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The Wandering Falcon

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  1,374 ratings  ·  254 reviews
A haunting literary debut set in the forbidding remote tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Traditions that have lasted for centuries, both brutal and beautiful, create a rigid structure for life in the wild, astonishing place where Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan meet—the Federally Administered Tribal Lands (FATA). It is a formidable world and the people who live ther
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 13th 2011 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published 2011)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is pretty interesting for a novel with no continuous plot and no appreciable character development. It was written by an eighty-year-old man who had a long civil service career in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas around the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. This is where the book is set. The chapters are only loosely connected, giving a broad view of the customs, laws, and lifestyles of the numerous tribes occupying the region. Their values and attitudes are so foreign to the Western mind ...more
Recent events led me to starting this book, a choice that I now think I should have made ages ago. Then again, an earlier reading would not have resulted in the same breed of appreciation, not while I continued to adhere to the common formula of treating literature and politics as distinct and isolated entities. This is not to say that my interpretation is based on the current flavor of toxic vomit circulating in US media in regards to Pakistan, but rather that I acknowledged its insidious exist ...more

Jamil Ahmad, The Wandering Falcon

Jamil Ahmed is a talented writer and a gifted storyteller. He offers rare insight into the remote regions of Pakistan—the tribal belts. Like the landscape itself, the characters portrayed in these short stories are desolate, crude, unyielding and grotesque in their own way.

Although these very strange lands are an integral part of my motherland, it pains me to say that I've never visited any of these places, and these very places—with their crude yet riveting beau
Barbara Mitchell
This is a difficult book to review, although I must say from the start that I truly enjoyed it. If you read it, I have a suggestion. Pretend that you are at a library or an outdoor event, in a group gathered around to listen to a great storyteller. There is tea for everyone and perhaps some dates, nuts, and other little snacks. Then the 80 year old Jamil Ahmad begins to tell strange and wonderful stories about the people of the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He gives some idea of the h
My goodness, I’ve only read two books from the Man Asian Literary Prize longlist and already I’d be hard-pressed to choose between them!

According to the bio at Fishpond, Jamil Ahmad is a former Civil Servant who worked in the frontier provinces of Pakistan and also in Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul before and during the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan. Now living in retirement in Islamabad with his wife, he has – at the age of nearly eighty – gained international recognition with this remarkable d
read two or three great reviews for this. The Guardian called it 'one of the finest collections of stories to have come out of south Asia in decades'..

These stories are set on the Afghan/Pakistan border 30 or 40 years ago, before the rise of the Taliban, indeed before the Soviet invasion, more concerned with the aftermath of the British empire (some place names have disconcertingly British names). It gives a great insight into the area - a place ravaged by sand storms (wind rages continuously d
This book gets the distinction of a "one-sitting read". Aside from refilling my whiskey on the rocks, I just couldn't stop.

Whichever publisher brought this book to fruition should get a bonus. Everything about it was perfect. Its cover w/ built-in leaf flaps, the uneven page cuts, the coverwork, the size. It's just a cozy book.

The voice of this first-time author (at 80 years young) is unique. It is, endearingly, unromanticized or critical of its characters. He narrates tragedies and joys alike,
Jon Cox
It's possible that I am so ethnocentric that I don't appreciate the story-telling tradition and style of another culture. Either that, or this book was written terribly. To me it read like a realy choppy and uneven cliff-notes summary.

I have no problem with the general device of having the main character of the story appear as a supporting character in each of the stories. In fact, if it were done right, it could turn out very ingeniously interesting and end up revealing a lot about the main ch
Rula Bilbeisi

This novel did start on the right track. After I read the first chapter, all I wanted to do was to follow the path of this young child, who was born on an unfamiliar land between strangers he would never see again, and in one cruel moment, he witnessed the death of his parents and was left all alone. I thought episodes of anger, resilience and revenge would follow.

However, through the following chapters, I was lost between so many tribes and boarders, poverty and misery, as if starting a new sto
Raw, hyper-real stuff. The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad mesmerizes you with its spare, elegant prose. In this collection of interconnected stories, we get an unflinching glimpse at the lives of the people who live along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan: the Kuchi, the Pashtun, the Waziri, and others. It's a world rarely seen in books.

There is a hard-edged beauty in the desolation of the landscapes described and the lives we see, but nothing is exoticized. Our Western sensibilities
It took Jamil Ahmad eight decades to pen his debut novel about that border place where Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan meet…a hidden world ravaged by sand storms and hostile inter-tribe relationships.

It is knit together through the life of one man – Tor Baz – the eponymous wandering falcon. Tor Baz is the orphan son of a Romeo-and-Juliet pair of lovers who defied the tribal code and as a result, were stoned to death by their tribesmen. He becomes a nomad in an unforgiving environment, where the h
Jun 08, 2014 Magdelanye rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Paul and Jane Bowles
Imagine late afternoon,the intense heat beginning to dissipate and a delightful langour overtakes you as your camel eases its pace and you gaze through half-shut eyes at the deepening hue of the sky. Don't fall asleep now! Now is an expanded moment in time,but it will change and you need to be alert.You need to pay special attention to the names of the people and places,for they will confound you when they reappear on your path. Above all,don't get lost but keep in mind your place off the map.

I have taken a number of classes on Afghanistan and Pakistan…it’s history, the people, the culture, the conflict. It continues to come down to a bottom line that these countries are tribal in nature and that unless you understand the tribal culture, you can never understand the country. Because we look at life “through our eyes” it is impossible for someone who is not “inside” the culture to see it in its entirety and to convey it authentically.

I was very happy to receive the ARC of the “The Wan
I was pleasantly surprised to have really enjoyed this book. It's a small book, but each story had quite a key impactful plot, which also gives you another layer of the zone the whole book is situated.

The Wandering Falcon is a chance to showcase the daily lives of nomads and communities around the borderlines between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. It does follow the life of one character Tor Baz, but not as the main character. He comes in and out of each chapter, in some of them more strongly t
Haunting, dream-like, vaguely connected short stories set in the borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan in a time that seems to vary between the 1930s and 1960s. Moving through the stories as both actor and observer, as hero and sometime villain, is Tor Baz, child of an adulterous couple killed under their clan's honour code. Ahmad sketches out the world where Tor Baz comes of age--- a world of deep poverty, of ever-present violence, of dying nomadic ways, of fears of a barely understood o ...more
Nancy Oakes
The Wandering Falcon is set in what is now considered to be a very troubled and indeed, very controversial area, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Afghanistan. Of of these areas, Waziristan, has been in the news for some time due to its fame as a Taliban refuge, but Ahmad's focus is on the numerous tribes who occupied this region prior to modern-day conflicts; he examines how they maintain their ways of life as modernity encroaches on traditional societies. The title character is Tor Ba ...more
Sep 22, 2014 Peter added it
Like many great novels, The Wandering Falcon is as much a story of a people as it is a story of a person.

I’ve always wondered about the tribal regions at the borders of Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. What is it that makes governance so complicated in those regions? Who are the people that live there? The Wandering Falcon tells a story from that region, and in the process, tells the story of the region--or at least part of it.

Written by seventy-year-old Jamil Ahmad, The Wandering Falcon is spa
Lynne Perednia
Most of what I know about the part of the world where Pakistan and Afghanistan meet is through Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King. So you know I don't know much.

But I do know that when Daniel Dravot and Peachy tried to use their guns and wits to conquer the tribes in this mountainous, inhospitable region, the tribal culture initially worked for them, then against them.

This view of tribal culture, in which the individual may endure but does not achieve dominance, is but one of the conclusions re
This book was written by my teammate's grandfather, so I have a particular attachment to it. I enjoyed this book, and probably more since I knew the story behind it. I did struggle a bit at first, but if you keep in mind that it's basically a series of short stories, with maybe a few reoccuring characters, it'll be easier than trying to see the connection between each chapter (which is what I was doing). The Wandering Falcon gives you an interesting look at the various tribes in Pakistan, which ...more
Sundeep Supertramp

The original review of this book is posted on my blog...

To read the original review of this book, click here...
This is definitely one of the best books I've read in a while. The story is fascinating, the characters are fascinating, the beginning, middle and ending are all very well developed and tied together. The only drawback that I could think of is that it could have been longer, not necessarily with regard to the plot or the story, but in the amount of detail that the author provides to each individual chapter. Often a story will drag too much as the author attempts to give too much detail, in this ...more
"These men died a final and total death. They will live in no songs; no memorials will be raised to them. It is possible that with time, even their loved ones will lock them up in some closed recess of their minds. The terrible struggle for life makes it impossible for too much time to be wasted over thoughts for the dead.
What died with them was a part of the Baluch people themselves. A little of their spontaneity in offering affection, and something of their graciousness and trust. That, too, w
Marvin chester
There are places that you could not know even if you visited them. Places whose inhabitants don't want you to know them. Ahmad has lived among the illiterate and turned the experience into literature. He spent time as a government official in the nomadic tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ahmad takes you into the minds of people who inhabit lands most of us have never seen. And he does it beautifully, with the art of artlessness.

from p. 119
Now, at last, the (two thieves) had been offered
a remarkable book. written in very simple and lucid prose, the book shows a great deal of knowledge about the regions, people and their ways of life. the writer knows them too well.

sentimental yet brutal, indifferent yet familiar; the characters are real and human. a book about the deeper regions along the porous borders of afghanistan, iran and pakistan. life is an insane struggle there and the book tells the inside stories as they are!
I cannot believe all the praise for this little book (243 pages about 5" x 7"). It is just 9 short stories explaining the very cruel way of life of people stuck in a society 1,000 years out of date. It is not romantic nor charming: it is brutal, especially to females and children. Although they are set in the middle 20th century, they could be from last week or 1214.
Claire Melanie
A beautiful book of essentially short stories woven together through the life of one boy. The stories centre around the life of nomadic tribes on the border of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran and involve themes such as the impact of the imposition of borders on their way of life, modernity, survival and love. Thoroughly lyrical and enjoyable read
Jason Makansi
This is very lyrical prose and as spare as the region it depicts. The reader learns a great deal about how the people in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan cope. However, I was kind of stunned by how the story seemed to shift abruptly from a novel format to what started coming across as autobiography in the last third of the book. Duplicity and playing one foreign entity off against the other is how these tribal people survive, when they aren't slaughtering and abusing each other in th ...more
This petite volume reads like a collection of folktales with its direct, evocative language conjuring the harsh landscape of the tribal regions of Pakistan and its inhabitants. Each of the nine chapters seems to stand alone at first, but they weave together by the appearance of the main character, who pops in and out of the narrative at different, and sometimes unexpected, times.

The author's intimacy with his subjects are obvious from the richly recalled land and characters, and he makes access
In short: The characters are welcoming and the stories are beautifully paced and well-written.

Considering the ongoing negative media coverage of the area surrounding Pakistan, this book provides an elegant glimpse into nomadic life of the 50's-70's in that area, and illustrates without overemphasizing the impact of far-reaching governmental change and how that plays a tug of war with existing ways of life. As a novel it raises and answers many questions.

(full disclaimer: I read this for a clas
Carey Combe
These are a set of tales linked by one character - an orphan - and set along the Pakistan/Afghan border and brilliantly evoke the region giving a wonderful portrait of a little-known lifestyle. Wonderful writing, at times horrifying and uncomfortable but definitely worth it.
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Jamil Ahmad was one of the few English writers of Pakistani origin to have garnered attention outside his country. Though his body of work was small and limited to one book, the Wandering Falcon and a short story, The Sins of the Mother, he is considered as a major writer among Pakistani writers of English fiction.

Jamil Ahmad was born in Punjab, in the erstwhile undivided India, in 1931. After ear
More about Jamil Ahmad...

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“...One lives and survives only if one has the ability to swallow and digest bitter and unpalatable things. We, you and I, and our people shall live because there are only a few among us who do not love raw onions.” 3 likes
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