French author becomes an Urdu novelist after coming to Pakistan


Frenchman Julien Columeau reading in Urdu at a bookstore in Lahore. PHOTO: AFP

Frenchman Julien Columeau came to Pakistan at the age of 30 as a humanitarian worker – but a knack for languages and love for books have made him one of the country’s most innovative Urdu novelists.

Writing mainly historical fiction with a prose described as vivid and forceful, critics say that Columeau, now 41, has injected fresh life into the literary scene.

His works have featured at the country’s most prominent literature festivals with three novels published and more in the pipeline.

Originally from Marseilles, Columeau left France to study Hindi in India in 1993, but quickly grew disillusioned with the “clerical” form of the language he was being made to learn, and switched to Urdu two years later.

“I learnt it on my own – by then I was conversant in Hindi so there was a book which was about how to transliterate Urdu to Hindi,” he told AFP.

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