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A Case of Exploding Mangoes

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  7,273 Ratings  ·  780 Reviews
Teasing, provocative, and very funny, Mohammed Hanif’s debut novel takes one of the subcontinent’s enduring mysteries and out if it spins a tale as rich and colourful as a beggar’s dream.

Why did a Hercules C130, the world’s sturdiest plane, carrying Pakistan’s military dictator General Zia ul Haq, go down on 17 August, 1988?
Was it because of:

1. Mechanical failure
2. Huma
Hardcover, 329 pages
Published May 20th 2008 by Bond Street Books (first published 2008)
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Tea Jovanović
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... :)
Jul 02, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lal, Omar, Steph, Manu, Nethra
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 Occupa
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 irreleva
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-fiction
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
Jennifer (aka EM)
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.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
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 s
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comic-novel, asia
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.
Ben Babcock
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-co ...more
Jun 04, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 fictio ...more
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 appealin
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-fiction
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
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'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; yo
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 a ...more
Ana Ovejero
Jul 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 instru
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. /sigh

Ah well, on with the show. What the book is really about, is the sudden firey,
Mah-i-kan Kurd
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
You can blame our men in uniform for anything but you can never blame them for being imaginative

God's glory. God's glory. For every monkey there is a houri

Screams that echo through your body but get stuck in your throat

What do the ISI investigate?
What they don't know

Roses are red. Violets are blue. This country is khaki

Turning my loneliness into solitue

You want freedom and they give you chicken korma

Be it the land or the rivers, it's all under our wings

Soldier just soldier on

This book was recomm
Jul 21, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 diff ...more
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 wa
Jul 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☯Emily by: NYU literature class
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, h
Fathima Cader
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
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.
Apr 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Krishna Sruthi Srivalsan
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 crash
Nancy Oakes
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 pri ...more
Nazmi Yaakub
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 d
Justin Podur
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
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 boo
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 t
Alicia Farmer
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I feel a bit sheepish applying a 5 star rating to a book that may be run-of-the-mill for the spy/military genre. But I've never read a John Le Carre or Martin Cruz book to know how this compares. I also suspect this is more literary than their works. In fact, it reminded me more than a little of Garcia Marquez's works, at least those with frustrated generals and peasants.

I gave it five stars because despite its being set in Pakistan, a region of the world which has no appeal to me for its escape
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although a black comedy this book is a timely read as it reminds us that 40 years of pouring in billions to Afghanistan and Pakistan has not resulted in any structural change that actually helps any Pakistani or Afghan, but instead has just created a different source of graft. Most of the characters in this novel are actual government and military officials, and he accuses former General Beg, who is still living, of mass murder, albeit in a book of fiction- telling that no one comments about tha ...more
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  • The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan
  • Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy
  • The Khyber Pass: A History of Empire and Invasion
  • Pakistan: A Hard Country
  • Story-Wallah: Short Fiction from South Asian Writers
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Mohammed Hanif is a Pakistani writer and journalist. He was born at Okara. He was graduated from Pakistan Air Force Academy as a pilot officer but subsequently left to pursue a career in journalism. He initially worked for Newsline, The Washington Post and India Today. In 1996, he moved to London to work for the BBC. Later, he became the head of the BBC's Urdu service in London.

Source: http://en.w
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“The generals who had called Zia a mullah behind his back felt ashamed at having underestimated him: not only was he a mullah, he was a mullah whose understanding of religion didn't go beyond parroting what he had heard from the next mullah. A mullah without a beard, a mullah in a four-star general's uniform, a mullah with the instincts of a corrupt tax inspector.” 24 likes
“basic military rule: you manage your anger by kicking ass, not by rearranging the furniture in your room.” 8 likes
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