Passage to Lahore


240 pages
ISBN 1-55128-024-8
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Jill Didur

Jill Didur teaches English at York University.


This transnational picaresque novel opens in an Indonesian restaurant in
Montreal. It is 1985 and Jules, the narrator, is meeting his gay
friends, who, we learn, are living with HIV and working in
“AIDS-related jobs.” Through a series of flashbacks and
flashforwards, the cynical Jules confronts the contradictions in liberal
democratic notions of justice whereby some citizens are more equal than
others and multicultural rhetoric lapses into a pluralism that
privileges whites. Jules, who was born in Pakistan five years after
Partition, recalls the climate of Islamic nationalism that prompted his
Christian family to emigrate. They arrive in the U.K., in 1966, only to
encounter hysteria over Pakistani immigration. When Jules later
establishes himself as a documentary filmmaker in Canada, he is
confronted by a different kind of alienation in separatist Quebec—an
alienation that leads him to pose the question “How would it be
possible to create a movement for national independence that would not
suppress the minorities?”

Samuel’s style is refreshingly unsentimental and captures the sense
of alienation experienced by immigrants both in Canada and in their
“homelands.” The nonlinear, episodic structure of the narrative
produces a complex and recursive web of commentary on events and
elaborates the frame of their interpretation with each new experience
Jules relates. A thoughtful and entertaining read for anyone trying to
sort through the complexities of nationalism and cross-cultural issues
in general.


Samuel, Julian., “Passage to Lahore,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 20, 2024,