MeerJaan by Muhammad Amir Rana narrates the fascinating tale of a woman in whose life history, the story of Pakistan can be read. The narrative, being tangential in nature, can be a bit challenging to follow in the beginning but gradually one starts picking up the threads. This complicated narration keeps the readers on their toes, while eventually, the last chapter hits most powerfully.
By reading the novel one is able to take a journey back in time, as all major events of Pakistan’s political history have duly been mentioned. Secondly, the author gives a thorough account of how things took shape the way they did. For example, Rana gives a first-hand account of the boys who offered to go for Soviet jihad. It gives a human face to all those incidents that we had read about in the books of history. Finally, the novel does a wonderful job of covering major dilemmas faced by Pakistanis including religious extremism, and how has that impacted the lives of millions. A surreal moment of blurring the lines between fiction and reality took place when going through the mob lynching of Begi in the novel, the news of slaughter of a seminary teacher for alleged blasphemy in D.I. Khan came in.
In terms of depiction, Amir Rana’s style echoed that of Ernest Hemingway as the latter would give only a brief objective account of the events instead of stuffing the narrative. Meerjan also deploys fewer words even to recount intricate happenings and deep thoughts, but that deliberate omission of emotions enhances the emotive appeal of the narrative. Lastly, the movement of characters across continents and, for some, constant dislocation serve the purpose of identity formation, hinting at the idea that being Pakistani does not mean a hegemonic rooted entity, instead it is fluid and the people of Pakistan belong everywhere…
Saira Rashad is teaching English literature at Govt girls College Sargodha