A larger-than-life character whose musings, history, and adventures animate a rich, complex city.
Overweight and anxious, 70 years old, unmarried, and afflicted with terrible hemorrhoids, Abdullah, known as the Cossack, the middle son of five, has grown from a sensitive child through a wastrel youth into a self-educated, self-styled academic now burdened with a sense of mortality. His home is Currachee, or Karachi, the city in Pakistan, more specifically Sunset Lodge, the sizable house that was his childhood home, now shared with brother Babu, Babu’s wife, and their two children—the Childoos—whom Abdullah adores. Loquacious verging on garrulous, Abdullah narrates this self-mocking, wildly discursive, and often comic narrative dotted inexhaustibly with footnotes and archly grandiose chapter titles, like “On Negotiating Ontological Panic (or Down & Out).” From the welter of observations and digressions on poetry, religion, hotels, morality, metaphysics, digestion, and much more, multiple narrative strands slowly emerge. A jazz trumpeter nicknamed the Caliph of Cool, one of Abdullah’s acquaintances, asks Abdullah to take his grandson, Bosco, under his wing and build his character. Simultaneously, Abdullah makes a new friend, Jugnu, who, despite her gangster-boss protector, becomes the object of Abdullah’s amorous aspirations. And then there’s the family, several members of whom are in dispute with Abdullah over the future of Sunset Lodge. A love story, a caper, a family dust-up, a farce—prizewinning Pakistani writer Naqvi’s (Home Boy, 2009) second novel offers all these things, yet they matter less than its lovingly evoked milieu, the uniquely vibrant neighborhoods and characters, culture, history, architecture, and aromas of the city.
Infused with the spirit of Tristram Shandy, a sophisticated shaggy dog story for those happy to take the slow road and its many detours.