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Thursday, 3 July 2008

Pakistani Literature - Urgent Reminders by Suzan Abrams

Caption: from (left)
Talat Abbas,
Uzma Aslam Khan, Sorayya Khan & Roopa Farooki (b/w pic) .

Recently, Shashi Tharoor wrote in the Times of India of Pakistani writers having made their mark in recent years. He described Hanif Kureishi... who is faring wonderfully in Europe today as having faced problems with a confused literary identity, thanks to his emigration to Britain all those years ago. (...London based writers who thought of themselves as British but who were initially seen by the British as Pakisani...") Since the liner is written in the past tense, I am sure that this is no longer the case.

I would say that having attended Kureishi's readings in London, it is obvious to the observer that neither he nor his adopted country, Britain, appear to be confused. In fact, no writer could be more strong-willed or steely in his approach to identity. Kureishi has never hidden his Pakistani culture and his sometimes brutal and deeply-honest reflections of his own family ties and background have actually earned him hostility among his more conservative family members.

Kureishi's early novels are still currently going to print internationally - a boast he recently made while seeming very at ease, in a major British paper and he stays on the top list especially in the UK and Europe. He continues to be in demand for readings and is a famous figure even in countries like France where he produces films.

And how could one possibly forget Uzma Aslam Khan who made great waves in Melbourne, Australia with her first novel, Trespassing in 2004.

And then there is also the the New-York based novelist, Sorayya Khan who with her Dutch mother and Pakistani father grew up in Islamabad and was known for her novel's story of a war that affected modern-day Pakistan, titled Noor. Like Uzma, Sorayya who is married to a Pakistani, also chooses the quiet life and is actively involved in charity work. Then too, there is the Lahore-born Roopa Farookiwho currently lives in London and published her first novel, Bitter Sweets in 2007. Her second novel, Corner Shop is to be published in the UK this October. By the way, was the New York based Talat Abbasi mentioned? Abbasi wrote Bitter Gourd, a collection of 17 short stories that featured Pakistani emigrants in America and also of Pakistani families in Karachi. She is reputed for capturing internal struggles.

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