Review: In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal-Mueenuddin

From time to time I’m going to post content related to literature, film, philosophy, etc. in addition to the ongoing “Commonist Manifesto” in development below. Today’s Financial Times has a fascinating review of what the author considers one of the best novels to come out of South Asia this decade. That’s quite a statement given the plethora of world class authors from the region.

Here’s a snippet:
“Like Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children , Other Rooms is a book that seems at first to come out of nowhere, owing nothing to the literature produced by the writer’s contemporaries or compatriots. But while Midnight’s Children in reality leapfrogged Europe to seek inspiration in the magic realist writing of Latin America, Other Rooms has made a stranger leap still. It looks for inspiration not in the writing of south Asia or indeed anywhere else in the modern world, but instead draws on the stylistic example of Turgenev and Chekhov, and the soul-searing bleakness of vision of Dostoevsky or Gogol – but with the action transposed from the Russian steppe to the Pakistani Punjab.

Like Turgenev in his Sketches from a Hunter’s Album , Mueenuddin creates a world peopled by wholly believable rural folk who cluster around the townhouses and estates of the landlord, KK Harooni (clearly modelled on Mueenuddin’s own father), all sketched with wonderful economy and lightness. We meet Rezak, who lives in a little hut on the edge of the estate, and who finds happiness with a young mute wife, who then mysteriously disappears, presumed abducted; the ingenious “Nawabdin Electrician” with his “signature ability, a technique for cheating the electric company by slowing down the revolutions of electric metres”, who is shot by a robber and nearly killed; Saleema the kitchen maid who falls in love with Rafik the butler and bears him a child, but who is abandoned when Harooni dies and Rafik returns to his wife. She ends her days begging at a road junction, cradling “the little boy in her arms, holding him up to the windows of cars . . . one of the sparrows of Lahore”.”

For the rest of the review go here