Literature as a Muse — Tariq Ali


Elita Karim interviews the British Pakistani writer, journalist, and filmmaker Tariq Ali in Dhaka

Tariq_AliAli is scheduled to start off the Hay Festival today, along with Syed Manzoorul Islam and Ahdaf Soueif at the Bangla Academy. “I would rather call it the Dhaka Literature Festival,” says Tariq Ali. “I don’t attend the Hay festivals in Britain. The only reason why I am here is because the festival is happening in Dhaka. And I am here after a long time.”

The last time Ali was in Dhaka, he spoke to students under a mango tree, prodding them to go for independence and not autonomy. “There were gasps everywhere! It was probably in 1969 or 1970,” he says. “I remember asking them if I should speak in Urdu or English. Everyone chanted together — ‘ENGLISH!’”


Ali believes that literature inspires us to have aspirations and be the best versions of ourselves. But one should not depend on it alone for ‘change’. “There were songs and poetry that would inspire us,” he says. “For instance, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and later Habib Jalib and a few others did that. You can be inspired by them, but on their own they do not change the world.”

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