An American Pilot, a Muslim Teenager and a Talking Dog All Caught in an Absurd War

Karan Mahajan in the New York Times:

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have gone on so long that the Middle East war novel has itself become a crusty genre — a familiar set of echoes coming back to us from ravaged lands. Many of these books are stirring on the level of detail but an equal number thoughtlessly valorize the American soldier or wallow in the morally vacuous conclusion that war is hell and that’s that. Where is the ferocious “Catch-22” of these benighted conflicts? Who will have the temerity to make these wars the subject of bracing comedy?

Mohammed Hanif, who at 54 is among the most revered Pakistani novelists of his generation, comes with an obvious pedigree to pull off such a stunt. A celebrated satirist and former air force fighter pilot, he has been profiled by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker and is reliably one of the subcontinent’s most contrarian and provocative voices. One pores over his Op-Eds in The New York Times savoring his insouciant bons mots, which encompass everything from India-Pakistan warmongering (“Schoolyard brawls have a more nuanced buildup”) to yoga instructors (“Drill sergeants trapped in poets’ bodies”). His greatest strength, though, in writing about an American war might be that he is not American. He is less likely to soften his work with patriotic (or even anti-patriotic) pieties that put America — as opposed to its victims — dead center.

More here.