Declan Walsh is one of the New York Times's most distinguished international correspondents. His portrait of Pakistan over a tumultuous decade captures the sweep of this country through the dramatic lives of nine individuals.
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.
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.
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.