiction is in opening new worlds to our imagination and understanding.

Specifications

Publisher
Penguin Publishing Group
Book Format
Paperback
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
256
Author
Jamil Ahmad
ISBN-13
9781594486166
Publication Date
October, 2012
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
7.00 x 5.00 x 0.66 Inches
ISBN-10
1594486166

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Most helpful positive review
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
The desert hills throu...
The desert hills through which the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran cross are home to many nomadic tribes, each just wanting to roam the hills with their camels and sheep, maintaining the lifestyle of their ancestors. A boy is orphaned when his parents are murdered in front of him by the woman's tribe. Left to die, the boy is found by another nomadic tribe and adopted by them, but later finds himself abandoned yet again when the men he travels with are tricked into going to a government fort and arrested. We follow the journey of the boy through his interaction with the different tribes and how they are gradually forced to change their cultural practices and means of supporting themselves over time as borders are more strictly patrolled and traveling documents required. The stories are as fascinating as they are harshly beautiful.
Most helpful negative review
Average Rating:(2.0)out of 5 stars
Most of what I know ab...
Most of what I know about the part of the world where Pakistan and Afghanistan meet is through Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King. So you know I don't know much. But I do know that when Daniel Dravot and Peachy tried to use their guns and wits to conquer the tribes in this mountainous, inhospitable region, the tribal culture initially worked for them, then against them. This view of tribal culture, in which the individual may endure but does not achieve dominance, is but one of the conclusions reached reading another book that takes part in that high corner of the world. Jamil Ahmad, at age 80, published his first work with The Wandering Falcon after spending years in the area. It isn't quite accurate to call The Wandering Falcon a novel. It is part fable, part character study of a way of life rather than one singular character and part a setting down in writing tales that have probably been told there for years. There is a man in the book who is a wandering falcon. His parents are unfortunate lovers; she's the daughter of a tribal leader and he's a nobody. They ran away together, finding refuge for several years near an army fort. When her father's people eventually find them, the outcome is not good. Their child, the falcon of the story, survives. He's passed from mentor to mentor over the years. What he learns and how he became what he did is not told, however. He disappears for pages and pages. But in between those appearances, the various stories provide a few clues as to how the people of the region may view life. In one of the early stories, a tribe comes to grips with the newly enforced border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, not sure if everyone will be able to get across as they move their few animals to better grazing. The tribe's leader tries to negotiate safe passage with an army official, unsuccessfully. As he leaves, he adjusts his cloak. As he does so, his son realizes that the cloak is now an "ordinary covering for an old man". The "general" has lost his authority. The general later reminds his son about a time they met another old man, who said the secret to his long life was eating raw onions: What he told you that day was the secret of life itself. One lives and survives only if one has the ability to swallow and digest bitter and unpalatable things. We, you and I, and our people shall live because there are only a few among us who do not love raw onions. As bitter as life is for the menfolk, it's worse for the women. They are property to be kidnapped, sold for a pound of opium, to be treated worse than a bear that does tricks. Malala Yousufzai would know the attitudes here well. In all these stories within the book, the boy who is known as the falcon either does not appear or makes only a brief appearance. He could be likened to a bird that views the actions of these characters from a distance and without passion. One character, a magistrate, in Ahmad's tales is disdainful of anything that is not a cold, hard fact. Telling rationales through fables, for example, serves no purpose in his world view. "Fables have no use here," he says. "Can a fable explain a death?" Of course a fable can explain a death, a way of life and the dying of a way of life. Which is, perhaps, more to the point of The Wandering Falcon than anything else. The Wandering Falcon is a finalist for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The winner will be named Jan. 25 in Jaipur. Also on the shortlist are The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam, River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif, The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash, translated by Jason Grunebaum, and Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil.
Most helpful positive review
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars
The desert hills throu...
The desert hills through which the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran cross are home to many nomadic tribes, each just wanting to roam the hills with their camels and sheep, maintaining the lifestyle of their ancestors. A boy is orphaned when his parents are murdered in front of him by the woman's tribe. Left to die, the boy is found by another nomadic tribe and adopted by them, but later finds himself abandoned yet again when the men he travels with are tricked into going to a government fort and arrested. We follow the journey of the boy through his interaction with the different tribes and how they are gradually forced to change their cultural practices and means of supporting themselves over time as borders are more strictly patrolled and traveling documents required. The stories are as fascinating as they are harshly beautiful.
Most helpful negative review
Average Rating:(2.0)out of 5 stars
Most of what I know ab...
Most of what I know about the part of the world where Pakistan and Afghanistan meet is through Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King. So you know I don't know much. But I do know that when Daniel Dravot and Peachy tried to use their guns and wits to conquer the tribes in this mountainous, inhospitable region, the tribal culture initially worked for them, then against them. This view of tribal culture, in which the individual may endure but does not achieve dominance, is but one of the conclusions reached reading another book that takes part in that high corner of the world. Jamil Ahmad, at age 80, published his first work with The Wandering Falcon after spending years in the area. It isn't quite accurate to call The Wandering Falcon a novel. It is part fable, part character study of a way of life rather than one singular character and part a setting down in writing tales that have probably been told there for years. There is a man in the book who is a wandering falcon. His parents are unfortunate lovers; she's the daughter of a tribal leader and he's a nobody. They ran away together, finding refuge for several years near an army fort. When her father's people eventually find them, the outcome is not good. Their child, the falcon of the story, survives. He's passed from mentor to mentor over the years. What he learns and how he became what he did is not told, however. He disappears for pages and pages. But in between those appearances, the various stories provide a few clues as to how the people of the region may view life. In one of the early stories, a tribe comes to grips with the newly enforced border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, not sure if everyone will be able to get across as they move their few animals to better grazing. The tribe's leader tries to negotiate safe passage with an army official, unsuccessfully. As he leaves, he adjusts his cloak. As he does so, his son realizes that the cloak is now an "ordinary covering for an old man". The "general" has lost his authority. The general later reminds his son about a time they met another old man, who said the secret to his long life was eating raw onions: What he told you that day was the secret of life itself. One lives and survives only if one has the ability to swallow and digest bitter and unpalatable things. We, you and I, and our people shall live because there are only a few among us who do not love raw onions. As bitter as life is for the menfolk, it's worse for the women. They are property to be kidnapped, sold for a pound of opium, to be treated worse than a bear that does tricks. Malala Yousufzai would know the attitudes here well. In all these stories within the book, the boy who is known as the falcon either does not appear or makes only a brief appearance. He could be likened to a bird that views the actions of these characters from a distance and without passion. One character, a magistrate, in Ahmad's tales is disdainful of anything that is not a cold, hard fact. Telling rationales through fables, for example, serves no purpose in his world view. "Fables have no use here," he says. "Can a fable explain a death?" Of course a fable can explain a death, a way of life and the dying of a way of life. Which is, perhaps, more to the point of The Wandering Falcon than anything else. The Wandering Falcon is a finalist for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The winner will be named Jan. 25 in Jaipur. Also on the shortlist are The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam, River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif, The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash, translated by Jason Grunebaum, and Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil.
The desert hills through which the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran cross are home to many nomadic tribes, each just wanting to roam the hills with their camels and sheep, maintaining the lifestyle of their ancestors. A boy is orphaned when his parents are murdered in front of him by the woman's tribe. Left to die, the boy is found by another nomadic tribe and adopted by them, but later finds himself abandoned yet again when the men he travels with are tricked into going to a government fort and arrested. We follow the journey of the boy through his interaction with the different tribes and how they are gradually forced to change their cultural practices and means of supporting themselves over time as borders are more strictly patrolled and traveling documents required. The stories are as fascinating as they are harshly beautiful.
Most of what I know about the part of the world where Pakistan and Afghanistan meet is through Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King. So you know I don't know much. But I do know that when Daniel Dravot and Peachy tried to use their guns and wits to conquer the tribes in this mountainous, inhospitable region, the tribal culture initially worked for them, then against them. This view of tribal culture, in which the individual may endure but does not achieve dominance, is but one of the conclusions reached reading another book that takes part in that high corner of the world. Jamil Ahmad, at age 80, published his first work with The Wandering Falcon after spending years in the area. It isn't quite accurate to call The Wandering Falcon a novel. It is part fable, part character study of a way of life rather than one singular character and part a setting down in writing tales that have probably been told there for years. There is a man in the book who is a wandering falcon. His parents are unfortunate lovers; she's the daughter of a tribal leader and he's a nobody. They ran away together, finding refuge for several years near an army fort. When her father's people eventually find them, the outcome is not good. Their child, the falcon of the story, survives. He's passed from mentor to mentor over the years. What he learns and how he became what he did is not told, however. He disappears for pages and pages. But in between those appearances, the various stories provide a few clues as to how the people of the region may view life. In one of the early stories, a tribe comes to grips with the newly enforced border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, not sure if everyone will be able to get across as they move their few animals to better grazing. The tribe's leader tries to negotiate safe passage with an army official, unsuccessfully. As he leaves, he adjusts his cloak. As he does so, his son realizes that the cloak is now an "ordinary covering for an old man". The "general" has lost his authority. The general later reminds his son about a time they met another old man, who said the secret to his long life was eating raw onions: What he told you that day was the secret of life itself. One lives and survives only if one has the ability to swallow and digest bitter and unpalatable things. We, you and I, and our people shall live because there are only a few among us who do not love raw onions. As bitter as life is for the menfolk, it's worse for the women. They are property to be kidnapped, sold for a pound of opium, to be treated worse than a bear that does tricks. Malala Yousufzai would know the attitudes here well. In all these stories within the book, the boy who is known as the falcon either does not appear or makes only a brief appearance. He could be likened to a bird that views the actions of these characters from a distance and without passion. One character, a magistrate, in Ahmad's tales is disdainful of anything that is not a cold, hard fact. Telling rationales through fables, for example, serves no purpose in his world view. "Fables have no use here," he says. "Can a fable explain a death?" Of course a fable can explain a death, a way of life and the dying of a way of life. Which is, perhaps, more to the point of The Wandering Falcon than anything else. The Wandering Falcon is a finalist for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The winner will be named Jan. 25 in Jaipur. Also on the shortlist are The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam, River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif, The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash, translated by Jason Grunebaum, and Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil.
Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

The desert hills throu...

The desert hills through which the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran cross are home to many nomadic tribes, each just wanting to roam the hills with their camels and sheep, maintaining the lifestyle of their ancestors. A boy is orphaned when his parents are murdered in front of him by the woman's tribe. Left to die, the boy is found by another nomadic tribe and adopted by them, but later finds himself abandoned yet again when the men he travels with are tricked into going to a government fort and arrested. We follow the journey of the boy through his interaction with the different tribes and how they are gradually forced to change their cultural practices and means of supporting themselves over time as borders are more strictly patrolled and traveling documents required. The stories are as fascinating as they are harshly beautiful.

Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

In his first work of f...

In his first work of fiction, "The Wandering Falcon", Jamil Ahmad depicts a world caught between timeless paths of migration and geo-political modernity. Ahmad knits together a series of short stories that cover the life arc of one young man, Tor Baz - the wandering falcon of the title, as he journeys from infancy to manhood. Inspired by his time as a civil service worker in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Ahmad writes of a world governed by clan and custom. During his time as a powerful emissary of the Pakistani government under the tribal region's frontier governing system, Jamil Ahmad simultaneously served as politician, police chief, judge, jury and executioner. Bits of this personal history are woven within the stories, including hints of Jamil's wife's German heritage. Environmentalist and activist Helga Ahmad was instrumental in encouraging her husband Jamil to move from halting first attempts at poetry to richly crafted stories of people, place and borders. The bleak landscapes in the book evoke a world of nomadic treks where human contact is brief and often violent, and where far western desert winds blow clouds of sand so thick that breath is priceless. The environment is unforgiving as is the justice doled out by tribe and government. Jamil Ahmad finished "The Wandering Falcon" in 1973-74, but the stories did not find a publisher until this year. Penguin Books' decision to at last publish Jamil's stories is timely. Ahmad believes that his stories evoke a vanishing world of tribes that the modern world must resonate and harmonize with: "Because frankly speaking, I still think that each one of us has a tribal gene inside, embedded inside. I really think that way." Jamil Ahmad hopes that deeper understanding of the tribes that once roamed freely between the far borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran could help end the wars that stain their mountains and valleys with blood. Reading "The Wandering Falcon" can help begin a process of understanding between the timeless nomadic life and the fragmenting borders of our post-modern society. Our contemporary world has much to learn from the rhythms of the nomadic trail. I highly recommend Jamil Ahmad's magnificent book "The Wandering Falcon".

Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

I have taken a number ...

I have taken a number of classes on Afghanistan and Pakistan...it's history, the people, the culture, the conflict. It continues to come down to a bottom line that these countries are tribal in nature and that unless you understand the tribal culture, you can never understand the country. Because we look at life "through our eyes" it is impossible for someone who is not "inside" the culture to see it in its entirety and to convey it authentically. I was very happy to receive the ARC of the "The Wandering Falcon" written by Jamil Ahmad, someone who was very "inside" the tribal culture. Ahmad is a Pakistani civil servant who worked for decades in the Northwest Tribal region. His first posting was in Baluchistan. In 1970, at the urging of his wife, he began to write stories based on his experiences. The result is the fictional account of "The Wandering Falcon," which is a collection of stories that take place in the mountainous region along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The stories' characters are members of the nomadic tribes that are in constant flow between the high mountainous areas and the plains, as they take their sheep and goats to grazing areas. They are loosely tied together by the character of Tor Baz, a young boy who was orphaned when his parents, an adulterous couple, were killed according to tribal law when he was 5 years old. He was adopted by Baluch rebels who were fighting the Pakistani government and over time becomes the wandering falcon. The book is small and is an easy read...and I could not put it down. It is stark and it is brutal as it describes the struggles and life of the people, the interactions between characters and the resolving of life's issues and conflicts according to tribal law. And yet, embedded in the brutality is a beauty and an empathy for the people that creates a sense of humanity in the telling. Tribal law is something that I cannot understand. I was struck with how black and white it is. There are no gray areas. There is a clear dividing line between right and wrong and there is no hesitation in acting according to the dictates of it. Ahmed completed the book in 1973 but no one was willing to publish it until 2008 when two young Pakistani women, a Lahore-based bookseller, Aysha Raja, and a Karachi-based columnist and editor, Faiza Sultan Khan, called on Pakistani authors to submit stories for a competition. Ahmad's younger brother insisted that he must show them his work. After reworking the 35-year-old manuscript, Ahmad sent it to Khan, who championed it, and showed it to an editor at Penguin. (source: Basharat Peer, The Guardian). I am glad that I read the book and while I will never understand how the characters can live as they do and choose as they do, I have a greater appreciation for their life and their struggle. It has also clarified my thoughts and opinions about the Western involvement in this area. I highly recommend the book to anyone who appreciates the beautiful use of words to describe an unknown entity, which Jamil Ahmad did...beautifully!

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

The remote corner of t...

The remote corner of the world where Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan meet has played a role in world affairs since the time of the British Empire, and yet it remains a mysterious place, a land of tribal loyalties and customs that are seemingly contradictory, aggressive, and disloyal. Current news reports struggle to give motivations to the tribal leaders whose actions sometimes help and sometimes hinder the Taliban and terrorists. In The Wandering Falcon, Jamil Ahmad gives us a window into this inaccessible land and its complicated history, tribal relationships, and belief systems. Ahmad knows this region well, having worked and lived in the area for decades. He attempts to distill his impressions in a series of vignettes, each depicting a particular tribe and/or social issue. Connecting the stories is a character known as Tor Baz, who is orphaned in the first chapter and moves amongst the tribes throughout the book. He is not, as I first thought, the protagonist of the novel. Rather he, as the perpetual outsider, is the means through which we are allowed access to the tribes. The role of the chief, or Sardar, is explored in several stories: how they are chosen, the relationship they have with their tribesmen, and the various ways in which the Pakistani government has tried, over the years, to work with or abolish them. At times there is a disconnect between the government and the tribes, at other times there is an almost ritualized arrangement of actions and counteractions that are expected and performed as a means of maintaining the status quo. For some tribes, simply the existence of a nation state is enough to end their nomadic way of life forever. But most heart-wrenching of all is the treatment of women. From the first story to the last, the majority of women suffer. Simple survival is hard, requiring enormous effort in order to sustain a family, often while their husbands are away for years at a time. And harder still is the subjugation of women to the word of their fathers and husbands. Daughters can be sold for a pound of opium, unattached women are prey for slavers, and adultery, under any circumstances, is unforgivable. Yet there is also love and sacrifice, making even the treatment of women in the tribes a contradictory story. A first-time novelist at the age of eighty, Jamil Ahmad has been trying to get this book published for years. Finally, its time has come, and how fortunate for us. His writing is clean and direct, and his characters seem to me to be the archetypes of people he may have actually known. He has the experience to write authentic fiction, and the distance needed to avoid prejudice. Without preaching or falling back on tired Western assumptions, Ahmad lets us see the complexity of the geopolitical area and its tribal relationships. I sincerely hope that Mr. Ahmad continues to write and be published, and that his present book achieves the readership it deserves.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

The Wandering Falcon b...

The Wandering Falcon by Pakistani author Jamil Ahmad is a collection of inter-linked stories that are set in the remote tribal lands along the Pakistan-Afghan border. The stories all concern the life of these tribal people and are linked by one character who weaves in and out of most of the stories. We first meet Tor Baz, the black falcon, when as a young child his parents are killed by his mother's relatives. She had run away from an impotent husband with one of her father's servants. They had avoided being caught for many years, but were eventually discovered. From there the child is shuffled around, always wandering and never the main character of the story but instead appearing on the fringes. He is a guide, an informer, a smuggler and a slave trader. This is an unforgiving corner of the world and conditions are harsh. Through these stories the traditions and culture of these tribal people are revealed. The author writes with great respect and empathy toward these people. Their lives are filled with harshness and cruelty as they wander with their herds. Eventually the political borders are called into play and their wandering lifestyle is curtailed. In one story, "The Death of Camels|", the refusal of Pakistan to allow them to take their herds to fresh pasture across the border, means not only the death of their herds but brings their own lives into jeopardy as well. Jamil Ahmad is a gifted storyteller and The Wandering Falcon is a moving account of a disappearing lifestyle.


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