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The Wandering Falcon

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  2,559 ratings  ·  432 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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Caroline you cant read this on goodreads. Goodreads is a book REVIEW site,not for free digital books.

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Jeanette (Again)
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: all-fiction, asia
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
Nandakishore Varma
(A caveat at the beginning: I read this book in Malayalam translation, and pretty bad translation at that. It may be better in the original.)

Jamil Ahmad was a civil servant in the Pakistan Civil Services, and he worked extensively in the hilly regions which serve as the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan (and Iran). These places are mostly inhabited by nomadic tribes who largely play by their own rules - nations and governments mean nothing to them. During his long tenure, Ahmad had the cha
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
Anum S.
This book has a very weird format. The weirdest I’ve read yet, because it seems to be composed of disparate short stories, which then link with each other with our protagonist as the common point. And of course other authors have also used this particular format of writing, some with quite a reasonable amount of success, but what’s weird here is that some of these short stories don’t seem to be able to stand on their own, reading as chapters in a larger narrative rather than as a cohesive whole ...more
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites

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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mar 21, 2020 marked it as did-not-finish
Bored me to tears, had to just let it go
Barbara Mitchell
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With a unique snippets-like format, this book takes the reader into the deeper recesses of the cultural landscape of the tribal region of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. To me it seemed like a mini narrative to challenge the modern world's prevalent conceptions of society, culture, and above all the strict laws ruling the international borders. Being a Pakistani who grew up marvelling in shock at each representation of the life in tribal areas via media (i.e. news and drama series), I must say t ...more
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Hope does not die like an animal - quick and sudden. It is more like a plant, which slowly withers away.

Jamil Ahmad spent most of his life working in the Pakistani Civil Service, a labor that stationed him in several remote territories along the Afghan border. He was also, for a time, posted as a minister to the embassy in Kabul. His long years tending to the concerns of these neighboring countries brought with them a comprehensive understanding and respect for the tribes and traditions he encou
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Bryn Hammond
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: steppe-fiction
In the cracks and interstices of modern states (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran) live people who do and do not belong; nomads and other tribal peoples who negotiate a life with several governments.

This short work is a tribute to them, an account of them in concise stories and anecdotes. The slow courtesies of speech; a tribes’ immense tactfulness towards an old chief who has lost most of his eyesight but leads them out in action nevertheless, when obligation calls; this same chief with his antiquat
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
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
Nov 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pakistan
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
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
Aug 30, 2011 rated it liked it
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 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.

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
رولا البلبيسي 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
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
ahmad  afridi
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
was impressed by writers insight about life and cultures of people dwelling on either side of Durand line , expressed through multiple short stories staring from balochistan to waziristan , tank , bannu tirah , mohmand and finally to chitral, the only link between these stories being TOR BAZ or black falcon. which is the least described character
no character building or plot in whole novel (if we can say it a novel).
the part i loved was description of my village Tirah . its almost been 9 years
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poco, south-asian
An elegy capturing the ugliness and beauty of people in the borderlands between South and Central Asia.

The text is really good at not exoticizing these peoples. The actions and mindsets are fully characterized, and consistent within the milieu these folks operate in; this is not a text about the alien nature of these folks. The text is also good not to fall into a Romantic trap of the noble savage. Tor Baz has a Romantic backstory, but the text problematizes this in its final three stories, sub
Rural Soul
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was in my to-read list for much time as my modest poetic senses were high after seeing it's title. Beautiful cover and equally poetic name.
It's a story of Tor Baz Khan, whose name literally means "Black Falcon". Born to a renegade lovebird couple and later left behind after his parents are killed. In later part of the novel, existence of Tor Baz doesn't really effect movement of plot. Whole novel is a more like a folk fable to introduce us to that remote world of tribal customs, histor
Mustafa Bilal
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I read about the book on the back cover, it did not ever cross my mind that that the book isn't a story about the wandering falcon. In fact he is a string with which stories are woven together. Stories of different tribes, strange, honorable, enchanting. As you read the nine stories, you are introduced to the wide variety of people stretching from Balochistan to Upper Chitral and then a little below. Jamil Ahmad sketches, with sharp wisdom and insights, the wanderings of Tor Baz. Sometimes we ...more
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"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
Atiqah Ghazali
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"What he told you that day was the secret of life itself. One lives and survives only if one has the ability to swallow and digest bitter and unpalatable things."

Divided into nine inter-linked short stories, this book follows the life of the main character, Tor Baz which means the black falcon. Sets in remote lands of Pakistan-Afghanistan borders, the readers will be introduced to many tribes that live, wander and relocate their whole livelihood by following the seasons.

It begins with how Tor B
Oct 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Intriguing and mesmerizing look at the tribes of Pakistan and Afghanistan and their customs through a series of vignettes. Each is connected through the figure of Tor Baz [the "wandering falcon" of the title]. He appears in each story. He is the illegitimate son of two lovers. He sees his parents killed before his eyes, lives in a garrison for several years, then with outlaws and a mullah. Then he strikes out on his own and wanders that bleak, mountainous country from tribe to tribe. The people ...more
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: a-little-deeper
We often don't think about how nomads are effected by borders and conflicts. The middle east is so different from America that the regular books are a cultural shock. This was even more of cultural shock, and I think it's important for that reason. It is written beautifully.
Lynne Perednia
Oct 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
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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

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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.” 14 likes
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