Terror in times of comfort

Politics seeps into and mingles with our private lives, which is why fiction shouldn’t treat them as separate spheres, says Tabish Khair.

How does one write fiction about terror and religion? There is no one answer to this question, but at least for me it is part of a larger question: how does one write fiction about political issues? Because finally, both terror and religion fall into the arena of the widely political, in the sense that they deal with how people relate to and act with one another.

Two takes

In contemporary fiction, there seems to be two dominant answers to this question. There is the literature of political protests, which handles political happenings head-on. There are some great works, especially poetry, song and theatre, here. Then there is literature that leans over towards so-called aesthetics, privileging what is often called the “individual”, and this includes some great works too. If the former is supposed to be overtly political, even “activist”, the latter mostly purports to reduce matters to the “private” and tells us, for instance, that the terrorist is a “human being”.

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