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A Case of Exploding Mangoes

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Language  English
Media type  Print (Hardcover )
ISBN  0-307-26807-1
Author  Mohammed Hanif
Country  Pakistan
Nominations  Guardian First Book Award
3.7/5 Goodreads

Publication date  20 May 2008
Pages  336 pp
Originally published  20 May 2008
Genre  Comic novel
OCLC  191865420
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Mohammed hanif a case of exploding mangoes

A Case of Exploding Mangoes (2008) is an award-winning critically acclaimed comic novel by the Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif based on the plane crash that killed General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, former president of Pakistan. The book won the Best First Book Award in the year 2009 in the Commonwealth Book Prize. It was also shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. The book is the basis of an up-coming Indo-Pak film starring Irrfan Khan.


The Guardian described the novel as 'woven in language as explosive as the mangoes themselves, is wickedly cynical and reveals layers of outrageous - and plausible - corruption.' The New York Times, in a review, called the novel 'eerie timeliness'. Washington Post concluded its review with attesting that 'Hanif has his own story to tell, one that defies expectations at every turn.'

Plot summary

The central theme of the book is a fictitious story behind the real life plane crash which killed General Zia, president of Pakistan from 1977 to 1988, about which there are many conspiracy theories. After witnessing a tank parade in Bahawalpur, Zia left the small Punjabi town in the C-130 Hercules aircraft designated 'Pak One'.

Shortly after a smooth take-off, the control tower loses contact with the aircraft. Witnesses who saw the plane in the air later claimed it was flying erratically, before nosediving and exploding on impact, killing General Zia and several other senior army generals, in addition to Arnold Raphel, the US Ambassador to Pakistan. Zia had ruled Pakistan for 11 years prior to his death.

The book develops through the eyes of the narrator, Ali Shigri, a Junior Officer in the Pakistani Air Force who seeks revenge for the death of his father, which he is convinced, although apparently a suicide, was orchestrated by General Zia himself.

Real persons appearing as characters

  • General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq
  • Begum Shafiqa Zia
  • General Akhtar Abdur Rahman
  • General Mirza Aslam Beg
  • US Ambassador Arnold Raphel
  • Mrs. Raphel Nancy Halliday Ely-Raphel
  • Director of CIA operations Charles Cogan
  • Osama bin Laden
  • Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu
  • US Political Activist Joanne Herring
  • Fictitious Characters

  • Under Officer Ali Shigri—protagonist, leader of "Silent Drill Squad" at Pakistan Air Force Academy, Risalpur
  • Prisoner imprisoned in the cell next to Ali Shigri, who claims to have been the Secretary General of All Pakistan Sweepers' Union back in the beginning of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq's era
  • Under Officer Obaid "Baby O"—Shigri's roommate at Pakistan Air Force Academy, who develops the idea of crashing his plane into an area where Zia is present (in manner of Mathias Rust's flight into Moscow)
  • Brigadier TM-Tahir Mirza, who bears a slightly close resemblance with Tariq Mehmood
  • Lt. "Loot" Bannon—USAF Instructor who develops "Silent Drill"
  • "Uncle Starchy"—launderer for PAF Academy, who keeps jars krait venom which he terms "death nectar"
  • Zainab—blind rape-victim whom Zia sentences to death (through stoning) for adultery, and who curses Zia
  • Maj. Kiyani—ISI officer who pushes Shigri to sign off that his father was a suicide (may be based on 2007-2013 Pakistan Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, but not identical—as revealed at the novel's end) and transports Shigri between prisons
  • Awards and nominations

  • Winner of the 2009 Commonwealth Book Prize in the Best First Book category.
  • Winner of the 2008 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize.
  • Shortlisted for the 2008 Guardian First Book Award.
  • Longlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize.
  • References

    A Case of Exploding Mangoes Wikipedia