01 November 2007

indistinct figures

Karim and Raheen are blissfully naive. Karim is obsessed with maps and wants to be a mapmaker when he grows up. He studies atlases and sees no reason why he cannot walk along the seabed from Pakistan to England. To him, it is obvious, he can trace the route with his finger.

Raheen's naivety is just as simplistic but sadder, still. She recalls a conversation with a friend. After watching a video showing what Raheen referred to as
"thousands and thousands of lights strung beneath a velvet-black starry sky"
She tells the friend it is a beautiful sight, on;y to be told that the lights are the lights of refugee camps.

Despite their childlike oblivion, they are bright and intuitive. Raheen and Karim speak in anagrams, their way of keeping others out. As a reader I find myself becoming familiar with their 'language' and soon I know what they mean by 'vole' (love) and 'oh me' (home).

Despite the descriptions of Karachi and the surrounding sunstruck farmland, I don't feel that I have got to know Pakistan. I don't seem any more knowledgeable about the place. But, Kamilla Shamsie created such deep characters in Raheen and Karim that I haven't had time to stop and take in the sights. I shall miss their insights and a small part of me is sad that I cannot be part of their tight and closed friendship.

the navigator

too near the surface

Kartography is a novel about violence and politics, corruption and inequality. But most of all it is about love. Raheen loves Zia. Zia loves himself and nobody really understands Karim enough to know what or who he loves. Set against a backdrop of a terrible hot summer, the teenage characters try to understand the mistakes of their parents and the confusion of their government.

In the beginning of the book, Karim and Rahhen - best friends since birth, are thirteen. It is the late 1980's but references are made to 1971 when as Raheen's father puts it "the music changed". 1971 is an important date for the characters of Kartography. It is the year when their parents met and crucially when the civil war between East and West Pakistan took place. A subject which is gently alluded to throughout the book.

the navigator