AT the inauguration ceremony of the sixth annual KLF, noted academic and drama critic, Framji Minwalla, conveyed the choice for the French Embassy literary prize for the best Pakistani fiction to the audience. In his preamble, he claimed, “Pakistani fiction both at home and in the diaspora is alive to the complexities of our interdependent pasts and present, fashioning imaginative realms … that give us faith in the capacity of stories to shed light on the murkier corners of our lives.”
The winner this year was Shandana Minhas’s children’s novel, Survival Tips for Lunatics, though the notable mentions of the shortlist included worthy competitors such as Kamila Shamsie’s A God in Every Stone, Aamer Hussein’s The Swan’s Wife, and Soniah Kamal’s An Isolated Incident.
It is a tribute to the KLF that a major creative intellect such as that of Hussein’s is able to engage with a receptive audience as part of the festival’s sessions. In a talk moderated by writer Bilal Tanweer, Hussein spoke with disarming frankness about various authors that have helped to shape and influence his work and development alike. These include James Baldwin and Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as Edward Said. The latter determined Hussein’s choice of texts when it came to reading, since, as many would agree, Said is instrumental in determining how we are perceived in the eyes of others.