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Sikander Hardcover – December 15, 2010

115 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


At last, a Pakistani novelist attempting a novel of the scope and scale of Gone with the Wind. M. Salahuddin Khan s Sikander is a sprawling, fast moving and gripping novel that takes the reader through several decades and through several continents. In the tale of SIKANDER, we experience the tribal conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the problems of adjustment of the community as a minority in America today. For those looking for a good read while also learning about the world we live in, I strongly recommend SIKANDER. --Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn-Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University, Washington D.C.

"SIKANDER is an epic novel, reaching across the years of conflict in Afghanistan, from Soviet occupation to the post-9/11 years. Khan's depictions of everyday Afghan life, and the costs of the continuous conflicts across the social classes provides an eye opening look at something often glossed over in search of easy depictions of good and evil." --Ross Rojek, Sacramento / San Francisco Book Review

"A story of our times, SIKANDER is an immersion into the culture and experiences of one of the largest tribes on earth, the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is the story of a rite of passage from boyhood, to manhood, and ultimately to self-hood that transcends the politics of conflict and delves into the human dimension with all its capacities for love and hate, intolerance and forgiveness, cruelty and self-sacrifice. Intricate in detail and vast in scope, Sikander is a journey worth taking." --Duane Evans, Former CIA Officer, Author of North from Calcutta

From the Author

Whether we like it or not we live in a complex and often dangerous world in which cultures often brush against each other. Diasporas (used generically here) and migrations fuel such effects and the assumptions grounded in one culture frequently fall apart when naïvely applied to another. I'm a product of a diaspora. I was born in Pakistan. I moved to England at the age of four, spending the next thirty-two years growing up and receiving an education there. In 1988 I moved to the United States. From my earliest years, I've found myself thrust into an outsider's perspective of never quite belonging to the place where I've lived.

SIKANDER is a human story. It follows a young man's coming of age and subsequent growth through adversity. He finds himself more than once having to deal with loss, which brings him to the recognition of the ultimate and relative value of his own humanity and his relationships with people.

Sikander is also a citizen of the species. He belongs nowhere in particular and everywhere in general. In spirit, he transcends cultures while being a product of his native culture. Sikander's religion is a matter-of-fact aspect of daily life, informing decisions from the mundane to the seismic. Being a part of his daily existence, his religion is neither hanging in a closet only to be worn on Fridays, nor is it is a manic permanent resident of his frontal lobes.

SIKANDER also allows the reader an in-depth immersion into the "ordinary" nature of most of the world's routinely lived Islam, which is far removed from the misconceptions sadly prevalent in much of the non-Muslim world. The story does not, however, intend an apologist perspective. Neither does it suggest that we have a simple "east-versus-west" narrative to consider. It simply forces us to step into the ordinary lives of everyday Muslims while allowing us to be aware of the textured, varied, and nuanced hues of such life from rural Afghanistan to urban Pakistan and to a lesser degree for diaspora Muslims in the USA. All of this is still within the mainstream camp, without venturing into radical or heretical renditions of the religion which also obviously exist.

Sikander's personal growth as a man involves working through the cultural differences in the practice of mainstream Islam and the conflicts between it and the "fringes" of the religion without making him be a religious fanatic of any stripe while doing so.
An additional theme was to examine the veneer-like quality of what we call civilization. Seen frontally, it projects depth and substance and seeming durability. We use words like "institution" to help us consolidate such sensibilities into our collective psyche. But turned on its side it reveals its true lack of depth and fragility. After all, civilization has only existed for a few millennia, which is but the blink of an eye against the vast ocean of time that has shaped homo sapiens, the animal that lies beneath. We should not be surprised to see how readily any human being is capable of descent into unfettered inhumanity, under the sanction of higher authority. It also reminds us why we have governments, laws and rules and why "minor" losses of liberty, while alluring in their seeming role of safeguarding physical security, can so often lead ultimately to disaster, and in a very real sense, increase the risks to physical security.

Lastly, in SIKANDER I wanted to weave the thread of an individual life through the fabric of world events that shape it. When today we hear about casualties and soldiers' tragic deaths in conflicts such as the post-9/11 Afghanistan war or Iraq, the human interest focus is upon the lives and families of the fallen. We want to know what defined them as people, how they grew up, their military career, family and so on. All these things quite properly help us to look into their essential humanity and feel empathy for such a tragic loss. SIKANDER has been squarely aimed at doing something similar but from the viewpoint of the equally ordinary people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, whose lives have been touched by conflict and its fallout, but whose deaths are sadly often just statistics. The story attempts to remind us to re-examine how this rendering of "otherness" upon such lives causes us to fail to see their no-less-essential humanity.

I would also like to clarify that the story's setting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the USA is secondary to its core focus being that of an examination of human nature and behavior across the boundaries between cultures. For a sense of realism, much effort went into researching historical events and the geography of the regions involved. This does not make this book a work of reference about either the events or the geography. The purpose of the research was to provide as realistic a context for the narrative as possible. But at the end of the day, it's a work of fiction. As for a source on the nature of Afghan and Pakistani culture, I would like to believe that the included glossary is both accurate and substantive and would strongly recommend the interested reader study its contents.

I hope you enjoy the story. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 586 pages
  • Publisher: Karakoram Press; Third American edition (December 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982851103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982851104
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 5.6 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,073,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born in a small town in Pakistan called Burewala of refugee parents who lost everything in India during and after the 1947 Partition. A few years after his migration to Pakistan, my father, Abdullah, found work in the post-war immigration boom in England in 1955 and since he only earned laborer wages, he had to save up and send for his family a few at a time. (Credit was a thing of the future). As he left Pakistan, my mother, Shakooran, took her five children to live with her parents in Karachi until we could join dad.

In 1956, when I was just four, my mother managed to save and borrow enough to take the trip with at least her two youngest children, my younger brother and me. My other brother and two sisters completed the family migration about a year later. I spent my childhood in Doncaster, England and grew up there until I left home for college in Southampton, England to learn how to be an aerospace designer. A high point during this time for me was to have been privileged enough to witness the launch of Apollo 16 on my very first trip to the USA in April of 1972. That set me on the path of loving everything American and I resolved to live in this great country one day.

I spent a few years in the aerospace industry but though I was enamored with airplanes and flying, the industry didn't do that much for me. In 1979 I made a significant career move into a new field called Computer Aided Design and continued my headlong path to gear-headedness. A few more years later, I found I had something of an aptitude for marketing and later business strategy. The geek never left my soul however and I managed to become Chief Technology Officer of a company called Computervision Corporation in Massachusetts having migrated to the USA with my wife Rehana and three British sons in 1988. Three American daughters later, in 1998, I was on my way to another fascinating and nascent industry - digital maps for navigation at NAVTEQ in Chicago. Those are the ones used in map websites like MapQuest as well as virtually every car and cell-phone navigation system. I spent nine years at NAVTEQ becoming, you guessed it, Chief Technology Officer and then Senior VP for Global Marketing and Strategy.

After something of a windfall on the stock market following NAVTEQ's IPO, I decided to pursue a dream or two. One dream was to design and produce a new line of high-end loudspeaker. Despite rave reviews for the products, we hit the great economic tsunami of 2008, so I've had, er, more time on my hands than I had planned.

Coincidentally over the last year I've been befriended by a devout elderly man who at the age of 75 picked up a paint brush and started painting. I'm a Muslim and he's a Christian so we naturally found a lot to talk about which is something of an inspiration for my writings in comparative terms on religion. Meanwhile, he approached me about marketing his paintings and before too long I also found myself launching a web site for him.

While surfing, I found Helium one day and I liked the look of not only the material but also the effort to preserve civility that is so often missing in online forums these days. So, I pitched my tent there and have written about virtually anything I wanted ever since. Very liberating!

Meanwhile, as the economic tsunami was raging, I could see the real-estate debacle unfolding right before my eyes and the thought of people having to leave their homes in foreclosure made me think about coming up with a possible solution. In mid 2008, with my partners we launched an investment company to purchase large quantities of single-family homes pending foreclosure using a mathematically determined short-sale pricing formula, and rent them back to the homeowner with the prospect of them repurchasing the home some years down the road. All in a socially responsible fashion and not out to strip people of their equity since we would only do the short sale for a negative equity home.

In December 2009, a thought struck me, (born of much brooding over the way America's political and foreign affairs landscape had been unfolding over the past decade) about a particularly interesting situation which centered on the relationship between different cultures in close proximity and about which I was intrigued enough to imagine a story around it. With a few more days of tinkering with the idea, a novel was born. In a state of frenzied concentration lasting six weeks a nearly 600 page novel called SIKANDER did indeed emerge and now I''m happy to say its finally available and where better than Amazon?

So now I'm updating this biography to note that SIKANDER has been getting excellent reviews but in addition to that, at the beginning of March 2011, I was delighted to accept the 2010 Los Angeles Book Festival Award for the best General Fiction book and separately, the GRAND PRIZE outright award for the best book across all fiction and non-fiction categories. And getting the award in Hollywood Blvd's Roosevelt Hotel (site of the first Oscars in 1929) was its own special thrill! Aside from the useful financial value of the award, the biggest impact on me has been to encourage me to write more and to give me confidence that my work has independently been validated. It's a great feeling.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ami Blackwelder on August 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
If you read the Kite Runner and loved it, you will enjoy this book as well. I loved both, touching and informative. The reader will leave the pages feeling well versed in Middle Eastern thought as well as feel emotional over the characters.

Hard to put down, the pages kept me turning at night to my cup of tea. But each day I felt anticipation of reading further into the story and learning more about this exquisite, difficult, and torn culture as well as the well thought out characters.

Great details, genuine dialogue and one unforgettable story.

SIKANDER is recommended to anyone who loves Middle Eastern thought, wants to learn about the Middle East more, enjoys history, and also for those who love a great story!

Reviewed by Ami Blackwelder, author of The Hunted of 2060
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
Were there more novels like this astonishing, absorbing and challenging one by M. Salahuddin Khan then perhaps the confusion and chaos of the world response to the seemingly endless wars of the past decades would ease. With all the grace of an experienced writer (this is Khan's first full length novel though he has served as Publisher for Islamica Magazine, a quarterly journal that is written in English for Muslim readers as a forum for discussing current events and philosophical differences), Khan launches the reader into a maze of pathways of understanding just why we have become so confused and overwhelmed by the cross-section of Christian and Islam beliefs - and he does this in the person of an idealistic Pakistani youth (Sikander) whose life is complexly tattooed with events and coincidences, choices and commitments that lead him from Pakistan to Afghanistan to Scotland to the USA.

But the most intriguing and successful part of this fine novel is the insight Khan gives to the plight of prisoner versus captor in the way he explores the Guantanamo apex of the story. In ultimately narrowing this epic to the interaction between an American soldier guard and an innocent Pakistani detainee, Khan manages to explain conflicts so basic and roots of core friendships so unique that he allows us to see the madness of war and its consequences on individuals no matter what their prior backgrounds can mean. This is a book that will affect the thinking of all who are fortunate enough to read it, providing a path to understanding and appreciation for human rights. Grady Harp, July 10
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Hank Landman on October 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting book showing a view from the other side in the Afghan conflict. Despite the author making many valid points it also shows how deeply ingrained the believes and behaviours are in these tribal areas. Western efforts to impose "democracy" and enlightenment are doomed to fail and the Pashtuns and similar tribes have to find their own way to develop and integrate slowly in a world culture. It reinforces the view that Islam is not only a religion but a complete way of living and subject to various interpretations. Similar to the way Christians used to live in Medieval Europe. The more liberal middle class Pashtuns from Pakistan are described in this book as moderate and the differences with the ones from Afghanistan are well illustrated. Overall worth reading for people who like to read a good story and with interest in cultural anthropology.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Gary W. Bowersox on July 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
Sikander by M. Salahuddin Khan

"With this moving, epic odyssey that is both richly detailed yet easy to read, Khan provides, with remarkable clarity, a perspective on the origins and nature of the problems of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the USA through the story of Sikander.

The book takes us on the transforming journey of a sincere, young, Pakistani, from his adventures as a teenage freedom fighter battling the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan to his running an American corporation as a mature business man twenty years later.

Rarely in western literature are we able to glimpse in such detail, the personal daily lives, the often conflicted feelings, and the essential humanity of modern Muslims whose genuine desire for peace in the world characterizes the overwhelming majority of such people."

Gary Bowersox, "The Gem Hunter"
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bhumika Ghimire on September 16, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
SIKANDER Presents the Human Face Behind Conflict
Now that US combat operations in Iraq have ended, focus of war on terror has sifted to the forgotten war-the one in Afghanistan.

Following terrorist attacks on 9/11. Afghanistan became "the" target for the US as Al Qaeda-which carried out the attacks, was based in the country. But the mission lost focus soon and America was in another war, based
on questionable intelligence reports which were later found to be totally false and misleading.Iraq was attacked in 2003, barely two years after US operations in Afghanistan began.

After 7 years of operation in Iraq which failed to produce desirable results and added more problems than solving any, America is out of Iraq and the President has promised that Afghan operations is of high priority now.

M. Salahuddin Khan's SIKANDER is a fast moving novel based on Afghanistan, which shows the human face behind all those labeled "religious fanatics" and "insurgents".

Sikandar, a Pakistani youth from a well to do family in city of Peshawar, finds himself fighting along side the Afghan mujaheddin against the Russians, in remote hills of Laghar Juy.By popular definition, it easy to assume that Sikandar and his comrades must be religious hardliners or some kind of a fanatics to get involved in the conflict.

Not so. Khan brings out the human face behind the warriors and the real challenges facing a youngster who goes from carefree life in the suburbs to life of a rugged warrior in Afghan mountains. These people are not one dimensional characters.

The author has done excellent job of presenting Sikandar, his comrades and their family as humans and not putting them into a labeled box and pretending as if they do not exist beyond these set labels.
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