Abidi, Azhar 1968–
Abidi, Azhar 1968–
∗ Indicates that a listing has been compiled from secondary sources believed to be reliable, but has not been personally verified for this edition by the author sketched.
PERSONAL: Born 1968, in Wan, Pakistan; immigrated to Australia, 1994; married; children: two. Education: Attended the University of London; attended university in Australia, M.B.A.
ADDRESSES: Home—Melbourne, Australia. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Penguin Group, Viking Publicity, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.
CAREER: Writer. Cipher, literary magazine, Karachi, Pakistan, cofounder and editor, 1993–94. Melbourne, Australia, funds manager. Worked as an engineer in Germany and Pakistan.
Passarola Rising (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 2006.
Also contributor of articles and stories to the Guardian Weekly, Meanjin, and The Best Australian Essays 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Azhar Abidi is a Pakistani author residing in Australia. His debut novel, Passarola Rising, was published in the United States in 2006. A funds manager by day, Abidi had earlier published a fanciful essay in an Australian literary magazine purporting to prove the existence of flying carpets and to explain the technology behind them. The tongue-in-cheek piece caught the attention of editors, and Abidi's first novel finally found its way to an American agent. More flying fantasy is captured in Passarola Rising. Jane Sullivan, writing in the Australian newspaper The Age, explained: "Set in eighteenth-century Portugal, Brazil, France, Poland, Lapland and the stratosphere, [the book] describes the exploits of two brothers who invent and sail a flying ship." The lead character is based on an actual historical personage, the Brazilian priest Bartolomeu Lourenco de Gusmao, and Abidi supplies him with a fictional younger brother, Alexandre. Bartolomeu invents a flying ship two centuries before the Wright brothers, and thereafter becomes a target of the Portuguese Inquisition. He and his brother leave Portugal for France and adventures throughout Enlightenment Europe and beyond.
Abidi's first novel earned praised from many quarters. James Ley, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, found the book "an energetic and witty historical fantasy," as well as "a strong debut that reveals Abidi to be a novelist of great intelligence and inventiveness." Reviewing the American edition, a contributor for Publishers Weekly thought Passarola Rïsing was "a wonderfully fanciful realization of Bartolomeu's aeronautical ambitions." Timothy Peters, however, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, complained that the same novel was "a historical allegory in which conversations typically sound more like Socratic dialogues than human communication." Peters concluded that the book was "more didactic than entertaining." While in part agreeing with such criticism, Alexander McCall Smith, writing in the New York Times Book Review, felt that the novel's "exuberance and bravado" made up for such deficits. Smith dubbed Abidi a "talented writer who will, I suspect, keep us thoroughly entertained in the future." For a Kirkus Reviews critic, Passarola Rising is "a spirited story, engagingly told." Similar praise came from Booklist contributor Sarah Johnson, who called the book a "whimsical historical fable," and from Library Journal contributor Lisa Rohrbaugh, who found the same work "a thoroughly enjoyable, enchanting story, both beautifully written and uplifting."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), February 11, 2006, Jane Sullivan, review of Passarola Rising.
Booklist, December 15, 2005, Sarah Johnson, review of Passarola Rising, p. 22.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2005, review of Passarola Rising, p. 1241.
Library Journal, January 1, 2006, Lisa Rohrbaugh, review of Passarola Rising, p. 92.
Meanjin, December, 2003, Azhar Abidi, "Sanctuaries: Azhar Abidi Offers Two Vignettes of a Trip to Nepal," p. 49.
New York Times Book Review, March 19, 2006, Alexander McCall Smith, "The View from Up Here," review of Passarola Rising.
Publishers Weekly, November 14, 2005, review of Passarola Rising, p. 44.
San Francisco Chronicle, January 22, 2006, Timothy Peters, "Rising above Religion in a Flying Sailboat," review of Passarola Rising.
Sydney Morning Herald, February 4, 2006, "Engineer Creates World of Romance and Mystery"; February 20, 2006, James Ley, review of Passarola Rising.
Curled Up with a Good Book, http://www.curledup.com/ (April 28, 2006), Luan Gaines, review of Passarola Rising.
PEN American Center, http://www.pen.org/ (April 28, 2006), "Azhar Abidi."