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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Oh yes, the debate is never going to go away. I admit as much. Though one can take heart that this is a paradox facing virtually every literary community. This morning Ashwini Desai points me to this superb point raised by Kamila Shamsie in a piece in The Guardian:

"Of course, one of the features of this list is that it includes writers based in Pakistan, writers who grew up in Pakistan but now live elsewhere, and writers who left Pakistan during their childhood. Within Pakistan there remains much bickering about who exactly should qualify as a Pakistani writer. Do you need to live in Pakistan, have lived in Pakistan, be the child of Pakistanis?"

I love how Shamsie provides the answers to the vexing questions:
"My take on all this is simple: if someone is willing to claim Pakistan for themselves and for the development of their creativity then it seems ridiculous to deny them - and the nation - that right."

There's the obvious sub-continental divide that gets a mention too:
"But while India's writers were attracting the attention of readers and marketing departments, and being an Indian novelist became a viable way of earning a living, Pakistan continued to think gloomily that, in novels as in tourism, the world was far more interested in India. One Pakistani writer might slip through the cracks here and there, but received wisdom had it that our 'Midnight's Children moment' would never come."

I've only read Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid, Nadeem Aslam, Hanif Kureishi and Bapsi Sidhwa, I'm no expert, but each of their writing has left me thinking. I've loved the way they've taken me to some places that have now become a figment of my grand-mother's imagination. I often wish I'd listened to her more carefully, when she spoke about her time in Pakistan, which is why I treat the news of more young people wanting to embrace the realms of Pakistani fiction with optimism. And with the Booker looming, who knows what else will change.

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