My review of Daniyal Mueenuddin’s “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders”

"A Very Different Pakistan," my review of Daniyal Mueenuddin's story collection In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, appears in the 5 November 2009 issue of the New York Review of Books. You need an electronic subscription to the NYRB in order to read my article online; to buy one, or to buy an old-fashioned ink-on-paper subscription, click here.

Mueenuddin has been nominated for a National Book Award in fiction, which he surely deserves. The New York Times published an interesting profile of him in July. As you'll see if you read my review, I was struck by the parallels between Mueenuddin and the nineteenth-century Russian novelist Turgenev. Sometime after finishing my review, I discovered yet another such parallel. Mueenuddin's description of a woman's scorn for her father's new lover struck me as sharp and amusing, and I quoted it in my review:

When the lover speaks up one day at lunch, Mueenuddin brilliantly captures the daughter's scorn: "Sarwat looked at her in amazement, as if the furniture had spoken."

It turns out that Turgenev used a similar metaphor in Virgin Soil, to describe the scorn that the landowner Sipyagin came to feel for Nezhdanov, the young anarchist whom he had hired as a tutor for his son:

For Sipyagin, Nezhdanov had become simply a piece of furniture, or an empty space, which he utterly—it seemed utterly–failed to remark! These new relations had taken shape so quickly and unmistakably, that when Nezhdanov during dinner uttered a few words in reply to an observation of his neighbour, Anna Zaharovna, Sipyagin looked round wonderingly as though asking himself, "Where does that sound come from?"

I don't know whether this is Mueenuddin's clever homage to Turgenev, or an example of great minds running on similar tracks. In either case, I highly recommend Mueenuddin's book.