Thinner than Skin
Uzma Aslam Khan
published 2012 • 5 1/2" x 7 3/4" • 346 pages
ISBN 9781566569088 • paperback • $18.00 •
"Uzma Aslam Khan is a wonderful writer whose descriptions of the northern part of Pakistan and the fast fading way of life that had been lived there for hundreds of years are sometimes stunning... memorable passages... gorgeous writing...when Khan is good, she's very very good... a book so dense with detail and so leisurely at times in its telling, ...as I closed "Thinner Than Skin," I also felt a strong need to read more by this talented, young writer whose vision is so fierce and large and complex."—The Arts Fuse
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LONGLISTED FOR THE 2012 MAN ASIAN LITERARY PRIZE
WINNER OF FRENCH EMBASSY FICTION PRIZE
In the wilds of Northern Pakistan, where glaciers are born of mating ice, two young lovers shatter the tenuous peace of a nomadic community
Thinner than Skin is a riveting novel about identity and belonging. It’s also a love story: between Nadir, a Pakistani man trying to make his way as a photographer in America, and Farhana, a Pakistani-American woman who wants to return to a country she’s never seen. Together Nadir and Farhana journey to Pakistan, accompanied by one of her colleagues—who will join her in studying Pakistan’s extraordinary glaciers—and by Nadir’s oldest friend. But they are not the only interlopers here: a suspect in a recent bombing has arrived just before them, and the authorities’ hunt for him casts a dangerous shadow over their journey. It is here, in this magnificent landscape—where glaciers are born of mating ice—that a chance meeting with a young nomad will change their lives, and the lives of those around them, forever.
Thinner than Skin is a haunting tribute to these lands, and to the nomadic life of the indigenous people there, where China encroaches and Pakistanis, Uzbeks, Russians, Chinese, and Afghans all come together to trade. It is a work of piercing beauty and intelligence, and an urgent novel for our times.
Uzma Aslam Khan is the author of three previous novels, including The Geometry of God, also available from Clockroot Books and named one of Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2009. Her fiction and nonfiction have been published around the world. An excerpt from Thinner than Skin was featured in Granta’s widely celebrated issue on Pakistan.
Uzma Aslam Khan wins French Embassy Fiction Prize
ISLAMABAD: The French Embassy has awarded its Fiction Prize to Pakistani writer Uzma Aslam Khan for her book Thinner than Skin. The objective of the French Embassy Fiction Prize is to promote Pakistani literature, particularly fiction writers. French Ambassador Philippe Thiébaud awarded the prize to Uzma during the fifth edition of the Karachi Literature Festival.
In a joint statement, the jury explained its choice for Uzma Aslam Khan’s book: “The eloquent and elegant way in which she reveals a myriad of different worlds with masterly restraint. The novel animates mountains, lakes, wind and fire and other elements of nature that echo the complex emotions of her characters. Through the carefully structured plot and the well wrought patterns of recurring images and incidents, emerge insights about homeland, belonging and dislocation, central to contemporary Pakistani life.”
“Set mostly against the background of Pakistan’s Kaghan Valley, a majestic place steeped in the customs and traditions of a quickly disappearing culture…human fates juxtaposed with a complex geopolitical situation make for an interesting read.”—Publishers Weekly
“Here in the West we don’t receive many English-language novels by Pakistani women authors, so when we do we should pay attention…stunningly beautiful…clearly her heart remains in Pakistan. As with her earlier books ("The Story of Noble Rot," "Trespassing" and "The Geometry of God"), Khan continues to explore new territory, both geographic and literary…"Thinner Than Skin" has elements of quest, thriller, love story and legend, with unconventional characters, including strong Pakistani women...fascinating.”—Toronto Star
“Every once in a while, along comes a novel that one reads more for the quality of its prose than for its story line. Uzma Aslam Khan’s "Thinner than Skin" is one such. It is clear from the get-go that the author is in love with words…Equally enjoyable, the narrative is packed with nuggets of information on random subjects…And if one requires any further reason to read this absorbing book, there is an account of the mating of glaciers…that would make for a wonderful short story on its own.”—India Today
"In gorgeous prose, Khan writes about Pakistan, a land of breathtaking beauty, and the complex relationships between people who are weighted with grief and estrangement. As her characters’ lives play out against the backdrop of the external world whose violence gradually closes in on them, Khan brilliantly probes the fatal limitations of human understanding. A novel of great lucidity and tenderness, filled with splendid descriptions of the land, the people who have always inhabited it, and those who are irresistibly drawn to it."—Therese Soukar Chehade
"Smart, fierce, and poignant: perhaps the most exciting novel yet by this very talented writer."—Mohsin Hamid
"In Uzma Aslam Khan's new novel, mountain peaks are windows in a door, vices hitch a ride in the bells of mountain goats, thoughts scatter like moonseed, horses are wings to the world, owls to the next, and glaciers mate, witnessed by silence. It is a beautiful novel where almost every word has a taste and a colour, which expand in circles in the reader's mind. Modern lives are woven in with old legends, pagan rituals are carried over into days of Muslim belief, the city impinges on desolate, forgotten countries, the West makes inroads into the East and is faced with the impenetrable."—The Telegraph (Calcutta)
"There are a few novels that sadden one when they end-not because of the ending itself but because of not wanting to let go of the characters whose life one has shared for a while. The most recent was Uzma Aslam Khan's Thinner than Skin.
"Khan interlaces these multiple sources of tension in taunt, understated prose until they implode in unexpected ways. She is especially adept in describing events as people actually experience them...Thinner than Skin is a fascinating introduction to the real life and culture of people in areas usually described only in stereotypical jargon. It is also a protest against environmental destruction, government insensitivity to people's needs, and the stupidities and cruelty of the "War on Terror," but like most good literature, the protest is not in the rhetorical but couched in the story."
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