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July 19, 2010 | by  | in Books | [ssba]

The Geometry of God


This is a Pakistani novel and it’s also a new release. That makes it a relevancy score for me, and a cultural high five for you. Set from the early 80s–2000, the story is one of family and philosophy, unfolding against a backdrop of religious fundamentalism, political unrest, and war. It’s one of those books where the foreigners are relatable because they actually speak English. It also makes you feel a bit racist once you realise how impressed you are that second-worlders are intellectual too.

But no matter. The Geometry of God reinforces as many stereotypes as it quashes, weaving in and out of three narrators’ minds as they describe their relationships with each other and the fourth main character with unique inflections. Amal, the elder granddaughter, budding palaeontologist and Eurhythmics lover, is a headstrong rebel who inherits her grandfather’s curiosity and is shunned for it. The younger granddaughter Mehwish is heartbreaking. Blinded through the negligence of a nanny, she learns the language of the sighted and sets the scene from her own uncorrupted, surprisingly astute perspective. Zahoor, their granddad, is the Pakistani Atticus Finch, only old and scientific. As a palaeontologist, heretical philosopher and lecturer, Zahoor’s magnetic intellect attracts freethinking Noman, the son of a reactionary Islamist leader whose political party makes it their mission to get Zahoor imprisoned for bastardising their religion.

Over the next twenty years the four try to protect each other from the thought police and the real police, finding love and lust along the way. It’s excellently written. Khan makes memories sound elegant, but honest, and she gives us just enough material to tread the waters of the human condition without drowning. That said, it isn’t the easiest read, and if you’re not good with conceptual undertones and non-linear narrative then maybe give this one a miss.

The Geometry of God
Author: Uzma Aslam Khan


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