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ISBN 0156029731 / 9780156029735 / 0-15-602973-1
Publisher Mariner Books
› Find signed collectible books: 'Kartography'
Kartography is Kamila Shamsie's impressive third novel. At its heart is rather a traditional love story-cum-family saga. Karim and Raheen are anagram swapping "fated friends". Until the age of 13, when Karim moved to London, they were virtually raised as brother and sister. Their parents had once been engaged to each other. The unravelling of quite why this matrimonial square dance occurred is juxtaposed with Karim and Raheen's own, and decidedly more protracted, romance.
As the title suggests, mapping--geographical, political and emotional-- is central to the book. The "comic" spelling is a wry allusion to its setting: the troubled Pakistani city of Karachi, a place that, as Karim observes, worships "at the altar of K". Karim, Raheen and their friends Sonia and Zia all belong to the privileged Karachi elite. Born on the right "side of the Clifton Bridge" they seem immune from Karachi's endemic corruption, violence and religious and ethnic intolerance but they and their families, like the rest of the city's inhabitants, have all been horrifically scarred by events of the 1971 civil war.
Like Austen, or perhaps more accurately Forster, Shamsie is wonderfully adept at capturing the petty rivalries and social games of Pakistan's highly stratified bourgeoisie society--Zia's house is sagely described as "always full of people worth cultivating, rather than people worth having in your home." There are a few (well-acknowledged) nods to Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities and even Homer's Odyssey gets a look in but Shamsie wears her learning lightly. She manages to make Karim and Raheen's journey to toward engagement, both with the realities of Karachi and with each other, into a profound meditation on the nature of love, storytelling and politics. --Travis Elborough [via]