Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

This is a difficult book to review, although I must say from the start that I truly enjoyed it. If you read it, I have a suggestion. Pretend that you are at a library or an outdoor event, in a group gathered around to listen to a great storyteller. There is tea for everyone and perhaps some dates, nuts, and other little snacks. Then the 80 year old Jamil Ahmad begins to tell strange and wonderful stories about the people of the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He gives some idea of the harsh landscape and living conditions, but for the most part his stories are about the people he has worked among and understands. Tribal leaders who make their point in meetings through parables, men who treat their animals better than their women, women who nevertheless manage to exert influence on decisions for the tribe, children who know instinctively who to trust.

In short, this isn't a novel as you normally think of it. A child, the Falcon, who is 5 years old in the first story is the thread upon which Ahmad weaves his fictional tales. In another story he is 7, then 13, then a young man. He appears in each tale but sometimes only in a cameo appearance. The stories tell about the customs and unwritten laws by which the tribal people of this wild country govern their entire lives.

I've read a little about the city people of these countries but wanted to know more about the mysterious tribal people. This is Ahmad's first book, but I hope that even at his advanced age he will continue to tell these stories. I highly recommend this book.


  1. Sounds fascinating to find out about this part of the world from a person who knows.

  2. Interesting. Sounds to me like I'd rather hear these stories from him in person, as you suggest!

  3. Sounds sort of like Olive Kitteridge set in the east. Will have to try it!

  4. I like the way you set this up. You gave me a vision of a group of people sitting around and hearing the stories told. Isn't it sad that we don't have that happen much anymore?