Read A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif Online


Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers"The guilty commit the crime, the innocent are punished. That's theworld we live in." In 1988, Pakistani dictator General Zia died in a mysterious plane crash. Debut novelist Hanif has seized upon this unsolved mystery and spun a darkly satirical explanation by way of this tale -- that Zia's plane crash was the result of not oneBarnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers"The guilty commit the crime, the innocent are punished. That's theworld we live in." In 1988, Pakistani dictator General Zia died in a mysterious plane crash. Debut novelist Hanif has seized upon this unsolved mystery and spun a darkly satirical explanation by way of this tale -- that Zia's plane crash was the result of not one but two assassination attempts.A Case of Exploding Mangoes is a sly, riotous send-up of Mideast politics, the unintended and often disastrous consequences of American foreign policy, the hypocrisy of Islamic fundamentalism, and last but not least, the far, if not lighter, side of tyranny and torture. Even Osama bin Laden makes a cameo appearance, but at the time, he was our ally in the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and 9/11 was just a date in the future.It might be hard to imagine how a writer could spin gold from this straw, but Hanif has, delivering a frolicking and shocking political satire. A Case of Exploding Mangoes will have readers laughing -- and thinking that though truth is said to be stranger than fiction, this novel may just have the ring of truth to it.(Summer 2008 Selection)...

Title : A Case of Exploding Mangoes
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781410409607
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 535 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Case of Exploding Mangoes Reviews

  • Tea Jovanović
    2019-02-28 21:58

    Fantastic novel for those who like to read Vikas Swarup, or Mohsin Hamid, or Aravind Adiga... Novel that has that something... Interesting story, subtle humor... :)

  • Naeem
    2019-02-26 00:04

    Having read a review of this book in the NYT, we promptly purchased it. Not the kind of thing we normally do but Sorayya needed to read it for professional reasons -- her own current book takes place in an adjacent time period and the same place. I will give you her impressions after I give mine.I don't think this is a good book but it has to be read. Its importance is that it fills in a crucial historical period in Pakistan's history and the history of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet Occupation. There is not much about Afghanistan here, but then agian, the story of that resistance can hardly be told without Pakistan's, the US's, and Saudi involvement. For Pakistanis, the importance of the book lies in its blatant and much needed irreverence towards the country's most powerful institution, namely, the military and state religion. It also mocks the US backed military dictator, Zia-ul-Haq, various Generals and chief intelligence officers, the ISI and the CIA. I am sure that this book will feel like the summer rains after too many years of humid heat in Pakistan. Hanif is currently on tour in Pakistan reading from this book. But I can't help think that he is taking a huge risk. For my reading, two things were going against this book from the start. I had high expectations, in that reviewers were comparing this book toCatch-22. Second, I have just read everything written in English by Kiran Nagarkar, who in my view is one of the three best writers to come out of India and perhaps the best of the three. (The other two are SIR Rushdie (at #3) and Amitav Ghosh.)Needless to say, the book didn't live up to the hype. I don't think that Hanif is a particularly good writer. The language is not poetic nor is it rich with deeper social and philosophical issues. The book is designed to get you to turn the pages, which it does exceedingly well. The prose has an easy likability, the main character -- Ali Shigri -- is also easy to like and root for. And, of course, the time, place, and themes are very close to home for us. In addition, three of the five books that Hanif cites in the afterword as inspiration are ones I have read: Ghost Wars, Charlie Wilson's War, andBear Trap.The value of the book for me is in its humor. Official Pakistan needs this levity. As do those of us who study the events around the occupation of Afghanistan. But the humor of the book does not match or balance its vacant darkness. I could not find any greater depth or meaning in Hanif's mocking treatment of life on this planet. His characters do not seem to search for meaning in life or a meaningful life.For Sorayya, the book's brilliance lay in a barely fictionalized reworking of actual history and with actual characters who are named as such. The dictators, generals, ambassadors, political operators (including OBL, who makes a cameo) all retain their names and are embedded within actual events. It is only the unknown characters who are fictionalized. Sorayya found it amazing and liberating that Hanif could write this book as a novel. Hanif himself refers to it as an "alleged novel" (page 325).Read it and share your thoughts with me. I would be interested in knowing how those have perhaps have not studied this time/space line for the last seven years might respond to this quasi-novel.

  • Kavita
    2019-03-23 23:37

    I am not sure what this book was all about. General Zia-ul-Haq dies in the end (which is not a spoiler, btw) and someone killed him. The story is about who killed him - I think. It is also a political satire on Pakistan's crazy political figures. It is about the army - I think. In fact, I don't really know what to think.The book drives the narrative forward by alternating the stories of Zia-ul-Haq and a lowly army person, and then there is some flashback to some completely different and irrelevant story about some American Colonel, there are sweepers and blind women for some inscrutable reason, there are pages spent on what a crow does, people just jump from one situation to the other, and I think Osama Bin Laden made an appearance somewhere. I have no clue what I just read, and I feel like I have taken LSD. There were some slightly funny moments in the book, but it was by no means a great book on political satire. Or anything. The book was slightly coherent in the first half, but things just become too bizarre in the second half with everyone doing their own thing. Next time, I think I will just order the illegal stuff the author is consuming, and not his book.

  • Nilesh
    2019-03-01 22:35

    An astonishing book at so many levels and still witty, fast-paced, beautifully-written and thought-inducing. The first surprise is that a book of the nature can be written about actual, recently deceased politicians in South Asia. I am still surprised that the author was not banished in Pakistan or no major furore was created because of the way it has portrayed an ex-President and other powerful people of the time.The second surprise - from an Indian angle - is how simple- and petty-minded (and almost idiotic) the leaders who changed the course of the history have been shown. President's daily activities, interactions, his fellow general's trivial rivalries, the US representatives' ignorance etc - even if remotely true - may have led to events with massive global implications. There are many smaller surprises in the form of degeneration that prisoners go through, the tale of the blind woman, the first woman's troubles etc etc. Overall, the book is likely to stick in the minds of everyone from the sub-continent who lived through the eighties. Even others are likely to enjoy the book for the laughters it evokes.

  • Jennifer (aka EM)
    2019-02-26 21:52

    An unlikely revolutionary/assassin narrates a fictionalized (?), ironized and quite funny tale of Pakistan's General Zia-ul-Haq's rise to power, rule and death due to multiple causes. Wondering why there's no fatwa issued against Hanif for this one. Interesting queer twist, and little bits of social commentary poke through the broad strokes of the plot adding resonance and poignancy. Probably a better grasp of the politics would have enhanced the humour, but not necessary for overall enjoyment.

  • Windy2go
    2019-03-17 23:46

    I picked this book up because it is written by a Pakistani Journalist about Pakistan. I thought it might give me context and cultural insights. I guess it did. And for the few few chapters, I was enthralled. But in the end, I didn't like it. A few reasons. Reason one: maybe because I live here, and I work on policy issues, the book was disturbing enmeshed with reality, and I wasn't equipped to tell the two apart. How much of the story of Zia Ul Haq's plane crash was real? And how much was fiction? Was Ambassador Arnold Raphel really considered the brightest star in America's Foreign Service? I know his house was not a "sprawling colonial mansion with 18 bedrooms" because I've been in the Ambassador's residence. What is truth then? And where does the fiction begin? Plus, while I think the book was written to be a SATIRE of Pakistani politics, prison, and the role of the military, I don't know where to laugh and where to grimmace, so I just grimmaced a lot. Second, although it was generally well written, with nice lyrical, well-done prose, there were the incongruities. Like that the protagonist was on an Air Force Base in the middle of the desert, but then after a short drive he's suddenly in Islamabad. And how did he end up in Lahore? Maybe that was part of the Satire, squeezing the country down to be so small. But I don't get it and it bothered me. There were other inconsistencies and Pakistani-English-isms. But the third thing that bothered me about this book was it's heavy reliance in the second half on gay sex and really bad language. Is this also Pakistan? So after all that, I can't recommend it. I read it to get cultural insights... and came away more confused and disturbed than before.

  • Nooilforpacifists
    2019-02-28 20:53

    Wow. A comic novel on the partition of East Pakistan (Bangladesh) from Pakistan in 1971, in first person narration by a gay Pakistani Air Force officer. Hard to top that. Never mind the slow start--the pace picks up, and you'll learn plenty of South Asian history besides.

  • Sana
    2019-02-27 23:58

    Ah! Where do I begin to write words on a book I have come to adore with every turning of the page? It's full of those little surprises and shocks a growing child gets to see everyday; before he has the ability to distinguish them as good or bad.Yes, there is an element of wonder when reading about the alleged activities of the bygone President and the Pakistan army itself and why there hasn't been a voice raised against it. But that it all there is to it from my side.It was interesting to read such a satirical novel on one of the notorious Presidents of Pakistan; which come to think of it, is an irony in itself. Nonetheless, A Case of Exploding Mangoes has a dark side to it. It raised a lot of issues Pakistan faces on almost a daily basis, but almost never has the capability to fight them off completely.Mohammed Hanif sheds light on the whole mystery and makes it interesting. To look at those days past from the eyes of Ali Shigri, the protagonist, is like looking at a cell from a microscope and realizing how much we were actually missing out on. And yes, the book had a lot of metaphors and witty dialog which I enjoyed reading immensely. It took me a lot longer than it would normally have to finish the book, yet I found it to be very insightful and somewhat sad. I would gladly grab any other book by Mohammed Hanif if he ever writes again.

  • Ben Babcock
    2019-03-26 01:05

    This book has mouldered at the #1 spot on my to-read list for four years. It exited in that unhappy limbo of not being available from the library yet not being exciting enough to make me want to buy it. Since moving to England, I’ve started trying to work my way through the oldest books on my list, so I gave in and bought this cheaply. It’s hard to remember why I wanted to read it in the first place—I think I saw it at the bookstore, thought it was interesting, but tried to exercise some self-control and not buy it.A Case of Exploding Mangoes takes place during a period of time about which I have little knowledge: the late half of the twentieth century. Actually, it’s set a year before my birth. I enjoy reading historical fiction from this period, precisely because I like learning more about the events that preceded me. Mohammed Hanif weaves two parallel narratives. Ali Shigri is the son of a famous, now deceased, officer in the Pakistan Army, and he has a plan to kill the President, General Zia. The second half of the story follows Zia himself, with brief interludes that expose the perspectives of the First Lady and Zia’s right- and left-hand men. Everything builds towards a final, climactic chapter in which Zia boards a booby-trapped plane, gets poisoned, and suffers from a tapeworm eating his internal organs. Yeah. It’s intense.This book took me longer to read than it should have. It took me longer to appreciate than I would have liked. Trouble is, Hanif takes a while to show us what’s so fascinating about these characters. At first glance, Ali is a self-entitled, somewhat cocky young man who thinks he has it all figured out. At first glance, Zia is a slightly crazy military dictator with pretensions of piety. But rather than being humourous, A Case of Exploding Mangoes is mediocre at first.Thankfully, it doesn’t stay mediocre. As the story develops, Ali and Zia’s stories become more fascinating—Zia’s in particular. I found myself yearning to learn what crazy decision Zia would make next. I was less enthralled with Ali’s arc, but I still wanted to find out what would happen to him, and how he ended up nearly on the same plane as General Zia.In both stories, the principal themes are ones of isolation and meditation upon corruption. Pakistan, barely 40 years into its existence, groans beneath the military bureaucracy driving the country forward. Ali is trapped within a system just as oppressive as the Soviet government against which Pakistan fights. Zia, despite being the leader of that system, is trapped by it as well. At one point he attempts to go among his people in disguise, and his sojourn is an epic fail. He barely makes it out of the gates of his compound before running into trouble.In Ali’s case, he is isolated by his role as a cadet in Pakistan’s army. He is disconnected from his past as a peasant growing up in the hills, something reminded to him by fellow prisoner the Secretary-General. Since following his father’s footsteps, Ali has become the sort of person who shouts at “strength 5”, practises silent drills, and salutes on command. The Secretary-General accuses him of “selling out” and collaborating. Ali denies this vociferously, and to some extent I’d side with him—he is planning to kill General Zia, after all. Nevertheless, there’s a definite sense that he has lived outside the sphere of reality too long, firmly ensconced in the denial of the military.Similarly, Zia is in the ineviable position of being so powerful that no one wants to tell him the truth. Everyone feeds him the information they think will make him happy. His intelligence service and propaganda puppets spread paranoid conspiracy theories whenever they feel the need to discredit the latest attacks against him. I also love how Hanif portrays the corrupt and complicated relationship between the United States and Pakistan, particularly when it comes to the CIA’s involvement in Pakistan and Afghanistan.Hanif’s approach to the ending of the story—and therefore its beginning as well—mirrors this sense of uncertainty, this inability to distinguish between realities and fictions because of poor information. The book begins by asking how Zia actually died. His plane exploded, yes, but was that the cause? Perhaps it was something else—poison, or a tapeworm, or a bomb planted by the CIA? Hanif admirably demonstrates how even events that history seems to have recorded a certain way have wiggle room for conspiracies, alternatives, and wild speculation. He does it all in jest, however, avoiding any overtones of wild-eyed conspiracy theorizing.Overall, I can safely say I enjoyed A Case of Exploding Mangoes, but that reading it after leaving it to languish for four years probably contributed to a mild case of anticlimactic ennui. It’s just not remarkable enough to live up to any expectations that lingered in my mind. I’m not sorry I read it, though, and depending on your tastes, this might suit you even better than it did me.

  • DubaiReader
    2019-02-27 22:50

    Political satire.I am an avid reader of both 'Global' and Historical fiction so this book should have been right up my street. Instead it took me weeks to read and I omly completed it because I was discussing it in a book group.I did not enjoy it at all. It was certainly not 'very, very funny', as advertised.I was not alone in my views either; 6 out of 8 other readers at the discussion felt the same way.Although I hate to categorise books, we felt that this was a book that would be more appealing to male readers.The central character is Ali Shigri, an officer in the Pakistani army, like his father before him.Ali knows his father did not commit suicide and he is determined to settle the score with President Zia.Several other characters are involved including his gay room mate, certain American CIA officials and folk from high up the Pakistani political ladder. Even Osama bin Ladin makes a brief appearance as the obnoxious OBL. No characters were likeable, all were crooked and I didn't really care who came down in the plane by the end of the book.Well suited to lovers of political satire but not at all my choice of book.

  • Calzean
    2019-03-11 19:36

    Enjoyed this one. You know the ending (the fictitious depiction of the real-life death of Pakistan's President General Zia) from the very beginning. The alternate chapters work well of the General and his cohorts mixed with those of the Air Force cadet Shigri who is planning to assassinate the President thereby avenging the death of his father. It's a fast paced satire of the Pakistan-US relationship at the end of the 80s. The cameo of Bill Casey the CIA Director was a highlight as was the ongoing depiction of Zia obsession about his own safety and the scheming of the Generals to replace Zia.

  • 4triplezed
    2019-02-22 19:50

    A mixture of the genuine historical figures, Pakistan's General Zia through to the fictitious narrator Ali Shigri the author has managed to produce a satire that, along with some genuine laugh out loud comic moments, made this a very good read that should stand the test of time.

  • Ayaz Kohli
    2019-02-25 19:39

    'I was there.., I was there..., in the initial video clips!' the author, the narrator gloats so as to build the authenticity of his telling and we look at the back of the cover page, only to reassure ourselves, yes, it's a fiction. I think that's a great success for him, as a story teller! Next, the narrator, combines all possible theories of Zia Ul Haq's plane crash and, like a basket of juicy mangoes, presents to you an option to chose the best one. And there's something more in the offing; you can choose all of them with the assurance that your appetite will be satiated in the best possible way. Still want more, here, keep the basket too! All for just one price- you must hate Zia Ul Haq, the General, the dictator. I particularly liked the language, the satire, the humour and the unpredictability of a known, documented, historical fact. Mohamad Hanif has attempted a novel version of a historical fact, the account of which has been told many a times. And, I must say, It's a very good attempt!

  • Amiya
    2019-03-16 18:58

    No wonder dictators fear humour: it can reduce formidable people to caricatures you just can't take seriously. Anyone who could reign for long in Pakistan's turbulent political waters and double up as America's "front line ally in the fight against communism" must be a force to reckon with, but in Mohammad Hanif's fictionalized retelling of facts, General Zia-ul-Haq cuts a rather sorry figure. He comes across as a hapless dictator holed up in his house, stewing in paranoia for most of the book and infested with worms by the end. In how many ways can you possibly kill a dictator? Many, as the book would tell you, and then a few more. Hanif borrows the more popular theories surrounding General Zia's death, and adds a couple more for fun.Although A Case of Exploding Mangoes is based on actual people and incidents, for much of the book nothing happens that probably really happened. But the book soldiers on with a narrative rich with details, and a constant undertone of irreverent humour which never lets up (reminiscent of Catch-22, only a lot less mad). The laconic style of writing subdues the more distressing scenes - a blind girl, gang-raped, waits to be stoned for adultery; a familiar character reappears with his forehead branded with hot iron. The writing is so fine that several depictions stand out in my memory - the regimented discipline of cadet life with inventive releases (holes in mattresses), the General's wife standing in a queue of widows to confront her husband's roving eye, the delicacy of Ali's affection for Baby O.I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys military satire, dark humour, and digs at the fervently pious. Ending with a couple of quotes I loved (off the top of my head):"You can blame our men in uniform for anything, but you can never blame them for being imaginative.""He always felt a holy tingling in the marrow of his bone when surrounded by people who were genuinely poor and needy."

  • Ana Ovejero
    2019-03-25 18:05

    The death of the dictator of Pakistan General Zia alongside all his high-ranked officers plus the US embassador has intrigued people since the day it happened. The cause for the fall of the plane is still a mystery, becoming excellent material for a writer.This novel depicts the reasons behind those events, having as a narrator a young soldier who has a grudge with the government, which apparently is the responsible for his father's death. His best friend Obaid disappears with a fight plane and the CIA and the Pakistani Intelligence agency decide that the protagonist must know something about this.What is unique about this novel is the sarcastic tone which the protagonist/narrator uses to retells his adventures, trying to survive a few more days in order to acomplish his sole purpose on earth: to kill General Zia. At the same time, we learn about this general superstitious mind, his relationship with his officers and the level of corruption and intrigue that surrounds this dictatorial leader.A truly page-turner, this novel replicates the characteristics of a book that Obaid recommends to the protagonist: 'Tale of a death foretold' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: you know the end of the narrative from the beginning, but you want to know what has happened to get to that ending. Mohammed Hanif is a marvellous storyteller, creating a suspenseful plot that will keep you alert until the last page of the book.

  • Stephanie
    2019-03-03 18:42

    Lucky us--we have a fresh fictional voice of the Pakistani Persuasion, as it were. Mohammed Harif is one very fine writer.In 1978 General Zia kicked Prime Minister Bhutto out of office, later executing him and "reducing" civil rights under martial law in a harrying ten-year reign until he was mysteriously killed in a plane crash in 1988. Apparently his death spawned lots of conspiracy theories, and in a sense that's Harif's fictional purpose.His protagonist is the son of a colonel who was instrumental in setting up interrogation and torture facilities in the Zia regime, at least till he was murdered in an officially reported suicide. The kid is at military school, ready to be a chip off the old block, reveling in the silent drill techniques of Major Bannon, on loan from the U.S., and bonding with a roommate who is more poet than soldier.The action shifts from the pious President and his public relations pony show, to the young soldier, to U.S. officials who hobnob with Zia, to the various targets of the military dictatorship's insistence on total control.It's an affecting book. Like so many other dictators who've been immortalized in fiction, Harif focuses on the dictator's tools of survival, the loneliness that is the price he pays for control, the ludicrous fantasies he entertains about getting the Nobel Peace Prize(!).Someday we'll do a display here on Dictators (I work in a library). Harif's work will get top billing.

  • Rusalka
    2019-03-22 00:48

    I need to start reading the backs of books.I was convinced that this book was about a Pakistani family and their hilarious drama. So I spent the first 30 pages reading waiting for this to start, then read the back of the book. My thought straight away was, "You've bloody done it again". You would have thought that I had learnt from my Iran read. But hellz no! Learning from experience is for losers. Or something. /sighAh well, on with the show. What the book is really about, is the sudden firey, airplaney death of the Pakistani President/Dictator in 1988 and the circumstances, imagined and real, surrounding it. This is not a spoiler by the way. You're told this happens on the first page. And the back of the book, which is why I frequently don't read them.We are following the story of a Pakistani officer and his arrest as his roommate goes AWOL. Ali Shigri, tells us what happens to him during his interrogations and imprisonment. But we also flick between him, and none other than Mr President himself, and the people and events that surround him.It was again a very well written book. I can definitely see why it made it on the mixed blessing Booker Longlist in 2008. It just wasn't a subject matter that interests me. Actually, that isn't entirely true. The political, societal and religious themes very much interest me. Shigri is a drill commander though, and drill bores me. Military things bore me. I'm the daughter of a short time Naval Officer (I got in the way of that) and a career Submariner in two different Navys, but military things, especially things like drill and parade and chest puffing and displays of tanks... *snore*I'm actually striking it pretty lucky this year. While the subject matter has not always been up my alley, the vast majority of my books this year are really, incredibly well written. I feel like I should like them out of respect for the authors. And it is what has made me persevere with them. I want to know where the story goes as I am lead there by the writing, not because I am entirely riveted by the story itself. But the benefit to that is I have no hesitation recommending this on to people who are into that kinda thing. If you like military mysteries or historical fiction, read it. If you like people in stupid uniforms calling each other Sir and obeying their commands with no hesitation because of a small bit of cloth or metal makes them better apparently, then go for it! Even if you are not, like me obviously, then still feel free to give it a go, as there is enough to pull you through. Especially if you like mangoes, as that bothers you right until the end. What on earth is with the mangoes?For more reviews visit

  • Nancy Oakes
    2019-03-06 19:37

    Before I read this book, I'd never even heard of Zia ul-Haq, the president of Pakistan who was killed in the crash of a C-130 airplane, along with the American ambassador Arnold Raphel and others. Hanif's wonderful book presents some theories (albeit some needed to be taken tongue-in-cheek) as to what may have actually caused the death of the president. They range from tapeworms to a crow; deadly gas, snake venom given to the main character by a laundry worker named Starchy, a blind woman in prison for being sexually assaulted or even a case of mangoes put on the plane for all to enjoy. Here's the thing: after I finished this novel, I looked up Zia ul-Haq on various sources on the internet and found the following in an article in the Times online ("Phosphorus-covered mango seeds amid the wreckage sparked the theory that the CIA had spiked the fruit with VX gas to eliminate Zia because of his unstable commitment to a more democratic government and his loyalty to Afghan extremists."And now, it seems, according to this article of August, 2008, that lots of interest has been sparked in exactly what did cause the president's death.Hanif, a former air force officer for Pakistan, has got a winner of a book here. Some of it is actually funny, and you may find yourself laughing out loud in some parts. At the very beginning of the book we find out that the president dies in an airplane crash; the rest of the book looks back at part of his tenure in office and the people surrounding him, as well as people who see him as an enemy who not only needs ousting, but needs to be dead. Set during the time of the Soviet-Afghan conflict, there's even a visit from a shady character who goes by the initials of OBL, the head of Laden Construction Company during the course of a somewhat garish barbeque party given by the Americans for a fourth of July.A Case of Exploding Mangoes is a wonderful book and it will definitely keep you reading. The characters are true to life (even the shadier ones), the prose is amazing and the story itself is fantastic. The fact that it has a basis in fact adds another element to the reader's enjoyment.Definitely recommended, and recommended highly.

  • Mah-i-kan Kurd
    2019-03-08 18:59

    You can blame our men in uniform for anything but you can never blame them for being imaginativeGod's glory. God's glory. For every monkey there is a houriScreams that echo through your body but get stuck in your throatWhat do the ISI investigate?What they don't knowRoses are red. Violets are blue. This country is khakiTurning my loneliness into solitueYou want freedom and they give you chicken kormaBe it the land or the rivers, it's all under our wingsSoldier just soldier onThis book was recommended to me by so many people that I just had to get my hands on it. My first Pakistani book. Loved the writing style and was very funny at some points and the ending was good. General Zia was well portrayed. Although, I started procastinating in the last 70 pages for God knows why. All in all, good read. 3.8 stars. Also i didn't know it was a M/M so I was in for a shock.

  • Sheila
    2019-03-13 21:53

    I am not a great lover of satirical novels - to be quite honest I often don't get them! - but this one was topical, being set in the Indian subcontinent, and full of funny oneliners. The descriptions of the Americans arriving for the Texas - Afghan fancy dress dinner at the embassy are great - of course everyone came in Afghani dress - mixed politics, social commentary and sexual innuendo. The sexual references throughout the novel as well as the political aspects of the plot must have been difficult for orthodox Pakistan readership - just how many ways can one plan to kill a president? - the answer is loads. But it is the humour and comical turns that make this a good read - the scene when Gen Zia requires a meeting with a doctor to asceertain the reason for a "private" itch, at the party when the CIA chief puts his hand on the shoulder of the attendee simply called OBL (!) and says "Nice work, keep it up". The book chapters rotate point of view amongst various characters - one is a blind rape victim in prison - think about how does a blind victim identify her assailants, the requirement for male witnesses and wonder at how Hanif takes the comic and the social commentary on this situation and merges them into an appropriate framework to bring the point home. As for this being a thriller, it left me a bit bored and I wonder whether the humour actually detracts from the thriller's story?Recommended if you want to laugh quietly to yourself occassionally.

  • Mehwish
    2019-03-26 00:03

    A fine dark comic diverse fictional read. My first by a Pakistani writer. and the obligation was severe as every peer of mine have read it. It had to be tasted at minimum.At first I had been so indifferent with a sense of cynicism about the hype. after a hundred pages I did find a flow it became a page turner.The writing style was good but the perception of things, people--the kind we all have in our dark side of mind somewhere was depicted skillfully and beautifully as to be unputdownable. I was amused.The plot was although not so rushing, impersonal political views (Satire) surprised me. it's a lil suspenseful in the end. I hate the lack of protagonist's character and his background life development... so that 3 Stars.P.s if general Zia or his sidekicks had been alive God knows what would've happened to Pakistani writers such as Hanif...It was highly profane towards the army of fictional Pakistan. but then again I had to be a bigot-free reader with my shameful oblivion of politics in Pakistan and perpetuate the Freedom of speech and writing... :P

  • ☯Emily
    2019-02-27 16:59

    This is a fictionalized version of how General Zia, a dictator of Pakistan, and his generals died in a plane crash in 1988. This crash also killed the American ambassador to Pakistan. These are historical facts. However, that is the only portion of the book that is true. Or is it?The main character is Ali Shagri, whose father has committed suicide under suspicious circumstances. He is determined to seek revenge for what he believes is murder. Interwoven in his story is the tale of General Zia, his generals, his wife, a blind woman on death row and a crow. The author has created inventive ways to kill the General, some doomed to failure, but some which are successful. It is a fun read, but you need to write down the cast of characters in order to remember who does what, when and why. Even though it sounds gloomy, the book is hilarious at times.

  • Fathima Cader
    2019-03-25 19:03

    funny, often darkly so. reminiscent, because of its subject matter of Rushdie's Shame, but not quite as (oh dreaded word) colorful. it doesn't hit you over the head with exuberance and craziness, in the way Shame does, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. i still feel somehow distanced from the novel, as though it hadn't quite touched me. maybe i'm asking for the wrong things, though, as Shigri is a very restrained character. maybe i'd been expecting more of an awareness built into the narrative structure of the limitations of Shigri's narration. maybe i shouldn't. on a technical level, as political intrigue, it appears to work well, though it's been a while since i've read political thrillers, so my judgment is mostly ambivalent. this isn't a debut novel that takes over the world, but it is a debut novel that promises a lot more good work. ... huh, i sound so condescending.

  • Trish
    2019-03-19 16:45

    Rather an odd book. Hard to get into, and throughout I really didn't like the POV character from the first-person chapters. The third-person chapters were better, and I did get drawn into the final section, when it was a race to see who and what the author used to finally assassinate General Zia.

  • Selva Subramanian
    2019-03-18 18:46

    A political thriller which is part comic, and literary in its writing and structure. Pakistan's president Zia-ul-Haq gets killed in a flight explosion and the novel goes back to tell you the why, what and how. My intial apprehensions regarding it might be like catch-22 notwithstanding, I really liked the story. Actually, loved the portions written around Zia-ul-Haq. It gets even better if you really want to know how Pak's ISI, political leadership and the army functions in tandem with one another. The writing initially felt just functional i.e. a recounting of whatever happened in coherent but short sentences but as I progressed I took a liking to it. Not without reason it has been nominated for so many prizes. If the blurb interests you, give it a go. You won't find it disappointing.

  • Nick
    2019-02-28 21:44

    Mohammed Hanif's "A Case of Exploding Mangoes" is a novelistic exploration of the still-unexplained death of General Zia-ul-Haq, President of Pakistan, in a 1988 airplane crash The story is told from the perspective of several characters, most notably, especially at the beginning, between that of Ali Shigri, a young officer bent on avenging the "suicide", which he blames on the President, and that of General Zia ul-Haq himself. In Hanif's retelling of the events leading up to the accident, there is no shortage of people, some but not all fictional, who wished to remove the General from the scene. The overwhelming atmosphere of corruption and conspiracy is understandable, given the times: General Zia ul-Haq was busy using the Americans to fund and arm a war against the Soviets in Afghanistan (he appears in the movie "Charlie Wilson's War", coolly citing his Islamic beliefs when Tom Hanks' Wilson asks him for a drink). The Pakistani intelligence service was deeply involved in Afghanistan, where it would eventually have a strong hand in the facilitation, if not creation, of the Taliban, which seemed to arise out of nowhere but quickly gained access to arms and transport. Zia ul-Haq staged a coup against the sitting President, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Benazir's father), then had him tried for murder and executed. So it was an era of even greater conspiracy than usual. That said, not all of the plots are convincing. That probably does not matter to Hanif. The novel's goals seem to be an atmosphere of venality, scheming and betrayal, moved along by vigorous prose in the Shigri chapters, and a cast of indelible characters, including military types, a blind woman sentenced to death for being raped, an imprisoned labor organizer, and even Zia ul-Haq's wife (who is very lively, but, like the rest of the characters who are real, including the American ambassador and several generals, raise credibility issues). The American characters seem lifeless; perhaps Western diplomatic types in Islamic societies are. But the real glaring difficulty with the book is the character of President Zia-ul-Haq himself, indecisive and remote, not at all what one expects of a man who balanced Washington and Afghan tribesmen, who seized the government, arranged for his predecessor to be hanged, and held onto power for more than a decade and longer than anyone else in Pakistani history. Perhaps Zia-ul-Haq was tired by the end of his life and despairing of finding a way out, as sometimes happens to long-term dictators, but the book does not really sell that vision very well. On the other hand, the book is not really about Zia-ul-Haq; it is about the country where he succeeded but died.

  • Krishna Sruthi Srivalsan
    2019-02-28 21:03

    The death of General Zia Ul Haq, Pakistan's former military dictator, will remain one of the Subcontinent's greatest mysteries. Who killed the man who ruthlessly sent Bhutto to the gallows? One conspiracy theory seems to suggest that his enemies planted a bomb in a basket of mangoes that was gifted to him.Mohammad Hanif's book is delightfully dark. It tells us Zia's story-indeed the Man of Truth is the hero of the story - and makes us speculate who could be behind the Pak One aircraft that crashed so mysteriously in the Bahawalpur Desert that fateful August day in 1988. Sure, there is a lot of fiction woven around the facts, but more than anything else, it helped me understand the complex history of our neighbors slightly better. There is humor, sarcasm, irony, all merging together to form this splendid tale. 'He won't stop the war till you give him the Peace Prize', General Akhtar, Zia's right hand once says. Of course, he is referring to the war in Afghanistan, which Zia helped escalate. Behind this facade of a violent leader, Zia has his weak moments - when a verse from the Holy Book seems to predict something ominous. Loved how the plot never really tells us what finally killed Zia - it is all left for us to imagine. The writing is wonderful, irreverent, and whilst hilarious, it also makes you think. Greed, lust for power, animosity, fear, paranoia, superstition, religion, betrayal - this book explores it all, and how! Our narrator, Ali Shigri, whose father was probably murdered on Zia's orders, finds himself locked in a filthy cell at Lahore fort. He has this to say when offered food at the jail -You want freedom, and they give you chicken korma. I also personally loved how OBL makes an entry in the Fourth of July party at the American ambassador's house. Wicked humor!P.S:"Birather, bend please"had me in splits. I was reading this in a sari shop as my mother perused Kanjeevaram saris, one after the other, and themaamisaround me thought I'd probably gone mad. I did some probing and figured that Hanif drew his inspiration for this book from The Feast of the Goat, written by the Peruvian writer Mario Llosa. I'm on a quest to find this book now.

  • Nazmi Yaakub
    2019-02-23 21:36

    BARANGKALI inilah antara novel yang awal-awal lagi sudah memberikan spoiler tetapi spoilernya tidak mengganggu pembacanya, bahkan memberikan lebih elemen suspens. Ini kerana kita sudah tahu kesudahan A Case of Exploding Mangoes, -Jeneral Zia-ul-Haq mati, kapal terbangnya terhempas- tetapi kita tetap berasa suspens untuk menghabiskannya. Di sinilah letaknya kelebihan Mohammed Hanif kerana judulnya saja sudah bikin kita tertanya-tanya tentang apa kejadahnya buah mempelam yang meletup!Nada satira dan sinis juga memang bisa menggeletek kita kerana nampaknya ia adalah ectasy terbaik kepada manusia pengarang yang berada dalam negara yang serba kacau. Di sini ada dua watak utama - satu watak benar yang difiksyenkan, iaitu Jeneral Zia-ul-Haq dan satu lagi, watak fiksyen yang dibenarkan, iaitu Ali Shigri - dan dua-dua watak ini mempunyai sisi gelap tersendiri - sisi gelap yang cuba diputihkan atau sisi gelap yang cuba disembunyikan.Cuma memang ada babakan yang sedikit mengganggu. Mengapa hubungan antara dua lelaki yang akrab selalu dilihat dengan kaca mata Barat - homoseksualiti? Begitu juga ada babakan yang tampak seperti diada-adakan yang seolah-olah untuk mengesahkan sisi gelap watak. Namun, gangguan itu tidak sampai merosakkan keghairahan pembacaan kita.A Case of Exploding Mangoes adalah komedi gelap yang mentertawakan pemerintah yang ketawanya perlu kita gigilkan sehingga ke dunia sebelah sini.

  • Justin Podur
    2019-03-12 22:51

    I read this book after returning from a research and teaching trip to Pakistan in 2008. Pakistan's travails were fresh on my mind. Reading Hanif was cathartic, it was heartbreaking at times, and mostly it was just spectacularly hilarious. It is hard to find books where you are literally laughing out loud, but this was one of them. The early interrogation of the protagonist by his superior officer, where he says "I have seen some buggery in my time..." I still laugh when I think about it. The book is about Pakistan in the time of Zia's dictatorship. I always say there are books/movies/TV written by people who have seen life and there are books/movies/TV written by people who have read books/movies/TV. Hanif's book has the flair of someone who knows literature, but it is just too rich with details to be by someone other than someone who has lived this. I have a close friend who has been involved in Pakistani politics for decades and he told me that each of the characters (like the prisoner in the cell next door to the protagonist), each of the places, in the book corresponds to something real, and known, in Pakistani political circles. The way that the book weaves politics and mystery and thriller elements with insane bureaucracy and comedy is just fantastic. I loved this book.

  • Famma
    2019-03-25 22:36

    I have been meaning to read this book for a long time. It’s a General Dark Comical Fiction with strong character, though I still doubt some part of the book. Foul language is used which I guess is a part of normal day occurrence in army. I am not sure how the writer got the intimate details of how first lady sleep or How Arnold aka arnie was planning to spend the night with Nancy and the relationship of Ali Shigri and Obaid. It also contain a story of Blind Zainab and Scandal of Joanne Herring the American journalist and the conflicting attitudes towards women in Pakistan. It tells how General Zia feared attacks, tells us about the undercover spies and ISI role. It goes back and forth to General Zia (Conspiracy Theories) and Ali Shigri. I get to know about the Aircrafts like C-130, T-bird and Pak One. The crash remained a mystery and still unsolved. It depicts about a curse and crow and how the curse can be carried after feeding the crow. The writer exaggerated by stating that “Crows may not have a conscience but their memory lasts for ninety years.” According to research maximum life of a crow is 40 years and its memory can only last at least five years.