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Reminiscentially Eerie: Fatima Bhutto’s ‘Songs of Blood & Sword’

This is not necessarily a review. It’s essentially a an opinion about what’s been written in one of the most controversial books of the season. I’m not aiming to criticize, or to tell you what’s wrong with it. I’m trying to understand what’s behind the eerily chilling historical re-encounters and at times recollections of a passionate and loved childhood by another ‘Daughter of the East’. Although the initial recollections of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto do begin to sound like a repetitive account from a history book; the main charm of the book is when the ‘Daughter’ breathes life into the pages if her own past. Those sections, I believe, are the best parts of the book. People, of course, have claimed that the historical account is biased. If the book was meant to be written as a factual account of what ‘really happened’, I don’t believe it should be read with this in mind. History always has a point-of-view from the sides of all the different actors who are involved in creating it. This is merely one of them; it’s up to people to decide which one they would like to follow; but at the same time, to keep their mind open to all possibilities.
Personally the story-telling nature of the book is what keeps the interest alive. The fact that the subtext on the title does state ‘Memoirs of a Daughter’ is enough to support the nature in which the book is presented to its readers. It is a story; it is a recollection of the past from memory, not only of the daughter of an assassinated leader, but his friends, family, partners, associates, supporters and even bodyguards. That it sheds lights on encounters of history; yes, it does, but merely from the writer’s point of view; not from facts alone, not as an objective writer. But maybe it was never meant to be objective. That it contains emotions, grievances, diatribes of accusation, pain and raw sentiment is what has turned the book into an instant best seller. The whole account is gutsy and courageous; it is human, it’s believable; it attaches the reader to the author; it is like a persistent voice, whispering incidents from Pakistani history that were hidden, but not completely buried. The sense of excitement resembles walking through a timeline from the author’s eyes. It is great, sensational writing in essence, I have to say, storytelling.
My father was the one who bought the book to me, soon after its release since I enjoy non-fiction political writings. I wasn’t excited; I said, “Why are we plagued with so many Bhuttos’ and their internal strife as a family?” I decided not to read it. Then, days after it had been sitting on a forgotten shelf in my house, I happened to pick it up while having tea, leafing through the pages, and I came across the pages describing Shahnawaz’s murder. I have to admit, I couldn’t put down the book after that. I began reading from the middle, flipped back to the start, and read it from start to finish. The perspective from which the words are written; it feels like a daughter’s writing, looking up to a beloved father. And of course, the story is tragic. The tragedy of Pakistani politics is displayed clearly; dirty politics; unanswered questions; suspicions and accusations- it is truly the downfall of the political system in Pakistan. It is chaotic and it is anarchic. It is truly a semblance of a dark period in history. The story of Murtaza Bhutto is a perfect example of a fall from grace; a desperate struggle of a son who grew up with inspirations of revolutionary heroes. But, didn’t every revolutionary attempt spring from desperation? In this story, the assassination of a father; exile from his homeland; and once amidst the dangerous and unforeseen battleground of dirty politics was the oath to be revenged; the tale is perhaps shaped to resemble an epic. And whether it was an epic is something that is yet to be decided.