Jamil Ahmad, author of The Wandering Falcon, died this morning at his home in Islamabad after a long illness. He was 83 years old.
Ahmad’s debut fiction, The Wandering Falcon, was published when he was 79 years old to enormous international acclaim, and was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2011. An instant international literary sensation, The Financial Times called the novel “fantastic,” The Guardian dubbed it “striking,” and according to The New York Times, “Mr. Ahmad’s deep understanding of his characters shows what a powerful truth teller fiction can be.” Steve Inskeep for NPR said The Wandering Falcon “illuminates one of the most perilous regions of the world….The early chapters are reminiscent of masterpieces like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian…all the way through, the characters, the tales, and the landscape are rendered with clarity, sympathy, and insight.”
Ahmad’s novel initially came to global attention when its first chapter was excerpted in the Fall 2010 “Pakistan” issue of Granta magazine. At the time, The Independent (UK) wrote: “If Granta’s India edition brought to light the brilliant young writer, Arundhati Roy, who won the Booker Prize later that year, this collection’s equivalent gem of a find is the older but nonetheless astonishing talent of the hitherto unpublished 79-year-old civil servant, Jamil Ahmad.”
Ahmad, a retired political officer of the Pakistani government, served for two decades among the nomadic tribes who inhabit one of the world’s harshest and most geopolitically sensitive regions. With his mesmerizing and lyrical tales, Ahmad illuminated the tribes’ fascinating attitudes and taboos, their ancient customs and traditions, and their fiercely held codes of honor.