Winner of the inaugural DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, H.M. Naqvi follows his critically-lauded debut Home Boy with The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack, an enthralling novel about one unforgettable and gloriously unaccomplished man, his impending death, and the history and life of his bustling, shape-shifting city.
This exuberant account, featuring a protagonist as unlikely as he is appealing, is a true pleasure for its language and discourses on life, death, and what’s in between. The footnotes that stud the narrative and the appended family tree and glossary are both entertaining and erudite, as is this unusual novel itself.
... delirious love letter to the Karachi that was ... Behind these slapstick dramas, Mr. Naqvi colors in a vibrant portrait of the sprawling port city. Abdullah’s account, larded with footnotes and digressions, dilates on such subjects as history, horticulture, architecture, poetry, music and 'culinary anthropology ... Continuing in the tradition of cultural largess, Mr. Naqvi includes a recipe for a first-rate chicken karahi—a dish best served with a glass of Rooh Afza and, if you’re Abdullah, a chaser of insulin.
The footnotes occasionally crowd out the main text, with details that international readers may find exotic and mysterious, but with which local readers will already be familiar ... The book’s strength does not lie in its regurgitation of local history and folklore, but in its witty portrayal of the characters Karachi has to offer ... Through the use of a roman-à-clef, the author is able to create compelling caricatures that take on a life of their own.