Kitaab

Asia+n writing in English

Nadeem Aslam: Mystery is all there is

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Michael E. Halmshaw interviews Nadeem Aslam in Guernica

NadeemNadeem Aslam: This book is about love. People always say to me that my books are very melancholy, very sad, even bleak. I am aware that I work in the tragic mode. Plenty of people don’t. They write comic novels. I am not one of them. I like to put people under pressure within a certain set of circumstances and see how that reveals their true character.

There are some writers who want to leave politics out of their novels. I don’t. Any number of writers: Dostoevsky, Orwell, Milosz, Tolstoy, Gordimer, Garcia Marquez, V.S. Naipaul; any number of them have made use of politics in their books. Political horror is at the center of the New Testament, isn’t it? What is the story of the death of Christ if looked at through secular eyes, if not about the corruption and compromises within the political system? Cynthia Ozick reviewed J.M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K in the New York Times when it was published, and in the first sentence she states that “the literature of conscience is about the bewilderment of the naïve.” The people we consider mentally defective, the children, the powerless, the people who actually ask the question: why? Why is the world this way? I think at the deepest level, that is what I am trying to do, to ask the question why.

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