All book reviews are subjective, but it is the political novel that most acutely confronts the reviewer with the consciousness of his own subjectivity. Can a reviewer manage to separate his professional appreciation of the literary work before him from his reaction to its political viewpoint? As a writer myself, I found myself with much to admire and value in Mirza Waheed’s first novel, The Collaborator; but as an Indian politician, I found it impossible not to feel profound discomfort with the political sympathies the work seeks to evoke.
Mirza Waheed is a Kashmiri, a product of Delhi University with four years in Indian journalism, who has spent a decade working for the BBC’s Urdu service in London. He writes, for the most part, beautifully; there is a lyricism to his prose and in his evocative descriptions of places and emotions, and only a few unnecessary exclamation marks mar his deft handling of the language. As an aesthetic experience, his is amongst the better first novels you are likely to read. The Collaborator flows well, and keeps the reader engaged; many of the book’s scenes and images, and its overwhelming theme of loss, will haunt the reader for a long time.