Blasts from the Past: Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam (2004)

Cover image This is the latest in a series of occasional posts featuring books I read years ago about which I was wildly enthusiastic at the time, wanting to press a copy into as many hands as I could.

I remember being deeply impressed with Nadeem Aslam’s writing when I first read Maps for Lost Lovers, not just because of its multi-faceted beauty but also because of his bravery in exploring relationships and tensions within a Pakistani community with no holds barred. It took him eleven years to complete, an indication of the dedication involved in making each chapter ‘like a Persian miniature’ and, perhaps, of the degree of soul-searching required for such unflinching honesty.

Chanda and Jugnu love each other dearly but are unable to marry until Chanda’s husband can be persuaded to divorce her. Instead they set up house together becoming the object of gossip and judgement. Their failure to return from a trip to Pakistan eventually results in the arrest of Chanda’s brothers for the couple’s murder. Jugnu’s brother Shamas, the respected director of the local Community Relations Council, and his devout wife Kaukab find their most cherished beliefs challenged as they try to cope with their distress and the uncertainty which ripples throughout both their lives and the tightly knit community in which they live. Aslam’s debut traces the year following Jugnu and Chanda’s disappearance. It’s a novel in which anger is balanced with compassion and tenderness for many of its characters, in particular for Kaukab who deludes herself that Pakistan is an earthly paradise but who is wracked by the reactions of her children to her piety, and for Shamas an educated liberal man who endures great pain and humiliation.

And what about you, any blasts from the past you’d like to share?

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10 thoughts on “Blasts from the Past: Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam (2004)”

  1. I remember just loving the cover of this book,and some parts of the story, but overall, at the time, I think I was wanting it to be something else (I was really into maps in general, then, and I don’t think it was enough about maps to satisfy that particular urge – more metaphorical no doubt). Meantime, I’ve discovered another of his books and thought it was just beautiful – so I know it must only have been timing for me with this other story.

    As for other blasts from past reading selves, I think, back then, I was freshly infatuated with Barbara Kingsolver. I remember she was one of a few whose stories I would find a way to purchase in hardcover, whereas mostly I had to wait for a paperback to be published more economically.

    1. Ah, perhaps you’ll go back to it some day.

      I loved the early Kingsolvers – The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven and Animal Dreams – but was unmoved by The Poisonwood Bible although I think I’m probably in the minority there.

    1. It’s beautifully written, isn’t it. I also thought it was a brave and important book. I don’t remember it getting a huge amount of review coverage when it was published but perhaps I’m wrong.

  2. I read this when it came out in paperback and although much of the detail now escapes me I do remember liking it a great deal. Thanks for the perceptive reminder, Susan. 🙂

  3. I was really, really enamoured with Milan Kundera in my youth, especially The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I suspect I wouldn’t read it with quite the same amount of passion and reverence nowadays.

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