by Zafar Anjum

MarionMarion Molteno’s writing reflects the breadth of her life experience. She grew up in South Africa where she was active in opposition to the apartheid regime. She lived in Zambia at a time of profound social change, has pioneered educational projects in multi-ethnic communities in the UK, and worked for Save the Children in many of the poorest areas of Asia and Africa. Her latest novel, Uncertain Light, is set in the world of international aid workers, much of it in Central Asia in the years following the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union. If you can walk, you can dance, the story of a young woman’s life on the run across frontiers and cultures, was awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the best book in the Africa region, and was selected for the top 20 books in the Women’s Writers Festival in New Zealand. A Shield of Coolest Air, set among Somali asylum seekers, won the David St John Thomas Award for fiction. Somewhere More Simple is set on the Isles of Scilly and explores relationships among outsiders in a small community cut off from the mainland. Her short story collection, A Language in Common, reflects the experiences of South Asian women in Britain in the 1980s, and has been translated into Panjabi, Urdu and Bengali.  She has written and lectured on language, education and development. The books which grew out of her experience with Save the Children have been translated into many languages and used across the world. She studied Urdu with the scholar Ralph Russell, and edits his writing on Urdu literature.

Tell us about Uncertain Light

It starts when an Indian humanitarian worker is taken hostage in Tajikistan during a civil war – and the story follows those closest to him as they try to come to terms with what has happened.

It was inspired by years of working with Save the Children in countries across Asia. But essentially – like many good stories! – it’s about love, and loss, and what it means to be human.

Read the first chapter of the novel Uncertain Light here (pdf):

Uncertain Light

The Indie Book Award – what is it?

It’s an international award for books published by independent publishers. It’s run from the US but gets entries from all over the world. Uncertain Light is a finalist in the general fiction category. They also give awards for specific categories: thrillers, science fiction, children’s fiction, etc.

Publishing these days is dominated by the giant conglomerates, yet there are so many independent publishers producing really good books, so it’s great to have these awards to recognise that. Smaller publishers are often more willing to take risks – give a space to more original writing – and that means they often come up with winners.

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by Marion Molteno

Easter Sunday in Lahore, Pakistan – families  out for a day in a park … then the world changed.  Yet another set of tragedies, for a society that already has had so many.   People don’t know what to do with their anger. My friends’ FaceBook pages echo their misery. Don’t pray for Lahore, says one, fight against hateful religious ideology.  Someone puts up a photo of a little boy – her child’s son, gone.  Another is visiting the children in hospital, struggling for their lives. She is giving them toys her friends have donated; hugs and smiles in amidst the suffering.  There’s a photo  of young men crowding a hospital entrance, wanting to give blood.

Five weeks earlier I was in Lahore for a literary festival, along with a hundred thousand other people.  Now, when we remember it,  it will always be in the shadow of what came after. But I am putting up the reflections I wrote about the festival as a tribute to the remarkable people who created a space for tolerance and debate, and will continue to do so.  I am posting it just as I wrote it before that bomb exploded; including the prophetic words from the poet Faiz with which the blog ends.

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