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Sikander Hardcover – December 15, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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 (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,562,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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I enjoyed this book, I wouldn't call it an easy read because to enjoy it to the full you need to concentrate on the story and the facts. I am somewhat surprised that so many readers found the facts behind the Afghanistan war etc., enlightening, as I would have thought they would have learnt all this from the media. The relationship between the Americans and British the rise of the Taliban's has all been recorded in the media together with the relationship between USA and Al Quaida. I cannot agree with the reader that states this is an anti American novel, the author certainly didn't give us any impression of agreeing with Taliban doctrines, he did in fact state plainly that he hoped the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay were in fact guilty. He also made it quite plain how much he appreciated the American system of democracy. Perhaps at times he over estimated the attributes of the Muslim religion, rather than it's failings but that is to be expected as the man is a Muslim. I thought it interesting to hear his opinion on the education of women, but sadly lacked any intere4st in progress towards the equality of men and women in the Muslim world. Looking at the social issues in this novel, one feels that it's a pity women cannot play a more official role in the Muslim world, men are more in tune with business and a successful career, women on the other hand are more interested in the social side of their society. So many intelligent women sitting at home all day with so little to do, seems a chronic waste in the Middle East which desperately needs social welfare.
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By F. Miers on September 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I try to keep up with the world news as best I can with the limited time I have to spare and SIkander gave me a view and understanding I did not have before reading it. It gives you an idea of what it was like being a Muslin born in Pakistan and not knowing any other life. It's a real life story of a young boy brought up in a middle class family and dreaming of some day going to America and living the American dream. It tells of his running away from home and joining in the fight against the Russians occupying his country and how, with the help from the USA and others, they were able to drive the occupiers out against overwhelming odds and how that gave rise to the proliferation of the Taliban. It also gives the reason why many of the populace became disenchanted with the USA after the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Centers. And it goes on from there. All in all I found the book to be very well written and researched which made a compelling, interesting and informative read.
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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 ...next 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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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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