MAN BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST.
A CASE OF EXPLODING MANGOES
Mohammned Hanif – Jonathan Cape
This is one of those novels that has the remarkable power to be laugh-out-loud funny and worryingly sad at the same time. It is fiction built around a real event - the mysterious death of General Zia ul-Haq, the former military ruler of Pakistan, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, and several high ranking Pakistani military officers – when their Hercules aircraft crashed in flames with no survivors back in August 1988.
Our protagonist is Ali Shigri, an ambitious air force pilot, who plans to avenge the covered-up murder of his father, by killing General Zia. The story begins with a sort of confession by Shigri when he says “I was the only one who boarded that pane and survived”.
Clearly the author, this is his first novel, who was himself a Pakistani air force pilot before turning to journalism, has no time for General Zia, whom he portrays as a deeply suspicious, paranoid and aging man who daily looks to the Koran for guidance as to what is happening to his country. Nor does he have much time for the toadying senior officers with whom he surrounds himself, or the CIA or the politicians.
The book is a massive, satirical send-up. I especially enjoyed the scene at the 4th July party being put on by the US Ambassador where one of the guests is a long-bearded Saudi construction worker employed by Laden and Co and who goes by the name of OBL.