Sept 13 – Sept 19, 2010 Edition Penguin Acquires Pakistani Author’s Book on Forbidding Tribal Areas

NEW YORK, LONDON, DELHI/AUTHORLINK NEWS/September 13, 2010–Penguin Group will publish a debut novel by Pakistani author Jamil Ahmad in the United States, United Kingdom and India. Mr. Ahmad is a 79-year-old retired official who served for many years as part of the Civil Service of Pakistan in the tribal areas on the troubled border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Wandering Falcon is a haunting and unforgettable collection of interlinked stories that provide a rare human insight into life in these forbidding tribal regions. The book will be published in 2011 by Penguin India, Penguin UK imprint Hamish Hamilton and Penguin Group (USA) imprint Riverhead Books.

World English-language rights to The Wandering Falcon were acquired by London-based Penguin India Senior Editor Meru Gokhale, who subsequently sold North American rights to Geoffrey Kloske, Vice President and Publisher of Riverhead Books, and UK rights to Hamish Hamilton Publisher Simon Prosser.

Meru Gokhale commented, “I had a tip-off from a friend in Pakistan that a remarkable book had been written. Jamil Ahmad is an extraordinarily talented writer. The Wandering Falcon is stark, compelling, wise, emotional yet unsentimental all at once.”

Geoffrey Kloske said, “We’re thrilled to be publishing The Wandering Falcon. Jamil Ahmad’s powerful stories offer a perspective that is increasingly of interest and importance to American readers.”

Simon Prosser said, “I was immediately interested when Meru mentioned in the office one day that she had just received a rather remarkable manuscript, carried back from Islamabad by a friend — and would I like to read it? When I did, I was instantly struck by the clarity and power of the writing, and the way it brings to life a place and a world which has remained hitherto largely unrecorded. As only the best fiction can, the book brings us news — but, more than that, it brings us stories which lodge in the mind with force and emotion.”

Mr. Ahmad said, “About three decades ago, I felt an urge to write. I attempted to write pieces of poetry. It was my wife who recommended I focus instead on my two decades of association with the tribal areas, rather than try to venture into a field with which I was not too familiar. It was she who painstakingly typed the first draft of the handwritten manuscript of The Wandering Falcon on an old typewriter with a German keyboard. To her I owe an enormous debt.”

In the tradition of books such as Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, this literary debut offers a vivid personal portrayal of what life is like in a remote and impenetrable culture.

A story from The Wandering Falcon – “The Sins of the Mother,” about an eloping Baluch couple who risk everything by fleeing from their tribe – will be showcased in the upcoming Pakistan issue of Granta magazine.

Mr. Ahmad was born in Jallundhar, Undivided India in 1931 and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law and Master’s degree in History, both from the University of the Punjab.

As a member of the Civil Service of Pakistan beginning in 1954, he served mainly in the Frontier Province and in Baluchistan. He was Political Agent in Quetta, Chaghi, Khyber and Malakand. Later, he was Commissioner in Dera Ismail Khan and in Swat. He was also Development Commissioner for the Frontier and Chairman of the Tribal Development Corporation. He was posted as Minister in Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul at a critical time before and during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. His last assignment in Government was Chief Secretary, Baluchistan. At the time of his posting in the Frontier Province, he acquired a working knowledge of Pushto and the fluency continued to improve with increased usage. This facility allowed him to interact freely with the local people.

Mr. Ahmad, with the help of some friends from the Afridi tribe, walked into the Tirah Valley, the heartland of the Afridis. This initiative created quite a stir, as it was the first-ever venture into this territory by a Government representative.

He currently lives in Islamabad with his wife Helga Ahmad, a nationally recognized environmentalist and social worker who was awarded the Fatima Jinnah Gold Medal in 2007.