Saeed Shah examines where Pakistani fiction and writers are heading in his article titled “As their country descends into chaos, Pakistani writers are winning acclaim“.
Pakistani novelists writing in English – long overshadowed by literary giants from neighbouring India – are now winning attention and acclaim as their country sinks into violence and chaos.
Tales of religious extremism, class divides, dictators, war and love have come from writers who grew up largely in Pakistan and now move easily between London, Karachi, New York and Lahore. Since the publication of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist two years ago, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, a new wave of Pakistani fiction is earning critical acclaim at home and around the world.
“Some of us have been writing for many years but suddenly we’ve had four or five novels coming out together and that’s created a buzz,” said Shamsie, whose latest work is an ambitious story that starts off in Second World War Japan and moves to post-9/11 Afghanistan. “Indian writing has been established for 25 years or more, since Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie’s book, published in 1981). Pakistani writing is very much in its infancy.
“Pakistani writing is like the new young fast bowler on the scene but Indian writing is like the spinner who’s been going for years and whose greatness is assumed.”
Pakistan and India remain enemies but the most sought-after commodity in the Indian publishing industry now seems to be Pakistani authors, who are perceived to be be producing a grittier and more engaged style of work.
“Great fiction comes from the tension that produces those dramatic political developments. Pakistan has been going through really interesting times. As writers process that through their fiction, they’re coming up with an art with a real urgency and personal need.”
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