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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Characters from Lahore's Heera Mandi

In The New York Times, William Grimes reviews British academic Louise Brown's first novel, The Dancing Girls of Lahore: "[a] report, both chilling and heart-warming, on a neighborhood where all the rules seem to be changing except the ones that keep Pakistani women in a state of abject servitude."

He continues: "Ms. Brown...has a sociologist's eye and a novelist's appreciation of her surroundings and the human drama that plays out before her. She spends nearly as much time describing the street foods of Lahore and the excitement of religious festivals as she does analyzing the grim economics of the sex trade. Her main character, Maha, a prostitute on the downward side of her career, comes alive in all three dimensions, fully realized in the circumscribed world that has defined life for her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother before her....There are no truly happy endings. But against all the odds, women like Maha somehow manage to make a life. Ms. Brown, astonishingly, makes that seem plausible."

It sounds interesting, though perhaps a trifle marred by bleeding-heart liberalism. Nevertheless, one is going to try and get hold of it before some misguided man hold up a copy and demands that it be banned. ("We are a decent society and books like these will corrupt the youth!")


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