‘Homeland Elegies’ Sings for a Fading Dream of National Belonging

Hari Kunzru in The New York Times:

The city of Abbottabad, in the former North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, was named after James Abbott, a 19th-century British Army officer and player in the “Great Game,” the power struggle in Central Asia between the British and Russian Empires. Today it’s perhaps best known as the garrison town that sheltered Osama bin Laden before he was discovered and summarily executed by American Special Forces in 2011. When the narrator of Ayad Akhtar’s moving and confrontational novel “Homeland Elegies” goes there with his father in 2008 to visit relatives, he gets a lecture from his uncle about the tactical genius of 9/11, and his vision of a Muslim community based on principles espoused by the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, one that “does not bifurcate its military and political aspirations.”

The narrator, like Akhtar, is an American-born dramatist, whose own politics have been formed by a childhood in suburban Milwaukee and a liberal arts education. While he disagrees with his uncle, sitting in the man’s Raj-era bungalow with William Morris wallpaper, the narrator finds it easiest to listen without giving an opinion. His father, a staunch American patriot and future Trump voter, is enraged. “Trust me,” he snaps on the taxi ride home, “you don’t have a clue how terrible your life would have been if I’d stayed here.”

More here.