Uncovering Pakistan 2

February 29 2008

As a footnote to the earlier post, the best-known young British-Pakistani writer is Nadeem Aslam. He was born in Gujranwala in Punjab in 1966, and lives in London. But he grew up partly in Huddersfield. No doubt the recent BBC Radio 4 celebration referred to him.

Mohsin Hamid was born in Lahore in 1971, studied in the States and lives in London. The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) was his second novel. Review by Robin Yassin-Kassab here. The title is wholly misleading. The character’s views about America change, but he is not religious.

Who is about to arrest whom at the end of the book? Yassin-Kassab writes that “the anguished first-person self-revelation is reminiscent of Dostoyevsky’s ‘Notes from Underground’”. That’s also a style used in Camus’ La chute/The Fall (1956). Which (I guess) may have taken something from Simenon’s Lettre à mon juge/Act of Passion (1951).

Hanif Kureishi was born in London in 1954 to a Pakistani father and English mother. His screenplay My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and novel The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) were pioneering works in a modern multicultural genre.

There is also Aamer Hussein, less well known, born in Karachi in 1955, living in London.

Robin Yassin-Kassab has a post on Nadeem Aslam here, referring to his Maps for Lost Lovers (2004), which is about Pakistanis in England. He admires the book, but wonders whether it will not confirm certain prejudices. “Perhaps Nadeen Aslam should have included a better-educated Muslim character to point out the possibility of more liberal readings of Islam. Perhaps he could have included a preface or an afterword to explain, for example, the reality of divorce and remarriage regulations in Islam. Perhaps these tactics would have diluted the work of art that ‘Maps for Lost Lovers’ undoubtedly is.”

Aslam writes in longhand. His first chapter took five years to write. After two years he stopped writing the novel altogether in order to write 100-page biographies of each of the main characters. This took four years, but he used only twenty pages of each. He drapes his windows with black cloth when he writes. He repeatedly reads out loud what he has written. He describes himself as culturally Muslim, but a non-believer. He says that he was raised with a “feeling for the life of the mind” and urged by his father to “live a passionate life” and to “loathe money”. Hamid also seems to have come from a cultured background.

Interview: www.newsline.com.pk/newsJul2004/bookjul2.htm

Page at Faber: www.faber.co.uk/article_detail.html?aid=23652

5 Responses to “Uncovering Pakistan 2”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    A weakness in Hamid’s book is surely that the (mildly irritating) tone of the narrator as he addresses the American stranger in the present seems out of character with his only slightly younger self.

  2. davidderrick Says:

    Article in the Telegraph, Kolkata about Pakistani novelists. It gets the name of Mueenuddin’s book wrong.


  3. […] mentions Camus when discussing Simenon. I’m glad to say that I did so before reading this. In a post about, inter alia, Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, I […]

  4. davidderrick Says:

    It seems Hamid imitated Camus. Wikipedia: “Hamid has said The Fall by Albert Camus served as his model.”

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