In an unnamed English town, Jugnu and his lover Chanda have disappeared. Rumours abound in the close-knit Pakistani community and then, on a snow-covered January morning, Chanda’s brothers are arrested for murder. Telling the story of the next twelve months, Maps for Lost Lovers opens the heart of a family at the crossroads of culture, community, nationality and religion.
Wrapped in some gorgeous prose, Maps for Lost lovers demands discussion. It’s a daring book, one that attempts to make Muslims as well as migrants in general more human than they are often portrayed by the media. Not only does Aslam tackle the unpalatable parts of Islam but also shows a community’s response to an all too real tragedy.
The central theme of the book is the disgusting practise of so-called ‘honour killings’ and how they impact on a close knit group, yet there is so much more to this melancholy story, exploring love, desperation, loneliness, seclusion and loss in everyday life, far from their homeland and extended family.
The meeting of modern thinking against the traditional, all to the backdrop of an alien cultural experience is; for both the characters and for readers thought-provoking. Such ideas in close proximity should be brought to the fore and as the world is getting smaller and the time for debate and understanding of each other is immediate.
The chosen isolation of some Muslim groups is troubling, insularity leads to misunderstanding, fear and control over the uneducated. The characters motivations for coming to England are explored and with well-rounded personalities with plenty of depth, even the least likeable of the main players have their moments. Each is seen showing doubt over aspects of their beliefs (be they religious or ethical), especially those which are blatantly biased in favour of men and relegate women to being merely property.
The unease felt by the immigrants and their defensiveness and willingness to see the bad in their neighbouring cultures is a neat mirror imaging of the local inhabitants of the northern town they reside in. The closely isolated society is as racist as the local whites people can be, in a neat balancing act this is shown by the woman whose son feels he can walk to the mosque alone so she phones up all the people she knows on the way to keep an eye on him because ‘every day you hear about depraved white men doing unspeakable things to little children’. Yet a similar fate awaits many young girls as an accepted part of their own belief system. Continue reading “Maps for Lost Lovers – Nadeem Aslam”