Geometry of God, The
Uzma Aslam Khan
published 2009 • 5 ½” x 7 ¾” • 384 pages
ISBN 9781566567749 • paperback • $18.00 •
"[F]uses the romantic, the spiritual and the political...the characters, the poetry and the philosophical questions she raises are rendered with a power and beauty that make this novel linger in the mind and heart."
—Kirkus, starred review
“Elegant, sensuous and fiercely intelligent, 'The Geometry of God' takes an argument that is in danger of becoming stale—that of fundamentalism vs. free thinking among Muslims—and animates it in a wonderfully inventive story that pits science against politics and the freedom of women against the insecurities of men.”
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Independent Publisher Book Awards 2010, Bronze Medal Winner - Multicultural Fiction
Amal: the practical sister who digs up the “diamond key” that unlocks the mystery of Pakicetus, a whale-dog creature who once swam the ancient seas that are now Pakistan.
Mehwish: the blind younger sister, who moves with the sun and music inside her and thinks in “cup lits not fully legal.”
Zahoor: their heretical grandfather, a scientist who loves variation and “vim zee” and his two granddaughters most of all.
Noman: the young man who steps into a lecture hall, decides “their triangle needs a fourth point,” and changes all their lives.
These are the four shifting chambers who make the heart of The Geometry of God, the new novel from lauded Pakistani writer Uzma Aslam Khan. Through these vivid, contradictory, and original characters, Khan celebrates the complexities of familial and erotic love, the tug of curiosity and duty, the intersections of faith and longing. Her exuberant language draws from Urdu and Punjabi and invents one of its own for Mehwish, whose fractured English divides and slows and reveals.
The Geometry of God is a novel one can read greedily, following these characters as their lives unfold against the backdrop of General Zia’s Pakistan, where religious fundamentalism gains ground and the mujaheddin is funded by gem sales and the Americans. Or one can savor, as the sisters show us: digging as Amal does toward the novel’s deepest questions about love and knowledge and faith, moving as Mehwish does to the rhythms of an abundant and original language.
Uzma Aslam Khan was born in Lahore and grew up in Karachi. She is the author of three novels, including Trespassing, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize. In the fall of 2008, she was an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.
From Kirkus's Best Books of 2009:
“My first two novels came to me as images,”says Uzma Aslam Khan (Trespassing, 2005, etc.). “This one came as a voice.” The author’s most recent work is a tale of familial obligations, the malleability of truth and the shifting politics of Pakistan in the 1980s and ’90s. After initially struggling with the third person, Khan heard her characters speaking and ultimately crafted the novel in first person. And while the narration passes among three characters—two sisters, Amal and Mehwish, and the “cultural freak” Noman—one character held the key: “When I got Amal’s voice, that was it,” says Khan. As the older sister, Amal wrestles with her responsibility to Mehwish, blinded in early childhood, and her own desires, including a career in the male-dominated field of paleontology. Mehwish constructs her sightless world from sounds, smells and her strong intuition, explaining herself in a piecemeal, multilingual, homophonic tongue of English peppered with Urdu and Punjabi. “Children talk their way through their own language,”says Kahn of Mehwish’s evolving voice. And finally there is Noman, a mathematician with the dangerous ability to both prove and disprove anything by citing the Quran. “Playing around with words was a fun part of writing this book," says Kahn.
"Uzma Aslam Khan, a fearless young Pakistani novelist, writes about what lies beneath the surface—ancient fossils embedded in desert hillsides, truths hidden inside the language of everyday life. In 'The Geometry of God' (Clockroot), set in 1970s and '80s Pakistan, a young math whiz called Noman writes pseudoscience for his father's cohort of religious extremists while secretly gravitating toward a diehard evolutionist and his adventurous granddaughter, Amal. As faith and reason fatally collide, Amal's blind younger sister, Mehwish, tries to decipher a world she cannot see but understands better than most. Khan's urgent defense of free thought and action—often galvanized by strong-minded, sensuous women—courses through every page of this gorgeously complex book; but what really draws the reader in is the way Mehwish taste-tests the words she hears, as if they were pieces of fruit, and probes the meaning of human connection in a culture of intolerance, but also of stubborn hope."
—Cathleen Medwick, O magazine
“'The Geometry of God' is a novel that you don’t just read; you listen to it. It can be irreverent, perverse. It can speak with a whole, fluid beauty. It can be curious, wondrous, noncompliant, like the English in Mehwish’s head… Mehwish is the zauq of the book, the sensory pulse of the novel, who pulls you into a world of her own making. Expect a simultaneous rush that has funniness, absurdity, shock, tenderness… (and) great sex”.
—First City, India
“Such wonderful and persuasive writing. No one writes like her about the body, about the senses, about the physical world. Uzma Aslam Khan is the writer whose new novel I look forward to the most.”
“Uzma Aslam Khan has boldly tapped uncharted themes in her latest book, 'The Geometry of God'. She carves a sublime story of new and old with contemporary panache, in which people are real and their fears are prevalent and believable. Khan weaves a complex story whose narrative has a casual energy to it: each voice telling his or her story. Khan is not afraid to say anything.”
"Throughout this complex narrative, Khan writes with unfailing intelligence and linguistic magic. For Westerners, she unlocks doors and windows onto Pakistan and its Islamic culture"
—Claire Hopley, The Washington Times
"[V]ivid and rich. The reader is rewarded with new viewpoints, a welcome change from the sensationalized and often macabre portrayals of Pakistani people and the country they fight so hard to preserve."
—Story Circle Book Reviews
"Like her better-known contemporaries...Uzma Aslam Khan comes from a younger generation of Pakistani authors born and raised in the disrupted decades of the 1980s and 90s whose fiction looks back to those earlier times and attempts to re-examine the turbulent history of their country. ... Her third novel, 'The Geometry of God', describes the psychological effects of General Zia-ul-Haq's campaign to Islamize knowledge'. ... As in her previous work, Aslam Khan deploys several narrators, both male and female...The narrators offer partial perspectives, which obscure, elucidate and expand our understanding of the events described, not only the machinations that result in Zahoor's downfall, but also the developments in their everyday lives which shape their characters. Yet, it is above all, the two female perspectives...which make the novel worth reading. ... Amal offers insights into modern Pakistan, but it is the abstract perspectives offered by her sister, Mehwish , a character who sees the world with her inner eye, tastes its truths and tells them "slant", that are the most original and captivating. ... we become attuned to her quietly anarchic voice..complex...inventive..."
—Times Literary Supplement
"In 'The Geometry of God', Uzma Aslam Khan proves herself to be a veritable magician, conjuring up and transforming words to evoke poignant sensory images and startling connotations. Her style is remarkably versatile, describing the material world, human feelings, and philosophical ideas with equal elegance and vivacity, spiced with irony, humor and provocative word play. Interlacing her English text with Urdu, Punjabi, Latin and Arabic, and playing on the interconnections, she tells the story of two sisters, their uncle and an odd young man who enters their life for unknown reasons. As the three young characters narrate the story in alternating voice, Pakistan passes through perilous times, from the coercive re-Islamization of General Zia ul Haq's rule, to Benazir Bhutto's democratic interlude, then back to dictatorship."—Jordan Times
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