Between Clay and Dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi


Between Clay and Dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi

Pakistan fiction

Musharraf Ali Farooqi is a Pakistani  -Canadian writer ,he briefly studied  engineering at university before turning to writing .He has so far published five novels and some children’s fiction ,one of his previous novels was shortlisted for the south Asian DSC prize and longlist for prestigious Impac prize .He spends his time between Canada and Pakistan ,he is also a translator of books from Urdu to english and is working on an online collection of Urdu Fiction and literature .

Ustad Ramzi was the head of a Pahlwan clan and the custodian of a wrestler’s akhara .He was a man of frugal speech and austere habits and appeared to some a stern man .His imposing stature .a heavy set jaw ,and upturned whiskers only reinforced this impression .He was one of those men who do not accept the futility and emptiness of life ,but who try continuously to give it meaning

Ustad described ,he is one proud chap .

So this was one of the writers that was new to me from this years longlist for the man asian and I may say the biggest surprise for on the surface a novel about wrestling didn’t really appeal .But no this is a great book in fact over christmas I called in my undiscovered Gem of the year .So the book it focus on two brothers Ustad Ramzi and his younger brother Tamami now Ustad is the best wrestler of his time and at his base ,called a Akhari ,he is joined by young men hoping to gleam the knowledge of the master .Now the younger brother is forgotten and considered maybe a bit of a loser and a burden by his older brother .That is part of the book the story of the brothers the other is a challenger to Ustad from another wrestler called Goher Jan he is younger than Ustad and is want Ustad’s postion of respect .A futher strand is to do with the changing face of the place new building old friends leaving and promoters getting involved in the wrestling scene .So as you see this has it all sporting drama ,family saga and commentary on the changing face of Pakistan society not bad for a book of just 212 pages .To find out what happens I suggest you buy it !


During the exhibition bout Ustad Ramzi observed Tamami prolonging the fight with Sher Ali .He angrily left the Akhara when he realized Tamami was doing something he  had expressly forbidden him to do .the trainees followed him .

Ustad sees his brother wrestle and get better but at what cost !

Now I have always been wary of sports related novels as I felt in the past some just don’t catch the feel of the sport or maybe the sport is just a small by line in the story and I ve been disappointed .But this book took a sport that I don’t watch these days I did grow up watch on a Saturday  the rather  they would overact and the action was quite tame at time professional wrestling on British TV in my youth with over the top character like Giant Haystacks and Big daddy .Well these guys in this book are serious about their wrestling  and train hard and take real pride in what they do .For them to be the best is to earn honour and a place with in the community around them  .Also this is a book about family but  brothers in particular  and the thing about one being a success and the other maybe not having it and being over shadow at times this is like something from Greek myths or classic literature .I do hope this finds a UK publisher as is a positive view of life in Pakistan and would maybe break down people ideas of the country .

Do you have a favourite sport based novel ?


The wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

The wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

Pakistan fiction

Man Asian longlist 2011

Jamil Ahmad has spent his life as a civil servant and working closely in the tribal regions of pakistan near the Afghan border ,working closely for nearly fifty years with them .This book he had written over years and it was sent by a member of his family for a short story prize  and end up being publish as it was in a novel form

Now wander falcon is set in that area of tribes that is now part of Afghanistan , Pakistan , Iran,part of which Robert Byron visit in the thirties in his book the road to Oxiana .THE book is told from a child that is found abandoned as his parents had broken tribal rules and had run off but he ends up alone in the desert , as he grows up ,in this sometimes harsh part of the world  .But this isn’t a book that is harsh on these people the one thing that shines through is the writers love for the region and the people living their .Now as a western a lot of what happens in the book can seem harsh when we see it on the news but when read here in context by some one that knows the people so well it comes across as  part of there society and tribal tradition .So we follow Tor Baz the abandon boy as he grows to be known as the black falcon  as he is adopted by one leader but then as he isn’t of that tribe wanders like a falcon hovering around the tribes ,this happens through nine chapters that in their own way are little stories that make up the novel as a whole with just Tor Baz appearing all the way through the book  and deal with various parts of his life . The book is set from the 1950s  before russia got heavily involved in Afghanistan thou they are mention also how the tribes got involved in the second world war .This is also the time before  the Taliban were not about .Even though it is in that time as the story of tribes and the warriors in them and the women unfold you feel this could be any time in the last five hundred years as the rich tribal traditions are so interwoven into the people Jamil describes it is imbedded in  there DNA this way of life  .

His hair gave credence to his tale .Even his eyebrows and eyelashes looked like freshly fallen snow clinging bravely to a cliff face .But then his energy and vitality seemed to belie his claim as he led his nomadic tribe ,year after year ,on their second migration from the afghan highlands .

A tribal leader sadar Karim Khan Kharot or the general described .

Jamil as shown in this passage has a poetic turn of phrase but the book is a simple narrative but done to perfection there is no need for clever writing as what he is writing is the world he has known for most of his life ,you feel he’s meet Tor Baz young men that drift these worlds due to fate and his parents bad luck at break rules  and also  tribal leaders ,but also the women come through not a the veiled weak figures that we sometimes see when this region is describe but a strong-willed females who are trying to make the way in a harsh male world in a harsh unforgiving part of the world .It’s fair to say I loved this book it was refreshing to read something that felt like a real portrayal of the tribes men not just our western view of them .

This was my review for the Shadow man asian judges Lisa has also review it very differently to my review

March 2023


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