Mueenuddin and Turgenev

Daniyal Mueenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Wonders has been compared to various works by nineteenth-century Russians – especially Turgenev, one of Mueenuddin's influences. Contemporary Pakistan as seen by Mueenuddin is disturbingly reminiscent of Turgenev's Russia -- a place where the impact of Westernization is powerfully destabilizing.

There are also temperamental affinities between Turgenev and Mueenuddin. Belonging to the intelligentsia of a failing state must be conducive to melancholy.

The way Mueenuddin tells it, the Westernized elite of the Punjab like to party, but they treat their servants like serfs. The justice system is mind-bogglingly corrupt, and there's no safety net for the poor. To me it was surprising how little of a role Islam played in the lives of Mueenuddin's characters – the overall impression is of Paksitan as a feudal, patriarchal, yet largely secular state.

“Lily” is my favorite story in the collection, although I'm not sure the ending is fully earned. “A Spoiled Man” is possibly the best story in the collection, and certainly the most depressing.

A story of Mueenuddin's you can read online is “Home." It isn't in In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, but is similarly bitter and poignant.

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