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The Wandering Falcon Hardcover – October 13, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Superb. The work of a gifted story teller who has lived in the world of his fiction, and who offers his readers rare insight, wisdom and-above all- pleasure." – Mohsin Hamid, author of Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist

"I’ve been talking about this book to anyone who will listen. From page one, I was transported to a land of nomadic tribes who live and die by ancestral codes. But The Wandering Falcon is not only about tribes. It is about honor, love, loyalty, and grace. And it is about borders--geographical, political, and personal. The terrain where Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan meet may be cruel and unforgiving, but every page of this book is filled with beauty and humanity. By the final pages, I found myself transformed." – Nami Mun, author of Miles from Nowhere

"I've been talking about this book to anyone who will listen. From page one, I was transported to a land of nomadic tribes who live and die by ancestral codes. But The Wandering Falcon is not only about tribes. It is about honor, love, loyalty, and grace. And it is about borders--geographical, political, and personal. The terrain where Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan meet may be cruel and unforgiving, but every page of this book is filled with beauty and humanity. By the final pages, I found myself transformed." – The New York Times

"[Y]ou instantly care so much about that boy and his fate that you can hardly stand to stop reading. The early chapters are reminiscent of masterpieces like Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, which also features a boy alone in a gorgeous but harsh and often terrifying desert landscape.... [T]he characters, the tales, and the landscape are rendered with clarity, sympathy, and insight. The author makes us travel with him.... The book offers a rich picture of the "mountainous, lawless tribal areas" we have previously known mainly for bullets and bombs." – Steve Inskeep, NPR

"A striking debut...The power and beauty of these stories are unparalleled in most fiction to come out of south Asia." – The Guardian

"[W]ritten with such a terrible beauty...With this novel Ahmad has followed Mark Twain''s advice to write what he knows. And what he know is all the more fiction-worthy for his lived experience among these hardy people, much feared and little known...Highly accomplished first novel...Elegiac voice...They are neither romanticized nor vilified but shown in all their terrible, resilient beauty." – The Independent (UK)

"Tautly written... Fantastic... Drawn with tenderness but without sentimentality... Ahmad is a deft storyteller and his slim volume possesses a strong allure." – Financial Times

"Outstanding...The novel is more than a beautifully written piece of fiction; it is a socio-anthropological account of a tribal landscape that is changing rapidly. Executed brilliantly...This is a book worth more than its weight in gold." – Business World India

 

About the Author

Jamil Ahmad was born in 1930. He joined the Civil Service of Pakistan in 1954 and served mainly in the Frontier Province and Baluchistan. He was also development commissioner for the Frontier and chairman of the Tribal Development Corporation, and was posted as minister in Pakistan's embassy in Kabul at a critical time, before and during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He lives in Islamabad with his wife, Helga Ahmad, a nationally recognized environmentalist and social worker. This is his first book.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead; 1st edition (October 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488274
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488276
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,227,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Long-Suffering Technology Consumer TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
...that should be required reading for anybody wanting to understand the powerful cultural influences in the modern politics of southwest Asia.

Jamil Ahmad wrote "The Wandering Falcon" thirty years ago, and its appearance in print today is in time to offer a valuable cultural primer on a harsh land with seemingly inscrutable traditions. It follows the journey of Tor Baz, a son born to a couple on the run, fleeing from their transgression of tribal codes.

Set vaguely in the post WWII era, the inexact timing of events is a reflection of the infinite patience of the tribes that populate what we call Waziristan and Baluchestan (generally where the borders of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan converge). "Six new moons" or the "return of two winters" is sufficient precision needed to measure events in the lives of the nomads at the center of this novel.

In elegantly spare prose, Ahmad describes the challenges of nomadic peoples who care about where they can graze their animals, where they can find water, where they can take their goods to market, and where they can take refuge from bitter winds, alkaline soils and harsh winters. The conflict of conformity with arbitrary national boundaries, and the collision of tribal and nomadic culture with modern concepts of central government are wonderfully illustrated. In this book, the culture of the tribe trumps even the teachings of the Koran.

This is the tableau laid out in the life of Tor Baz, who even among nomads is nomadic himself. Ahmad illuminates the codes of honor, the swift delivery of justice, the cultural acceptance of acts which seem inherently criminal --such as kidnapping-- to outsiders, and the delicate rituals that precede actual transactions among the characters in this story.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I had never read any fiction from this part of the world, so I thought it was about time. Jamil Ahmad takes us deep into the harsh borderland between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The book is an artistic fusion of novel and vignettes. Its form is anecdotal, its stories loosely interwoven with the wanderings of Tor Baz (the Black Falcon), son of runaway lovers. After his parents die for their transgression, the boy finds a home with a variety of kind protectors in succession. In boyhood and in manhood he possesses an aura of detachment that comes, perhaps, from being without an admissible past in a land where tribal ties are everything.

We encounter Tor Baz in the company or vicinity of rebels, nomads, kidnappers, government officials, a tribal general, a mad mullah, a seller of women. Ahmad's book is a window into unforgiving tribal laws and customs - and the conflicts that arise between centralized governments and fiercely independent tribes.

I got a real sense of place from reading The Black Falcon - the hostile landscapes, the cruel winds, the airless mud houses, the nomadic caravans. Traditions are rigid and tempers short in these lands, but Ahmad is non-judgmental. He tells his tales and lets us think what we will. This is a book I might want to read more than once, for its unpretentious wisdom. The prose style is perfect - impressive in its simplicity, rich in its restraint. How did an obscure Pakistani civil servant get to be such a wonderful writer?

Ahmad kept his manuscript hidden away for over three decades before allowing it to be published at age seventy-eight. This is not the work of a fame-seeker, but of a keen and compassionate observer of humanity.

I would definitely recommend The Wandering Falcon to thoughtful readers and lovers of international literature.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love Gabriel Garcia Marquez's writing style, but never quite took to "Love in the Time of Cholera". I loved the prose but the story was anti-climactic to me.

I feel the same way about Jamil Ahmad's "The Wandering Falcon". I absolutely love his lyrical prose and was immediately drawn in by his amazing descriptive abilities. I couldn't wait to know more about the child who eventually became Tor Baz.

I thought Tor Baz would be the unifying thread throughout the story. But instead of understanding and knowing him more by the end of the story, I felt I knew him even less. I felt alienated by the direction his character took. I wanted a less tenuous connection with him.

I had hoped that a connection with him would aid in my understanding. I guess the best way I can describe it is that I was looking at Tor Baz from above rather than walking along with him in a deeply meaningful way. Perhaps this is what Ahmad wanted, in order to assist the Western-wired mind in understanding the complexity of Afghanistan's political and social structure.

In spite of my disappointment in knowing very little more about Tor Baz in the end than I did in the beginning, I do believe I have a bit more insight into what the different tribal groups in Afghanistan have to deal with as they struggle to maintain their way of life.

I didn't expect "Wandering Falcon" to move me in any political sense. I just thought it would help me understand the mind of the people of Afghanistan. So I was surprised when I did start thinking politically as a result of what I read. I started thinking that that the Afghan's have to determine what "stability" means to them without foreign "assistance".
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