Political humor is not for everyone because someone is going to be the butt of the joke. But by taking real life events and adding a fictional plot makes the punchline a little better. It also helps when the point you are making is self-evident and that is the case in The Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif. Read our book review below!
The Case of Exploding Mangoes: Summary
On August 17, 1988, President of Pakistan General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq is killed in a plane crash along with members of his senior army officials. Also on the flight is the US Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel.
After being told of the plane crash, we taken back in time a couple of weeks. Ali Shigri’s father has recently passed away after reportedly committing suicide. Ali does not believe he committed suicide and plans to get revenge. However, before he can, his friend and dorm mate Obaid goes missing and suspicion falls on Ali.
President Zia has a bad feeling that someone is trying to kill him. That makes him not trust anybody and turn on “Code Red.” Nobody who is a threat is allowed to get near the president. His second in command General Akhtar Abdur Rahman is responsible for protecting the president and has his eyes and ears on every small thing that happens in Pakistan.
Ali is detained and is questioned about Obaid’s disappearance. Throughout the novel, we learn more and more about the days leading to Obaid’s disappearance and what actually happened. Will they let Ali go or will he be killed for being considered a threat to the president?
The events of the plan crash are real. President (of Pakistan) Zia did die in a plane crash in 1988 along with a bunch of his senior army members. And the US ambassador was also on that tragic flight. There were a lot of conspiracies surrounding the crash and many speculated that it was an assassination and not the plane malfunctioning.
Hanif is a journalist and has covered the story intensly. He has tried to interview relatives of the passengers on the plane but has had no luck. His obsession and lack of answers is why we got a comic novel of president Zia. We get smart commentary and criticism of Zia’s harsh rule and the U.S.’s role in the middle eastern politics that was evidently self-contradictory.
Because of the subject matter, not everyone will be a fan of this novel However, a discourse is always important and pushes the conversation forward. Hanif does not hold back and gets a bunch of jokes in along the way.
The novel ended up winning a bunch of awards and rightfully so. I could not put the novel down and had to know what was going to happen to Ali. And even with the climax being spoiled one page in, you still want to know how those events came to be.