DiscoverLiterary Fiction

Pureland

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Worth reading 😎

First half of the book is a great read.. Totally hooked on. Found the second half repetitive and slow. Characters could have been stronger.

Synopsis

Pureland is inspired by the true tragic story of a Nobel Prize winning physicist who was excommunicated by the country of his birth and who spent his entire adult life in exile due to his religious affiliations. It's a story of lost homelands and class discrimination told in the form of a love story, all through the lens of magical realism.

Set between a fictitious nation and New York City, the novel has been called "A gripping read" (Forbes), "A beautiful and powerful book" (The Express Tribune), "...a dramatic work of fiction" (Paul Theroux, award winning author), and "...a racy and entertaining read, especially for readers who like Rushdie" (The Hindu).

The book starts with the narrator confessing to the crime of killing Dr. Salim Agha. Whether his confession is out of remorse or guilt is to be discovered in the course of his narration. He takes the reader on a journey – a journey of Dr. Agha’s life and the circumstances that led to the day of the assassination. 


Back in his day, Salim was a child prodigy and his talent was recognised and honed by the feudal lord, General Khan. Through Salim’s childhood and then his schooling years, we are given a glimpse of the newly formed country, fresh from the partition. Class discrimination and politics were prevalent even then, but so was the dazzling night-life accompanied by expensive liquor.


It is during these years that Salim discovers his true identity, and falls in love with the General’s daughter. As the school-going boy progresses towards a young adult, he realises the charade he has been living all his life, compelling him to acknowledge his Ahmadi roots, with drastic results. A hasty dismal from the General and his daughter and Salim is on his way to the United States armed with a full-scholarship for one of the ivy leagues. If life for Salim had been unfair so far, he has a fresh set of hurdles to cross before he attains the prestigious doctorate degree. 


While this is pretty much the crux of the story, we have shades of ISIS (the Caliphate), religious hatred, the environment of a snooty boarding school, difficulties faced by a genius trying to achieve his potential and of-course intense emotions of an unrequited love. 


So what went wrong?


Unfortunately, a lot. The first 200 pages (out of 358) were beautifully crafted. The rising tension and the political situation kept me hooked on. However, post that mark the finesse in the writing went into a slump. I can count only 2-3 characters that had a distinct personality, others were just present in the background to be used as and when they were required in the story. The character development needed some work and more than their actions, their dialogues revealed the inner workings of their lives and mind. Instead of excessively focussing on the one-sided love story, Said could have easily spent more time in creating stronger characters. The last half of the book felt stretched and repetitive, the love-triangle felt forced and because of these let-downs the climax was a disappointment.


Read this book if you must. But I am eagerly waiting for Zarrar Said’s next work. A less ambitious story and a stronger editor is all that is needed to put him on the bestseller list.

Reviewed by

Books have defined my life since I was 10. I love to read and very recently have started writing about the books I've read. My reviews are very personal. I not only talk about the book, but also how I felt while reading it.

Synopsis

Pureland is inspired by the true tragic story of a Nobel Prize winning physicist who was excommunicated by the country of his birth and who spent his entire adult life in exile due to his religious affiliations. It's a story of lost homelands and class discrimination told in the form of a love story, all through the lens of magical realism.

Set between a fictitious nation and New York City, the novel has been called "A gripping read" (Forbes), "A beautiful and powerful book" (The Express Tribune), "...a dramatic work of fiction" (Paul Theroux, award winning author), and "...a racy and entertaining read, especially for readers who like Rushdie" (The Hindu).

Prologue

I think you were expecting someone else—a monster perhaps. Sorry to disappoint you, sir. I’m not who they say I am. Please, have a seat. I will tell you more. In a few days, as you know, I’ll be executed for the murder of Salim Agha. The charges levelled against me are of terror and barbarism. They say I am the Scimitar, the Sword of the Caliphate, sent forth by a brutal empire to unleash horror upon the West. Perhaps there’s some truth to that claim, perhaps not. I’ll let you be the judge. It’s true that I murdered Salim Agha and I alone will take the fall. But I believe we were all responsible for his death. Because we, the people of his nation, stood silently when the storm arrived, watching our culture and our way of life vanish before our eyes. The black flag of the Caliphate approached us like a giant broom and, just like that, swept everything away. They seized town after town, levelled our buildings, and snatched children from their mothers’ bosoms. That’s when entire nations faded. Darkness fell. Since then, every anecdote has been rewritten, our histories altered, and whatever lay there before is lost forever. We know that out of all the forgotten homelands this storm devoured, there was one that was revered by all. Yet the world didn’t even notice when, with an almost suddenness, Pureland disappeared. Salim’s legacy, and that of his beloved nation, Pureland, will perish with me when I die, and soon it will be as if he never existed at all. I have been unable to live with this reality. Had I gone to a hypnotist, instead of sitting here in your pleasant company, he might have extricated from my mind these taunting thoughts and absolved me of this remorse. But you’re not here to listen to a remorseful plea. You’re here to learn about the Caliphate, the assassin they call the Scimitar, and what compelled me to carry out this archaic execution. After all, it’s not every day that a person of your distinction enters these daunting walls. 

I see you are a bit overdressed for this place. Please, take off your jacket, loosen that tie, it gets quite warm in here. I would put away that pen and notebook too; you won’t need them. Just listen. You see, sir, at this very moment, Salim Agha lies in an abandoned cemetery in a forgotten town of this dominion we now call the Caliphate. On any given day you will find his grave pitilessly surrounded by trash and shit. The epitaph is obscured. Ruthless chiseling has left the inscription unrecognizable. For the townsmen, it’s just another heretic’s grave; no one knows who lies below the headstone, only that its violation is a celebrated custom. I can tell from your face that you find all this deeply unsettling. What was his crime, you ask? The answer: he fell in love. Sometimes, in a world like this, that’s all it takes. 

About the author

Zarrar Said was born in Lahore and spent his childhood between Dubai, Lahore and the US. He has an undergraduate degree in business from The Ohio State University and a graduate degree in quantitative finance from George Washington University. Zarrar currently lives and works in New York City. view profile

Published on June 20, 2020

Published by Global Collective Publishers

120000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Literary Fiction

Reviewed by

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