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Longer Read: “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders” by Daniyal Mueenuddin

February 11, 2010

Earlier this week I finished reading In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, a collection of stories by Daniyal Mueenuddin centered around the estate of wealthy Pakistani landowner K. K. Harouni whose protagonists range from the quasi-feudal lord himself to an old nomad given work by his son’s American wife. The collection is sharply written, spare prose accompanied by the occasional flourish, which is itself, perhaps, a reflection of the Pakistan that he describes.

I read the book in part to gain some type of understanding of Pakistan, the most volatile country that also possesses a nuclear arsenal. What struck me most was the harshness (spare prose) of the society, especially for women. In two different stories, working-class women are essentially condemned to death when they fall out of favor with the masters – for less than justified reasons (i.e. the diffusion of an intimate relationship). There are moments (flourishes) of grace and joy – a young couple sit in solitude next to the Indus – but they belong almost exclusively to members of the upper classes. The Pakistan of this book is a country of rough edges which are, at times, smoothed by affluence.

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