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By the Autumn Trees

Organic Themes

By Sophiya Qadeer | June 2020


In contemporary terms, there are only a handful of English short story compilations contributed by Pakistani writers to the world’s literary pool. The book By the Autumn Trees by Muhammad Arslan Qadeer provides a feeling of how an individual would feel about his experiential reality. By the Autumn Trees greatly explores human emotions and as they move through the crests and troughs of life’s journey. Having spent 27 years in the Pakistan Army, the author writes short stories enriched with profound themes, imagery and a pristine expression.

The book creates new avenues for researchers and students of literature as it experiments with language and employs a linguistic facility that incorporates words from Urdu and Punjabi in order to promote the concept of linguistic hybridity, chutnification and polyglossia. The words have been carefully used in order to help the foreign reader to interpret the meaning in tandem with his own understanding. The author’s style is contemporary and expression unpretentious; he employs words from regional Pakistani languages without any jarring phrases, which lend semantic and lexicographic strength to the literary style and structure of these short stories.

The twelve short stories are not only thematically exoteric, but are also spread over a wide array of themes, ranging from the lushness of companionships built on love and trust; the roller-coaster ride from a comforting life in the mother’s arms to the insurmountable training at the Pakistan Military Academy. They further make the reader plunge into the notions of betrayal and loss that an innocent heart comes face to face with. The short stories narrate true personal experiences, incorporating fictional characters that add to the substance of the themes. One of the most important things about the book is the idea that with each short story, the reader feels connected to the writer in terms of discovering the organic rhythm that drives each theme.

“The Mulligatawny Soup”, which is the third short story in the book, makes the reader understand how life is synonymous to embarking on a train journey that leads one to unanticipated destinations and how this journey is like a book with each of the stopovers and the people one meets at these stopovers, just like the chapters and characters of this book.

“The next few days that I spent after my retirement were a conundrum of mixed emotions. An orphaned feeling it was. A feeling of being left alone without a shelter or a shield. I missed my days at the academy. I missed eating in the main mess of the regiment. I missed the waiters who served me; the Chacha who gave me my first Army haircut. I missed the blue-eyed Pashtun sergeant and his pestering remarks. I missed it all…”

–The Mulligatawny Soup

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