A New York Times New Book to Watch For (November 2020)
The former New York Times Pakistan bureau chief paints an arresting, up-close portrait of a fractured country.
Declan Walsh is one of the New York Times’s most distinguished international correspondents. His electrifying portrait of Pakistan over a tumultuous decade captures the sweep of this strange, wondrous, and benighted country through the dramatic lives of nine fascinating individuals.
On assignment as the country careened between crises, Walsh traveled from the raucous port of Karachi to the salons of Lahore, and from Baluchistan to the mountains of Waziristan. He met a diverse cast of extraordinary Pakistanis—a chieftain readying for war at his desert fort, a retired spy skulking through the borderlands, and a crusading lawyer risking death for her beliefs, among others. Through these “nine lives” he describes a country on the brink—a place of creeping extremism and political chaos, but also personal bravery and dogged idealism that defy easy stereotypes.
Unbeknownst to Walsh, however, an intelligence agent was tracking him. Written in the aftermath of Walsh’s abrupt deportation, The Nine Lives of Pakistan concludes with an astonishing encounter with that agent, and his revelations about Pakistan’s powerful security state. Intimate and complex, attuned to the centrifugal forces of history, identity, and faith, The Nine Lives of Pakistan offers an unflinching account of life in a precarious, vital country.
About the Author
Declan Walsh, formerly the New York Times Pakistan bureau chief, is based in Cairo. He was educated in Dublin and has also reported from sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, the United States, and across the Middle East.
A vivid, complex portrait of a country at a crossroads….Walsh’s writing is elegant and expressive. It does what the best foreign correspondence should: transport the reader. — Amna Nawaz
An irresistible combination of storytelling panache and in-depth knowledge; Declan Walsh brings vividly to life characters and situations that illuminate some of the most significant phases of Pakistan’s history. — Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire
A wonderful book which sets a new benchmark for non-fiction about the complex palace of mirrors that is Pakistan. Star New York Times foreign correspondent Declan Walsh has a rapier wit, a talent for skillfully sketched pen portraits and a sharp eye for tragedy, paradox and absurdity. With The Nine Lives of Pakistan he has produced a beautifully, lightly, fluently written book that is as profoundly nuanced as it is sharply perceptive.
— William Dalrymple, author of The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire
In The Nine Lives of Pakistan, Declan Walsh describes, with intellectual power and cool elegance, a much-misunderstood country. All those interested in South Asia and its complex politics and culture should read [this book].
— Pankaj Mishra, author of The Age of Anger
Captivating.... Walsh is a wonderful writer, with a gift for sketching an impression of a place, time and ambience with a few brief lines. He knows how to interweave travelogue with an account of the relentless tensions that always threaten to burst through each vignette in the book. What also shines through is the relish with which Walsh throws himself into the far corners of Pakistan, into crowds, celebrations and rites, with a drive born of fascination with the land and its people. — Julian Borger
If you want to read one book about contemporary Pakistan, it has to be The Nine Lives of Pakistan, an intimate yet sweeping account of Pakistan’s contemporary history. Walsh is a rare foreign correspondent who doesn’t condescend, a storyteller who lets his characters speak. Although I am familiar with most of the events and characters Walsh writes about, his retelling left me breathless.
— Mohammed Hanif, author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes
An enthralling account of Mr. Walsh’s near-decade as a correspondent. — Tunku Varadarajan
[A] thrilling, big-hearted book....If Walsh’s guts take him places others have not reached, his prose – vigorous, cockeyed and clear – brings it home to the reader....This is not just a book for someone wanting to find out about Pakistan, although it performs that job admirably. It is also a richly observed study of how humans respond to the extraordinary pressures of a sometimes-choking society; empathetic, but hard-nosed and never veering into hagiography. — Memphis Barker
An immersive and splendidly written portrait of Pakistan….Rich with incisive historical context, astute cultural analysis, and evocative language, Walsh’s account brings Pakistan’s contradictions to fascinating life. This masterfully reported account deserves a wide readership.