The acclaimed correspondent captures a country torn apart by military aggression and religious extremism, and tries to work out why he was expelled ... The subtitle of the book is Dispatches from a Divided Nation and the author criss-crosses those political, religious, ethnic and generational fault lines, assembling a portrait of the vast country of 220 million people through his travels and the lives of the nine compelling protagonists ... Walsh is a wonderful writer, with a gift for sketching an impression of a place, time and ambience with a few brief lines. He knows how to interweave travelogue with an account of the relentless tensions that always threaten to burst through each vignette in the book. What also shines through is the relish with which Walsh throws himself into the far corners of Pakistan, into crowds, celebrations and rites, with a drive born of fascination with the land and its people.
The question has confounded many: How does Pakistan stay alive? ... The New York Times foreign correspondent Declan Walsh is the latest to try to answer that question. In his new book, The Nine Lives of Pakistan: Dispatches From a Precarious State, he pulls from years of contact with sources on the ground, presenting nine narratives — each given its own chapter — to paint a vivid, complex portrait of a country at a crossroads ... Walsh’s writing is elegant and expressive. It does what the best foreign correspondence should: transport the reader ... Every character is fighting on his or her own front line in some way ... Walsh beautifully braids in brief history lessons, placing each voice in proper context and feeding a richer understanding for readers coming to the region fresh.
Although Mr. Walsh acknowledges the big strategic questions, there isn’t a wonky paragraph in 300 pages. Instead he portrays Pakistan through the stories of nine emblematic people (the 'nine lives' of his title). A 10th life—Mr. Walsh’s own—is the thread that ties this cast together ... The two most moving of Mr. Walsh’s portraits offer a window on Pakistan’s contrasts.
For the most part Walsh avoids the pitfalls [of the typical foreign correspondent], stitching together a variegated collage of an oft misunderstood country through in-depth profiles of nine Pakistanis. The common threads between this diverse lot are their contribution to the country’s shifting political tectonic plates and the fact that most died violent deaths. It is somewhat ironic how in the world’s fifth most populous country most of the lives the book traces were tragically cut short ... While Walsh tries his best to acclimate himself to the ethos of each place he visits, at times he emphasises exoticism over nuance... The Nine Lives of Pakistan does a thorough job of mapping the racial and ethnic taxonomy of the nation, from the honourable Balochs and hospitable Pashtuns to the class-conscious Punjabis and “resilient” Karachiites. Clear-sighted and exhaustive, these dispatches paint a scrupulously layered portrait of a country that defies easy explanations.
... the author’s decade-long stint in Pakistan has resulted in perhaps the best book on that infuriating, troubled, yet fascinating, nation in recent years ... Walsh’s narrative is interspersed by portrayals of some of the characters he interacted with.
Walsh is an engaging guide ... As a Pakistani reader, I found that some of the book’s cultural generalizations and summations tended toward exotica cliche, but the country’s contradictions have always ignited writers’ imaginations, and Walsh has an impeccable eye for detail ... an unquestionably illuminating and engaging book, but arriving in 2020, its insights feel dated, given the dramatic shifts in South Asia since Walsh reported from the region ... feels like a throwback to a waning era of the authoritative journalistic account of an exotic elsewhere. This is not only because of crumbling international norms of journalistic access, as Walsh experienced, or shrinking foreign bureaus, but also because of the decentralizing and anti-establishment mood of the socially networked age. In an increasingly globalized media landscape, American readers could benefit from supplementing Walsh’s dispatches with local voices and more diverse sources. One of the blurbed reviewers on the book’s cover describes it as the single book one needs to read to understand Pakistan. It certainly succeeds as an elegantly crafted memoir of a gifted journalist, but in a shift from my own younger admiration for the grizzled foreign correspondent, I’d hesitate to call it a definitive account of a country very much still in motion.
In chapter after chapter, Walsh teases out the moral schizophrenia of a place 'with layered complex identities that often looked different in public or in private.' ... Many have fixated on whether Pakistan, with its nuclear arsenal, will survive. But perhaps that is not the right question. Walsh’s book is a reminder of a fate worse than disintegration.
Journalist Walsh debuts with an immersive and splendidly written portrait of Pakistan based on the nine years he spent in the country reporting for The Guardian and the New York Times ... Rich with incisive historical context, astute cultural analysis, and evocative language, Walsh’s account brings Pakistan’s contradictions to fascinating life. This masterfully reported account deserves a wide readership.
Working back from when he was mysteriously expelled from Pakistan in 2013, journalist Walsh portrays the paroxysms that regularly grip this troubled country ... Some readers may wish for an epilogue or afterword that brings the story up to the present, but overall, this is a well-written, journalistically sound report. A dogged reporter and fluid writer offers a glimpse inside a seemingly impenetrable country, a 'land of broken maps.'