Passage to Lahore:
A Novel

by Julian Samuel,
232 pages,
ISBN: 1551280248

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by Eva Tihanyi

In contrast, Julian Samuel's Passage to Lahore (Mercury, 240 pages, $15.95 paper) seems to have been designed to be deliberately provocative and deals much more with issues than with people. It rushes head-on into as many controversial arenas as it can: racism, colonialism, prejudice of all kinds-and that's just for starters. No-one is spared a critique: gays, feminists, separatists, religious fundamentalists, intellectuals, non-intellectuals, the poor, and the wealthy. The subtitle is "A Novel", but the book's tone and format suggest a memoir disguised as fiction. The author uses his own name and alternates between first and third person points of view.

Samuel is sure to raise hackles, mainly because he has the nerve to voice opinions, some of which will undoubtedly be unpopular. For example, he recounts how as a Pakistani child growing up in England a bully "kicked the shit out of me." When he tells the story to a "white straw-haired Canadian friend", the friend tells him that "when he lived in France the same thing happened to him, even though he was white"-a situation about which Samuel observes: "However, when I write about or discuss my memories I can, if I want to, call it racism; he can't. I can try to make a profit out of it, even get a grant; he can't."

As Samuel illustrates again and again: hypocrisy is evident everywhere and is not restricted to any one group. Unfortunately, his generally pedantic approach becomes overbearing; the book is more a treatise than a novel. At one point, he refers to himself as a "freelance intellectual". By the end, one is left with the impression that he had set out to settle a lifetime of scores, and succeeded.


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