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The Golden Legend: A novel by Nadeem Aslam
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The Golden Legend: A novel

by Nadeem Aslam

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Showing 5 of 5
I loved this book. I thought the characters were wonderfully written and the story was in turn heartbreaking, painful, joyous and hopeful. Others have summarised better than I can, so all I'm going to write is 'read this book' it will stay with you. ( )
  sachesney | May 26, 2018 |
I can't help but compare this novel--favorably--to Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, a much awaited book that I found, in the end, disappointing. Both touch on the hot button issue of Kashmir, and both revolve around the cruel effects of religious fanaticism, especially when combined with the government in power. But Aslam succeeds in giving us characters that are both more believable and more conflicted.

Nargis and Massud are middle-aged architects living in the fictional Pakistani city of Zamara. They have taken Helen, the bright daughter of a Christian servant, Lilly, under their wing. While they are engaged in moving books from a library, they witness an assassination attempt on an American diplomat (or is he a CIA agent?), and, tragically, Massud is struck and killed by a stray bullet. He dies in Nargis's arms, clutching a book written by his uncle--a book that will figure symbolically as the novel progresses. The government is pressuring Nargis and the other victims' survivors to forgive the American who killed them in exchange of a large cash payment. Under Sharia law, if they make statements of forgiveness, the shooter will be released from prison--and the government can exact rewards and favors from the US. Nargis refuses, kicking off a chain of increasingly brutal events.

In a country that we tend to think of as so absolutely Muslim, more complicated relationships exist. Although Nargis married and has lived as a Muslim, we learn that she was born a Christian and that her name was Margaret. She never converted, just accepted a mistake in her name made at school because it made life easier; not even Massud knew the truth. As the story progresses, we learn more about the uncle and sister that she left behind. And Nargis is not the only one with secrets: Lilly, a Christian, is engaged in an affair with the widowed daughter of the local imam. Her husband's brother and his cohorts, radical Islamists who have taken control of the mosque, insist that Aysha,, considered a martyr's wife, must never remarry, and they have begun broadcasting citizens' secrets from the minaret, stirring up hatred and violence in the community that lead to further tragedies.

Enter a young man named Imran, a Kashmiri who has fled from an ISIS training camp. By chance, he befriends Nargis and Helen, and after the crowd turns on the women, the three of them help each other to survive. Their story, and other small acts of kindness, bring occasional rays of hope into the novel--hope that fear, hatred, and fanaticism can be overcome, that people can see what they share beyond their superficial differences and learn to respect, like, and even love one another. In the midst of so much anger and horror--both in the book and in our current world--we would do well to remember this. But this is no happily-ever-after fantasy: Aslam brings the ugly truth to his pages. As in real life, some prosper, some do not, and some simply are never heard from again.

The Golden Legend is an important novel that hopefully more Americans will want to read. It is beautiful. It is horrifying. It is hopeful. It reminds us that, despite everything, we must persist. ( )
3 vote Cariola | Feb 21, 2018 |
A beautifully written and incredibly moving story about the destructive nature of religious division - and perhaps, ultimately, of religion itself. The novel follows three people displaced by the consequences of suspicion and hatred in contemporary Pakistan where Christians, moderate Muslims, and militants cannot find a space to share in civic life. But amid this grim and seemingly hopeless situation, Aslam tells a story of human connection and the things that really matter and how they can encourage us to rise above the worst of human nature. ( )
  katiekrug | Jun 3, 2017 |
In shimmering and exquisite prose the author rails against the various forms of religious bigotry and hatred in a dystopian Pakistan: a wife, Nargis,and her Muslim husband, Masood, who are architects where the wife lives a lie--a Christian taking on a Muslim identity; a young Christian girl, Helen, they consider their protégé; her widowed father, Lily, in love with a Muslim cleric's daughter and she him; the love between Helen and a young Kashmiri, Imran, a former guerrilla fighter. His ideals have been betrayed by the training camp but not lost completely. Absolutely unforgettable story and characters! Although not completely clear towards its finale, the story ends on a note of optimism. A book written by Masood's father, telling of how all cultures have borrowed from each other and from that we can assume that all men are at base, brothers, figures strongly in the novel.

Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | May 23, 2017 |
Showing 5 of 5
"Nadeem Aslam’s powerful and engrossing fifth novel,...Despite the misery and cruelty it depicts, “The Golden Legend” is a heartening book, largely because of Aslam’s faith in the integrity and courage of his main characters and, one supposes, of real people like them."
added by theaelizabet | editThe New York Times, Francine Prose (May 19, 2017)
 
There are irritants – flat dialogue and perhaps too much symbolism. Even so, this urgent, undeniably passionate and wayward novel convinces through the sheer cumulative force of its intent and a random array of dazzling anecdotes and historical references, which help deflect the brutalities of religious fanaticism at its most unforgiving.
added by theaelizabet | editThe Irish Times, Eileen Battersby (Jan 4, 2017)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0571330746, Paperback)

When shots ring out on the Grand Trunk Road, Nargis's life begins to crumble around her. Her husband, Massud-a fellow architect-is caught in the cross fire and dies before she can confess her greatest secret to him. Now under threat from a powerful military intelligence officer, who demands that she pardon her husband's American killer, Nargis fears that the truth about her past will soon be exposed. For weeks someone has been broadcasting people's secrets from the minaret of the local mosque, and, in a country where even the accusation of blasphemy is a currency to be bartered, the mysterious broadcasts have struck fear in Christians and Muslims alike. When the loudspeakers reveal a forbidden romance between a Muslim cleric's daughter and Nargis's Christian neighbor, Nargis finds herself trapped in the center of the chaos tearing their community apart. In his characteristically luminous prose, Nadeem Aslam has given us a lionhearted novel that reflects Pakistan's past and present in a single mirror, a story of corruption, resilience, and the disguises that are sometimes necessary for survival-a revelatory portrait of the human spirit.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 03 Jan 2017 19:09:06 -0500)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"A brave, timely, searingly beautiful novel from the acclaimed author of The Blind Man's Garden: set in contemporary Pakistan, the story of a Muslim widow and her Christian neighbors whose community is consumed by violent religious intolerance When shots ring out on the Grand Trunk Road, Nargis's life begins to crumble around her. Her husband, Massud--a fellow architect--is caught in the cross fire and dies before she can confess her greatest secret to him. Now under threat from a powerful military intelligence officer, who demands that she pardon her husband's American killer, Nargis fears that the truth about her past will soon be exposed. For weeks someone has been broadcasting people's secrets from the minaret of the local mosque, and, in a country where even the accusation of blasphemy is a currency to be bartered, the mysterious broadcasts have struck fear in Christians and Muslims alike. When the loudspeakers reveal a forbidden romance between a Muslim cleric's daughter and Nargis's Christian neighbor, Nargis finds herself trapped in the center of the chaos tearing their community apart. In his characteristically luminous prose, Nadeem Aslam has given us a lionhearted novel that reflects Pakistan's past and present in a single mirror, a story of corruption, resilience, and the disguises that are sometimes necessary for survival--a revelatory portrait of the human spirit"--… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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