Sunday, November 21, 2010

Granta 112: The Pakistan Issue

"Right now there is a collision of interesting times and terrific talent of writing about Pakistan and writing coming from Pakistan. --- Its a thrilling moment literarily but obviously there are some serious themes at work here." (John Freeman, Granta editor)

"I cannot subscribe to the notion that Pakistan will fall apart; it might but I am not going to begin from that point. I can't. I love that place." (Novelist Nadeem Aslam in an interview with Carol Zall of "PRI's The World" radio program)

Granta's Pakistan issue published this fall is a major literary event for the country. Even as it highlights the quality and breadth of modern "Pakistani" art and writing it would be foolish to believe that the boom in good English writing coming from Pakistani-origin authors, by itself, is the primary reason for this literary focus on the country. The "interesting times" that Freeman refers to are, of course, a major contributing factor. Even so, this prominence on a global platform for the literary and artistic voices of the country is an unqualified boon for those who wish to have Pakistan seen from a perspective other than the prennial lens of "security".

The issue has been reviewed widely in both the British and American media: Isaac Chotiner in the The New York Times, Ben East in The National, Mustafa Qadri in The Guardian, Arifa Akbar in The Independent and Mira Sethi in The Wall Street Journal. On November 15th, Public Radio International's program The World and its host Lisa Mullins devoted half of the radio show to a discussion of Granta's Pakistan issue including interviews with Declan Walsh, Kamila Shamise and Nadeem Aslam.

Granta's issue will reach only a tiny slice of the country's English speaking elite plus a few curious foreigners but it will introduce readers to the richness of current English writing by Pakistanis. They may be surprised by what they find. Some of the most exciting voices on the South Asian literary scene are Pakistani. Mohammad Hanif, Nadeem Aslam and Daniyal Mueenuddin are easily distinguished from many of their Indian fiction writing counterparts in style as well as choice of subject matter. Mueenuddin, in particular, with his characters and stories set in a rural milieu is plying unique territory.

No comments: