Pakistan appears to be vying to be recognised as a normal country. Consequently, several literary festivals are held throughout the year, mainly funded by foreign donors, primarily in three major cities: Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. This year, too, two festivals were held in different cities but with varied clientele, audience, expectations and socio-political idioms. They also differed in terms of media and elite attention.

Talking about fiction writing and the gender play in writing, the women on the ‘South Asian English fiction: Where mythology and history meet’ are on a roll. It’s only the day’s second session, and the audience is being given plenty to think about.

“Fiction writers are more interested in the myths of the future (like Star Trek), even if we are writing about the myths of the past,” Kamila Shamsie starts by talking about writing as mythmaking. In a time of colonialism, Shamsie feels post-colonial writers might be re-making language, but they still carry colonial burdens.

The conversation quickly moves to gender. Shamsie says written narratives are modeled on masculine narratives, because men are given priority in education departments and therefore associated with the written word. Women meanwhile are more easily associated with the oral narrative.