Partition of the heart

From The Guardian:

Stranger140 Aatish Taseer grew up in secular, pluralist India. His early influences included his mother's Sikhism, a Christian boarding school, and He-Man cartoons. Nagging behind this cultural abundance, however, was an absence: of his estranged father, the Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer.

The best of Stranger to History is the son's journey of the subtitle: the movement towards – and away from – his father's world. Taseer describes the embarrassment, frustration and occasional joy of meeting his father and half-siblings, and of approaching a cultural and national identity which painfully excludes him. Alternating with this story is a more generalised journey into Islam, from the Leeds suburb that produced the 7/7 bombers, through Istanbul, Damascus and Mecca, to Iran and Pakistan. On the way Taseer observes the “cartoon riots”, is interrogated by Iranian security officials and watches the response in his father's Lahore home to Benazir Bhutto's assassination. The writing is elegant and fluent throughout, the characters skilfully drawn.

In Pakistan Taseer concentrates on particularities, and here his writing is particularly good. His descriptions of rural Sindh and the troubled feudal landowner he finds there are unforgettable. By depicting the homes deserted by the Hindu middle class and the crumbling shrines where Hindus and Muslims once prayed together, he makes his parents' separation an image of the rupture of partition, one of the two great ethnic cleansings of 1947 whose effects still plague us all. For Taseer, unified, diverse India becomes a father-sized absence.

More here.