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اثر دانیال معین الدین از انتشارات میلکان - مترجم: فریده اشرفی-بهترین داستان های کوتاه

هشت داستان به‌هم پیوسته‌ی این مجموعه، جامعه‌ی رنگارنگی را آشکار می‌سازند که موقعیت‌های اجتماعی و توقعات مردم آن بدون توجیه، شناخته و درک می‌شوند؛ و در این جامعه، نظام طبقه‌بندی اجتماعی و فقر برای تأثیرگذاری بر هر انتخابی نشان داده می‌شود و دنیایی ترسیم می‌شود که هیچ‌کس در آن برنده نیست؛

این داستان‌ها که فضای رخداد بسیاری از آن‌ها در دهه‌های ۱۹۷۰ تا ۱۹۹۰ اتفاق می‌افتند، فرهنگ پاکستانی و نوع قرارگرفتن آن در سیستم و نظام‌های اجتماعی مختلف در جهان را توصیف می‌کنند؛


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I know next to nothing about Pakistan, aside from the fact that this country seems to be overrun by terrorists, so reading this Pulitzer prize nominated collection of short stories gave me a new perspective on the country and people who live in it.

The eight loosely interconnected stories revolve around K.K. Harouni - a rich Pakistani landowner - and a network of his servants, employees, relatives and opportunists. In @Saleema@ a young maid seeks patronage in Harounis household in the beds of older, more influential servants, until she falls in love and is later discarded by the man who must honor his first family. @Nawabdin Electrician@ is a story of Harounis electrician, Nawab, who confronts a violent assailant in order to protect his most valuable asset - a motorbike - the only thing which helps him support his huge family. @Lily@ is the chronicle of a party girls attempt to cleanse her life by becoming a wife of a decent wealthy man, which fails as she realizes he is too good for her and she is incapable of change.

As a whole the collection provides a vivid picture of Pakistan, with its sharp rift between classes, complex relationships between servants and masters, government corruption, and dependent position of women who are always vulnerable without the protection of family and marriage ties.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
Im quite ambiguous about this book. Stylistically, I liked it. The stories engaged me and I found them easy to read. But I kept wondering if they were truly representing life in Pakistan.

The eight stories concern the rich and the poor. In many instances, we see the interaction between the two classes and the poor seem to always get screwed in some fashion. The most likeable characters for me were the two American women - one who initially thought she wanted to marry the pleasant, young, rich Pakistani guy and one who actually did marry him - perhaps because I could relate to them. I know nothing about Pakistan and I hope these stories do not represent what the country is like. If so, then it seems that without power, money, and connections, one is in for a pretty miserable existence.

I purchased this paperback in 2010 on sale. It has set on my shelf undisturbed for six years. I finally read it as it is one of the September selections for one of my Goodreads groups. I look forward to discussing it with that group and may adjust my review after that discussion!




مشاهده لینک اصلی
Most of these stories are not stories. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. They are propelled by characterization, suspense, plot, and insights. Some of the stories, most notably Our Lady of Paris, seem to be pastiches of thoughts strung together.

Yes, the author knows what hes talking about. As a member of the Pakistani jet set, the son of an American mother and a Pakistani father, and a graduate of Dartmouth and Yale, he is well-qualified to write about the gossipy failings and foibles of the international leisure class. But how does this group differ from other groups of similar wealth and privilege as a result of their religion, background, or geographic origin?

مشاهده لینک اصلی
The first time I read this book a few years ago, I hated it with a passion. I found it (alternatively) boring, infuriating, condescending or cynical. “What did you just make me read?” I complained to my best friend, who loved this book and was in turn amused and horrified by my vehement dislike of it.

“Read it again!” she likes to say, whenever I hate a book she loves. Because we both have such similar taste in books, it takes a while for us to accept the reality of our conflicting opinions about the same novel. And even though time and experience has proven that rereading a horrible book rarely makes it any better for me, I thought I would give it a try anyway.

And the best I can now say about it is that I no longer hate it. It has progressed from an ‘Ugh, never again’ to a ‘meh, never again’, which seems like no big deal but in comparative terms shows huge progress.

A Tale of Eight Stories

She had been a famous beauty, from a prominent, cultured Lucknow family. Now at forty-five she knew everyone of a certain class in Karachi, went to dinners and to the polo and to all the fashionable weddings, flew often to Lahore and Islamabad, and summered in London.

There are eight loosely-connected stories within this anthology, each one entirely obsessed with either the filthy rich or the disgustingly poor. Apparently anyone earning a middle class income doesn’t exist in the Pakistan that Daniyal Mueenuddin knows.

Husna brought her shabby luggage to the house, a brown suitcase bulging and strapped. She had clothes and shoes, not much else, had arrived in a rickshaw - the facts soon communicated through the house by the snickering community of washermen, drivers, sweepers, household servants.

But ok fine. Accusing an author of writing about either the rich or the poor only is a ridiculous argument to have, because millions of writers all over the world choose to write about a specific class of wealth and we don’t bash them over the head with it. So this problem has more to do with the fact that Pakistanis don’t have enough books talking about themselves in all shapes and sizes than with Mueenuddin’s writing.

Within the stories, all our characters have either a very close or a distant, passing relationship to a singular man, K. K. Harouni, a feudal landowner slowly losing power as the times change. The stories revolve around a network of his relatives, employees or servants.

“If I ran away to the South Pole some Pakistani businessman would one day crawl into my igloo and ask if I was the cousin of K.K. Harouni.”

In the first story ‘Nawabdin Electrician’ (published in New Yorker, Best American Short Stories 2008), Harouni’s electrician in his village has a violent encounter with a thief who tries to steal his bike; the second entry ‘Saleema’ tells the story of a young maid in Harouni’s household who seeks protection by seducing older servants, until she falls in love with the valet, who eventually chooses his family above her.

Holding the gun away at arm’s length, he fired five more times, one two three four five, with Nawab looking up into his face, unbelieving, seeing the repeated flame in the revolver’s mouth.

Provide, provide’ (published in Granta) tells us about how Jaglani, a domineering man who takes care of Harouni’s farms while also fattening his own pockets, falls in love with a servant girl. ‘About a Burning Girl’ tells the story through the eyes of a casually immoral man of a robbery gone wrong and how a favoured servant is saved.

He feared Zainab, strangely enough, although he had made a career of fearing no one and of thereby dominating this lawless area. Sometimes he thought that it would be a relief to be rid of her, and yet his love kept increasing.

The titular story ‘In other Rooms, Other Wonders’(published in New Yorker) takes us to Harouni’s own bedside where we read about his affair with a young girl from a lower social class, and her eventual fall from grace. ‘Our Lady of Paris’ shows a young American girl falling in love with a Pakistani guy, and finding herself at odds with her complicated eventual-mother-in-law.

For a moment Husna and K.K. looked at each other… for the first time he thought of her as a grown-up, as a woman; and for the first time she thought of him as a lover, sick and possibly dying.

The last two stories tackle two completely different classes of wealth. In ‘Lily’ a spoiled party girl tries to let go of her past through marriage but ends up with the stark realization that she is incapable of changing. ‘A Spoiled Man’ tells the story of a poor man who lives alone until his marriage to a simple girl, whose eventual disappearance leads to a lot of pain and eventual death for him.

As a whole, the collection is random and disjointed and not much fun to read. And even though in some places it provides points to ponder away, those come too rarely or are too weakly written to do the whole collection justice.

In Other Rooms, Other Yawn-Inducing People

A major problem in this collection was my lack of connection with any single character. I could not have cared less about what happened to any of them in any of the stories. Literally could not have.

“I was born into a comfortably well-off family. All my life I’ve been lucky, my business succeeded, I’ve had no tragedies, my wife and I are happy, we have a wonderful son. The one thing I’ve missed, I sometimes feel, is the sensation of being absolutely free, to do exactly what I like, to go where I like, to act as I like.”

Even when something relatable comes along, it’s cloaked within drama that verges on the boring or the petty. The privileged whine within their little perfect bubbles while the poor are caricatures, either corrupt and seedy, or else content and naive. There is no complexity to either class.

Jaglani had lived an opportunistic life, seizing power wherever he saw it available and unguarded, and therefore he had not developed sentimental attachments to the tokens of his power, land, possessions, or even men.

Worse still, there is a sense of falsification; Mueenuddin’s position of privilege and wealth is obvious when he writes about the lower class, who apparently know no love and have no ties of loyalty, who form no proper friendships and have no sense of family. The poor in this book seem to be what rich people imagine poor people to be like; they are an imitation of a rich man’s view from a distant, and do a disservice to those whom he writes about.

“I was brought up with slaps and harsh words. We had nothing, we were poor. My father sold vegetables from a cart, but when he began smoking heroin he sold everything, the cart, his bicycle, the radio, even the dishes in the kitchen.”

The Sometimes Good, Not All Bad Cultural Commentary

The one thing that’s done well are the conversations Mueenuddin has with the reader about the times, the culture, the ambience he produces.

She would even have sought a place in the demimonde of singers and film actresses, bright and dangerous creatures from poor backgrounds, but she had neither talent nor beauty.

This sort of throwback to the times of the rise of the cinema in the country, and the era of the actresses who came from poor backgrounds and made their claim to fame through the silver screen, this roots the stories within the times they are set in.

Mueenuddin also uses the story format to his benefit when he is describing the inescapable gap between the lives of the rich and the poor. Even though most of the criticism against his book rests on the author’s decided ignorance of the lives of the middle class, he shows the class divide between those whom he chooses to show really well.

The old man did not merely lack interest in the affairs of the servants - he was not conscious that they had lives outside his purview.

He also threads corruption very casually into his stories, another point I found myself debating about. On the one hand, is there no one who is morally ambiguous but tilting towards the good? But on the other, is this really a reflection of the times we had back then? Mueenuddin certainly seems to think so.

One of my small indulgences, now that I am a member of the judiciary,is to allow myself airs with people who need favors from me. I gave him my hand with a loose wrist, as if expecting him to kiss it, and stood on one cocked heel.

The Recommendation

This book won, was nominated for or was a finalist of a ridiculous number of really famous awards: Pulitzer, Commonwealth, LA Times Book Prize, so on and so forth. And the only thing I have to say to that is: why?

Throughout this book I kept feeling like I should love it because so many people seem to love it but at every page the dominating feeling was an overwhelming nope. There is a lot of telling, too much history too quickly, excessive background description instead of letting the narrative tell the story, and an overall sense of rambling. Basically, it’s not worth the hype. If youre a non-Pakistani reader, take it with a grain of salt. If youre a Pakistani reader, I’d say give this one a miss.

***

I talk about Pakistani Fiction and would love to talk to people who like to talk about fiction (Pakistani and otherwise, take your pick.) To read this complete review, check out more reviews or just contact me so you can talk about books, check out my Blog or follow me on Twitter!

مشاهده لینک اصلی
Youve never read anything like this slim volume of eight interconnected short stories about life in modern Pakistan. I can almost guarantee it. Rescued from obscurity by its 2009 National Book Award nomination, Daniyal Mueenuddins In Other Rooms, Other Wonders is a blend of portraits of Pakistani people, both rich and poor. The effect is a holistic image of everyday life in a country stuck in an seemingly endless loop of feudalism and class struggle.

Mueenuddin, who was born to a Pakistani father and American mother, spent seven years after college at Dartmouth trying to untangle the twisted network of kickbacks, favors, and below-the-level law enforcement at his fathers farm in Pakistan. This experience — the basis for these stories — seems to have jaded Muennuddin a bit, as evidenced by a theme-setting Punjabi proverb included at the beginning of the book: @Three things for which we kill — Land, women and gold.@

The strength of the book, no doubt due to Mueenuddins dual nationality, is how these stories cross the cultural divide. When a story focuses on the servant class, American readers have no trouble understanding these Pakistanis, their lot in life and their struggle to rise. Thats true even if youre revolted by the male-dominated society and poor treatment of women. When these characters do bad things — like commit adultery, or steal from their bosses — its still not hard to comprehend why. Sometimes there is no other choice. Sometimes its a calculated strategy to try to move up.

In one story, a young woman, whose previously rich family has fallen on tough times, believes herself to be entitled to wealth and comfort. So she seduces the rich landowner Harouni (who is the common denominator in all the stories), takes him as her lover, and takes advantage of his generosity. However, when he dies, Harounis scornful family turns her out completely. Now, her poverty is accompanied by even more shame. Similarly, in one heartbreaking story, a woman finally turns her life around by working hard as a servant at the rich landowners house, only to wind up back on the streets as a heroin-addicted prostitute when Harouni dies.

So, the idea seems to be that if youre among the lower class, even if you adapt to the system, your margins still are rather thin. Your entire life and well-being is dependent on the whims and fate of your landowning boss. My favorite passage in the book sums up the dependency of servants on their masters. It is also emblematic of Mueenuddins beautiful, elegant prose: @Gone, and they the servants would never find another berth like this one, the gravity of the house, the gentleness of the master, the vast damp rooms, the slow lugubrious pace, the order within disorder.@

Several stories also focus on the upper class. The longest story in the collection, for instance, is about a rich Paris Hilton-like character who spends all her time partying, ordering servants around and living off her parents wealth. Another story focuses on the son of a rich landowner, who is dating an American girl. These stories are okay, but dont match the pathos and poignancy of the stories about the servants.

Mueenuddins writing and storytelling reach their pinnacle in the last story of the collection, my favorite. An old man, who has worked hard his whole life, finally catches a break when hes hired on as gardener at one of Harounis farms. Newly wealthy (in relative terms), he hopes to sire a son, so he takes a deal to marry a mentally challenged girl, believing it to be his only chance to carry forth his name. The @simple@ girl, though, promptly runs away. When he reports this to the police, he is beaten and accused of killing her. So even when things begin to look up for the poor man, the system beats him back down. Its the sad reality for life in the lower class in Pakistan, and these stories illuminate that brilliantly. This is an important book, and highly, highly recommended!

مشاهده لینک اصلی
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