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Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award in Fiction and the 2009 Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. “The rural rootedness and gentle humour of R.K. Narayan with the literary sophistication and stylishness of Jhumpa Lahiri.”—Financial Times
Passing from the mannered drawing rooms of Pakistan’s cities to the harsh mud villages beyond, Daniyal Mueenuddin’s linked stories describe the interwoven lives of an aging feudal landowner, his servants and managers, and his extended family, industrialists who have lost touch with the land. In the spirit of Joyce’s Dubliners and Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Sketches, these stories comprehensively illuminate a world, describing members of parliament and farm workers, Islamabad society girls and desperate servant women. A hard-driven politician at the height of his powers falls critically ill and seeks to perpetuate his legacy; a girl from a declining Lahori family becomes a wealthy relative’s mistress, thinking there will be no cost; an electrician confronts a violent assailant in order to protect his most valuable possession; a maidservant who advances herself through sexual favors unexpectedly falls in love.
Together the stories in In Other Rooms, Other Wonders make up a vivid portrait of feudal Pakistan, describing the advantages and constraints of social station, the dissolution of old ways, and the shock of change. Refined, sensuous, by turn humorous, elegiac, and tragic, Mueenuddin evokes the complexities of the Pakistani feudal order as it is undermined and transformed.
In eight beautifully crafted, interconnected stories, Mueenuddin explores the cutthroat feudal society in which a rich Lahore landowner is entrenched. A complicated network of patronage undergirds the micro-society of servants, families and opportunists surrounding wealthy patron K.K. Harouni. In "Nawabdin Electrician," Harouni's indispensable electrician, Nawab, excels at his work and at home, raising 12 daughters and one son by virtue of his cunning and ingenuity qualities that allow him to triumph over entrenched poverty and outlive a robber bent on stealing his livelihood. Women are especially vulnerable without the protection of family and marriage ties, as the protagonist of "Saleema" learns: a maid in the Harouni mansion who cultivates a love affair with an older servant, Saleema is left with a baby and without recourse when he must honor his first family and renounce her. Similarly, the women who become lovers of powerful men, as in the title story and in "Provide, Provide," fall into disgrace and poverty with the death of their patrons. An elegant stylist with a light touch, Mueenuddin invites the reader to a richly human, wondrous experience.