Aslam, Nadeem 1966-
ASLAM, Nadeem 1966-
PERSONAL: Born 1966, in Gujranwala, Pakistan; immigrated to England, 1980; son of a poet. Education: Studied at University of Manchester.
ADDRESSES: Home—London, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, A. A. Knopf, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
AWARDS, HONORS: Betty Trask prize, 1993, for Season of the Rainbirds; Author's Club Award for First Novel, 1993, for Season of the Rainbirds; Kiriyama Prize for Pacific Rim Books, 2005, for Maps for Lost Lovers.
Season of the Rainbirds (novel), Andre Deutsch (London, England), 1993.
Maps for Lost Lovers (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Born in Pakistan, Nadeem Aslam is the son of a poet who fled from the dictatorship of President Zia with his family when Nadeem was fourteen years old. The family settled in England, where Aslam first studied biochemistry at college before dropping out to devote himself to writing. His debut novel, Season of the Rainbirds, won two prestigious awards. With the prize money and various grants, Aslam settled down to write his second novel, Maps for Lost Lovers, which took eleven years to complete. To support himself, Aslam took on odd jobs at factories and building sites, working for a few months to accumulate the money that would support his writing for the rest of the year.
Season of the Rainbirds begins with the murder of a powerful judge in a Pakistani village and the revelation that a sack of letters, thought to have disappeared two decades earlier, has been found and is being returned to the village. When the two events are revealed to be linked, it soon appears that a number of influential people would rather those letters never arrive. Meanwhile, as the murder investigation uncoverd other secrets, national politics begins to intrude, and a dictator—modeled after General Zia—is almost assassinated. The result, according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, is a complex novel in which Aslam "lovingly explores the daily rhythms and beauties of the Islamic life of his youth, while providing insight into the turbulent modern history of his native land."
Maps for Lost Lovers is set in London where a community of Pakistani immigrants struggles to sustain the "daily rhythms" of Islamic life in a very different setting. At the center is a married couple with divergent outlooks. Social worker Shamas puts humanity first and is willing to accommodate the many ways people find happiness outside of traditional strictures. His wife, Kaukab, is a strict fundamentalist who puts the rules and regulations of Islam first and foremost. When Shamas's brother, Jugnu, and Jugnu's lover, Chanda, are murdered, the community is thrown into turmoil. For some, the lovers got what they deserved for abandoning Islamic ways and living in sin, while others view the tragedy as an example of why those ways must be rethought and in many cases abandoned. "Aslam depicts an insular ex-pat Pakistani community fighting to preserve its cultural heritage and losing the battle to its Western-born children—often quite violently," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "Though the writing is overwrought," noted Library Journal contributor Rebecca Stuhr, Aslam's "writing style adds an element of poetry to the bleak and seemingly loveless lives within." For a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "The great and genuine strength" of Maps for Lost Lovers "is the fairness with which Aslam presents all viewpoints (his portrayal of Kaukab, a woman of very real principle nevertheless tormented by the beliefs she holds with utmost sincerity, is a particular triumph)."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Guardian (London, England), January 26, 2004, Kamila Shamsie, "All You Need Is Love," review of Maps for Lost Lovers, p. 26.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2005, review of Maps for Lost Lovers, p. 241.
Library Journal, April 1, 2005, Rebecca Stuhr, review of Maps for Lost Lovers, p. 83.
Newsweek International, August 30, 2004, review of Maps for Lost Lovers, p. 57.
New York Times Book Review, May 22, 2005, Akash Kapur, review of Maps for Lost Lovers, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, October 4, 1993, review of Season of the Rainbirds, p. 65; March 7, 2005, review of Maps for Lost Lovers, p. 47.
Bookbrowse.com, http://www.bookbrowse.com/ (May 15, 2005), "Nadeem Aslam."
Newsline.com.pk, http://www.newsline.com.pk/ (December 20, 2005), Kamila Shamsie, "Writer at Heart: Nadeem Aslam Decides to Live the Life of the Quintessential Writer."