Author: Shehryar Fazli
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9789380658650
The novel’s narrator, Shahbaz, is a young Pakistani from Paris who returns out of a 19-year exile to his home city in West Pakistan, to settle a family property dispute.
He arrives in a 1970s Karachi preparing for democracy, seething with political machination, corruption and class tensions – and, above all, facing the prospect of a changing power balance between the dominant West Pakistani establishment and the Bengalis of East Pakistan.
The property dispute pits Shahbaz against his father’s older sister, Mona Phuppi, a strong-willed woman with deep knowledge of Karachi and, unlike Shahbaz, certain of her place in it.
More than defeating his aunt, Shahbaz wants to reclaim a place in a Karachi aristocracy he was once entitled to. He soon accepts the help of an old friend of his father’s, a retired brigadier who runs a popular cabaret and is a close associate of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, slowly rising to political power.
Shahbaz’s new prestige ensures him access to a world of cabaret dancers and general good living that he never had as an immigrant in Paris, and to powerbrokers who can deliver the family property to him.
But the costs of the brigadier’s continued patronage – and Shahbaz’s fear of losing that patronage – escalate the more time Shahbaz spends in the city, particularly after he becomes acquainted with two members of the Jamaati- Islami, a religious party willing to go to extremes to keep a young country intact. When he is finally asked to betray his one true friend in Karachi, a charismatic Bengali taxi driver, Shahbaz faces something worse than not belonging to a nation: being complicit in its crimes.