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Red Bird by Mohammed Hanif

  • 02 Dec 2018

About Red Birds

A powerful novel about war, family and love, from the bestselling, prize-winning author dubbed 'Pakistan's brightest voice' (Guardian)


An American pilot crash lands in the desert and takes refuge in the very camp he was supposed to bomb. Hallucinating palm trees and worrying about dehydrating to death isn't what Major Ellie expected from this mission. Still, it's an improvement on the constant squabbles with his wife back home.

In the camp, teenager Momo's money-making schemes are failing. His brother left for his first day at work and never returned, his parents are at each other's throats, his dog is having a very bad day, and an aid worker has shown up wanting to research him for her book on the Teenage Muslim Mind. 

Written with his trademark wit, keen eye for absurdity and telling important truths about the world today, Red Birds reveals master storyteller Mohammed Hanif at the height of his powers.


“A thrilling, razor-sharp critique of US foreign policy … Hanif is dextrous and ambitious with the literary tools of both east and west … Combine this with humour as cutting as Heller or Evelyn Waugh, as precise and modern as Sam Lipsyte or Wells Tower, and you have something highly original … Red Birds is an incisive, unsparing critique of war and of America's role in the destruction of the Middle East. It combines modern and ancient farcical traditions in thrilling way” –  Dina Nayeri, Guardian

Defiant … The outrage is all too real” –  Sunday Times

A blistering, savage, tragicomic satire about the cruelty of war and the impossibility of peace … Hanif writes of violence and bitterness with flashes of hilarity that underline his anger and his humanity

” –  The Times

“A novel at once funny, sad and disturbing” –  Mail on Sunday

“Mohammed Hanif's Red Birds is a marvel, describing the interlinked fates of antagonists in a forgotten war-scape – and the complicity of our own sheltered lives in remote conflicts” –  Pankaj Mishra, Guardian, Summer Reading 2018

“An acutely observed refugee tale … Both achingly realistic and elusively metaphysical … Irreverent, dripping with exuberant disdain for the way in which western power has corrupted the world … an effective satire that reminds us that everybody – refugees, distraught mothers, unthinking airmen, well-meaning aid workers, dogs and ghosts – has a need to love, and be loved” –  Ben East, Observer

“Hanif has a talent for taking the most serious subjects – convoluted wars or paranoid dictators – and, in a style indebted to Joseph Heller's Catch-22, emphasising their fundamental absurdity through satire ... Hanif's authorial gifts are undeniable and Red Birds is written with ambition and powerful satirical anger” –  Literary Review

Like a highly charged political chamber opera” –  Claire Armitstead, Guardian

“His new novel, set in and around a refugee camp, exhibits his trademark black comedy … an absurdist riff on modern conflict with shades of Catch-22” –  Guardian, Best books of autumn 2018

The set-up is terrific: a US pilot crash lands in the Middle East and seeks shelter in the camp he was meant to bomb. Written with wit and a tilt towards the absurd, what follows is a highly original satire on US foreign policy which highlights the monstrousness of war” –  i

“An irreverent, anarchic, comic, savage and humane ride, as only Hanif could write it” –  Kamila Shamsie,

The funniest tragedy I've read in years” –  Hanif Kureishi,

“Deploying a relentlessly grim gallows humour, Hanif skewers the entrenched insanity of conflict … Hanif's bleak, formidable use of irony burns deeply” –  Daily Mail

“The more you read of Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif's exuberant, spirited prose, the more you fall in love with him. … A wry, brutal satire, with many laugh-out-loudmoments, and the dialogue fizzes like Alka Seltzer. But there is also much to tug at the soul in yet another contemporary fiction which looks at the current state of the planet and sees rage, madness and sadness all around” –  Jane Graham, Big Issue

“An impressive multi-voiced performance that straddles bitter tragedy and pungent black comedy, grounded realism and flighty absurdity … Red Birds thrums with rambunctious energy. Hanif's narrators are compelling forces, their wild accounts capable of gripping, moving and entertaining the reader … this is writing with guts, satire with bite” –  The National

Vivid and clever” –  Ali Bhutto, Times Literary Supplement


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