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The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed
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The Collaborator

by Mirza Waheed

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This novel is narrated by an unnamed young man, the son of a headman in a small predominantly Muslim village in Indian controlled Kashmir in the early 1990s, whose four closest childhood friends have crossed the border into Pakistan to become freedom fighters after brutal government reprisals against the separatist movement. After a particularly violent crackdown by the Indian Army, the young man is "encouraged" by the local army captain and his humiliated and defeated father to work as a special assistant to the captain, in opposition to the militants and his own desire to join them.

The narrator then travels back to his idyllic and carefree childhood with his friends and family, before the appointment of the virulently anti-Muslim head of Kashmir and the electoral fraud that served as triggers to the uprisings that led to the bloody conflict throughout the region. The villagers suffer great hardship, as the Indian Army brutally punishes the families whose sons have joined the separatist movement, aided by local collaborators (not including the narrator). As the conflict becomes more intense and more villagers are tortured or killed, each family and each person must decide to stay in the village, or flee to an unknown destination, and an uncertain destiny. The narrator is also torn between loyalty to his father, who begs with his son to stay in the village and work for the Indian Army captain who regularly insults and tortures his people, and his desire for revenge and justice for his friends and neighbors.

The Collaborator is a superb and gripping debut novel, which is also an insightful and instructive book about the recent crisis in Kashmir, which I found difficult to put down after the first 20 pages. ( )
5 vote kidzdoc | May 10, 2011 |
The unnamed protagonist of Mirza Waheed's devastating debut novel grows up in "the forgotten last village before the border". The border is not really a border but – in official parlance – the Line of Control, which divides the former princely state of Kashmir between India and Pakistan; the time period is the early 1990s, when the confrontation between the Indian state and Kashmiris demanding azaadi (freedom) turned particularly violent. Such a place, in such a time, cannot remain forgotten very long.

Along the way, Waheed gives us a portrait of Kashmir itself. Away from the rhetorical posturing of India and Pakistan, he reveals, with great sensitivity and an anger that arises from compassion, what it is to live in a part of the world that is regarded by the national government as the enemy within, and by the government next door as a strategic puppet.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Guardian, Kamila Shamsie (Mar 5, 2011)
 
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"It is Kashmir in the early 1990s and war has finally reached the isolated village of Nowgam close to the Pakistan border. Indian soldiers appear as if from nowhere to hunt for militants on the run. Four teenage boys, who used to spend their afternoons playing cricket, or singing Bollywood ballads down by the river, have disappeared one by one, to cross into Pakistan and join the movement against the Indian army. Only one of their friends, the son of the headman, is left behind. The families in the village begin to think its time to flee, to search for a place of greater safety. But the headman will not allow his family to leave. And, whilst the headman watches his dreams give way beneath the growing violence, his son, under the brutal, drunken gaze of the Indian army captain, is seemingly forced to collaborate and go into the valley to count the corpses, fearing, each day, that he will discover one of his friends lying amongst the dead."-- Publisher description.… (more)

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