Reading Pakistan

Its a mixed bag.  Pakistani writers have existed for as long as Pakistan itself has (obviously) but have been largely excluded from the Western imagination until Mohson Hamid burst on the scene with Moth Smoke appropriately perhaps at the very beginning of the new millennium.  

 

Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie

 

As Pakistan has risen to international notoriety, so have its artists benefited from more focus and appreciation.  Thank god for little mercies.  

City of Sin, Bapsi Sidhwa

City of Sin, Bapsi Sidhwa

Although the grand dame of Pakistani English literature, Bapsi Sidhwa, has been writing for decades about Pakistan, India and Partition — a recurring theme for writers on both sides of the India Pakistan border — it is the recent swath of young Pakistani authors including Kamila Shamsie, Mohammed HanifDaniyal Mueenuddin and Nadeem Aslam who have captured the spotlight, fame, and even award money (although Nadeem Aslam is reputed to have turned down part of a Royal Literary Fund grant insisting he really didn’t need that much).  

 

Whether there is something new about these authors and the complexities of faith, class, race and ethnicity inhabited by their characters, or just a suddenly ravenous public seeking to consume a faraway country now discussed daily on their news channels and talk shows but about which they still know little if anything — the stories themselves bring alive parts of Pakistan and Pakistani society in wonderful, wonderous ways.  Not all of them good or exotically marketable.  At times tortured, tragic, absurdly complicated and even uplifting, they are always evocative of lives richer and fuller than the New York Times would have you believe.

 

 

Daniyal Mueenuddin

Daniyal Mueenuddin

 

Mango Madness!

Mango Madness!

 

 

 

 

Barring the gratuitously sensationalist headline, the Guardian had a good article on Pakistani writers which you can read here.  Wouldn’t it be nice if one day Pakistani writers could just be lauded for their art, without it being relevant that their country is (allegedly) descending into chaos?

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