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NOON by Aatish Taseer

NOON

By Aatish Taseer

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-86547-858-9
Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Despite an engaging narrator, this rambling novel is nearly centerless.

Taseer is interested in family relationships, especially estranged ones. (The opening sentence of Anna Karenina is appropriate here.) At the beginning of the story, Rehan Tabassum is on the way to see his long-lost father. Up till this point his life has for the most part been enviable—he’s grown up in Delhi with his mother, a lawyer, and his superrich industrialist stepfather, Amit Sethia. But the mystery at the center of his life is Sahil Tabassum, yet another (but real) superrich father (he’s made a fortune in the cell-phone business), a Pakistani Muslim. The journey to this core of identity begins with Rehan’s decision to visit his father in Pakistan, a year after the Kashmir earthquake. Along the way, we get familiar with Rehan’s story, a life of servants, wealth and entitlement. We learn of his past through flashbacks to significant life events with symbolic resonances. Taseer devotes a long chapter to a dinner party in which we see how Rehan’s stepfather is preoccupied, perhaps even obsessed, with notions of class and privilege. His values emerge most strongly when, during this dinner party, pretty much everything goes wrong. Another extended episode involves the theft of two laptops, a cover for a larger theft of a family safe. Here, when various servants are accused, we see how difficult it is to penetrate to the core of this relatively simple act of larceny—and how inept and corrupt are the investigators themselves. Rehan finally settles in with a “lost” brother, Isffy, who’s being blackmailed for making a pornographic video.

Throughout the novel, Taseer shifts easily from Rehan’s point of view to a more neutral narrative stance, but the overall impression is one of fragmentation rather than fullness of understanding.