The Return of Faraz Ali

Riverhead. Apr. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9780593330180. $27. F
DEBUT In this first novel from Pushcart– and Rona Jaffe–winning Ahmad, a man searches for his identity in the political turmoil of late 1960s–early 1970s Pakistan. Policeman Faraz Ali is unexpectedly given a posting as the equivalent of a police chief to the red-light district of Lahore where he was born. As he finds out, he is there at the behest of his father, a high-ranking government official, to “clean up” the murder of a young girl. Born out-of-wedlock, the son of a noted tawaif, a courtesan/prostitute, Faraz was given away at a young age and grew up far from his family. Being back where he was born awakens unexpected feelings, and he finds himself compelled to actually investigate the murder while continuing to search for his mother. When his investigation points to a high official in his father’s circle, he is relieved of his duties and exiled to East Pakistan, where a movement is underway to separate from the West.
VERDICT This a nuanced, many-faceted story, fraught with complex interrelations of ethnicity, class and politics, of a man trying to unlock the secrets of his past so that he might discover who he is in the present. A first-rate literary mystery with the emphasis on literary.
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