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New Release: House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab

This House of Clay and Water (1)Set in Lahore, This House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab explores the lives of two women. The book published by Penguin Random House India will release in May.

Nida, intelligent and lonely, has married into an affluent political family and is desperately searching for some meaning in her existence; and impulsive, lovely Sasha, from the ordinary middle class, whose longing for designer labels and upmarket places is so frantic that she willingly consorts with rich men who can provide them. Nida and Sasha meet at the famous Data Sahib dargah and connect–their need to understand why their worlds feel so alien and empty, bringing them together.

On her frequent visits to the dargah, Nida meets the gentle, flute-playing hijra, Bhanggi, who sits under a bargargh tree and yearns for acceptance and affection, but is invariably shunned. A friendship—fragile, tentative and tender–develops between the two, both exiles within their own lives; but it flies in the face of all convention and cannot be allowed.

Faiqa Mansab’s accomplished and dazzling debut novel explores the themes of love, betrayal and loss in the complex, changing world of today’s Pakistan.

About the Author:

Faiqa Mansab finished her MFA in Creative Writing with Distinction from Kingston University London, in 2014. She has been published in The Missing Slate, Running Out of Ink, and The Friday Times. She also has an MPhil in English Literature from Government College University Lahore. She teaches creative writing as visiting faculty in Kinnaird College Lahore. This House of Clay and Water is her debut novel.


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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Sabyn Javeri

By Aminah Sheikh

sabyn

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write because I can. In the sense that I have something to say and I can say it in an interesting and engaging way. Or so I hope…

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I just came out with my debut novel Nobody Killed Her (HarperCollins) which is the story of two powerful women focusing on how an outsider infiltrates the world of political dynasties. It’s a court trial centering around the assassination of a female political leader, and each question throws up memories of the past, dragging the reader deeper into the narrative — except that the narrator is unreliable . . .

Up next is a book of short stories titled Hijabistan, out early next year by HarperCollins again. It is a collection of short stories on the theme of the veil, both as a garment and as a psychological barrier. I’m told I have a quirky outlook to life! I love challenging the existing perception of things and that is what I want to explore in these stories. Looking at things from a fresh perspective. What does the Hijab mean to the wearer and to the onlooker? Is it a threat, a weapon, a safety net or an entrapment? These stories explore the garment and its psychology in a very different way and I’m super excited about it. Also, the short story form is my first love, so it’s like returning home.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Less is more.

Who are your favourite authors?

Ismat Chugtai, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Judith Hermann and Gillian Flynn. I’d read anything by them.

Chugtai for her boldness (she was writing about feminism before the term was even coined) Hermann for the simplicity of her prose, Al-Shaykh for being a natural story teller and Flynn because she’s a master plotter. And also Javier Marias, I suppose, for his insights into human behaviour. His short stories move me.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

A very short story called “The Session” about a difficult moment between a therapist and her client. It was an exercise in narrative tension told very much through what was left unsaid. It was challenging to create such a pregnant atmosphere with minimum words.

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Nadeem Aslam: ‘I take delight that my initials in Urdu look like a pen by an inkwell’

By Nadeem Aslam

I sleep in the afternoon and evening and get up at 11pm. I am at my desk at midnight and I write until six or seven in the morning. I have been working this way for 25 years now. The quietness deepens at night and everything feels saturated with stillness. From 7am till midday, I read. It is often said human beings don’t come with an instruction manual; but I believe that books – libraries – are the instruction manuals for human beings. To read a great book is to realise that everything is already known. I also look at the newspapers. Many things in my books come from real life; but a novelist has to be careful in transporting a real event into the landscape of a novel. It is patient work, like moving a lake from one place to another with a teaspoon.


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Book Review: This story of star-crossed lovers set in Pakistan is a must read

UK-based Pakistani author Nadeem Aslam’s sixth novel, set in contemporary Pakistan, is a story of love set in a world beset with sectarian violence.

Nadeem Aslam never disappoints his readers and the characteristic features of his novels – vividly beautiful, lucidly painful and yet surprisingly convincing – tend to leave a lasting impression.

It was this overwhelming sense of reverence for the Pakistan-born author that led one to flick through this brilliant novel, which combines realism and fable in a tale that is exhilarating as it counters despair with hope.

The Golden Legend is a thrilling novel and carries more realism than meets the eye. Just like “the spring of hope” and “the winter of despair” that Dickens mentioned in the opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities, Aslam’s fantastic work seems to reverberate with paradoxes and yet sounds surprisingly convincing. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times


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Excerpts: Nobody Killed Her by Sabyn Javeri

thumbnail_Nobody Killed Her PosterNEW YORK, 1982

The first time we met, you were wearing borrowed clothes. You sat there in your too big platforms, bell sleeves and a neckline that plunged sharply to the right. Your yellow jumper hung loose over your thin frame. Your head was defiantly uncovered, your frizzy hair as rebellious as your nature, your heart-shaped mouth stubbornly set. Later you told me that your friend Yasmin had lent you the clothes because your mother stopped your monthly allowance. She thought it would make you give up politics.

Your mother didn’t know you well.

Looking deceptively sunny in that blinding yellow, you smoked as Yasmin stood behind you, searching through a high bookshelf. I had never seen a girl of your stature smoke. Or sit publicly without a veil.

‘Ashtray,’ you ordered and Yasmin came running up with one. To avoid staring, I looked up at the highest shelf, my neck craning as I tilted my head all the way up, then bending as I looked down to the last. I wondered if you had read all those books.

Perhaps it was my head bobbing up and down like a duck  in water that caught your attention. Sit, you gestured, and I nervously looked around for a chair to park myself on. I noticed your forehead crease in a frown as you crossed your legs like men do. You leaned back, stretching your hand over your knee and it was then I knew. With downcast eyes, I settled on the floor.

‘What’s your name?’ you asked at the exact moment I opened my mouth to say, ‘I want to be in politics.’

You pretended you hadn’t heard and I knew from then on not to speak unless spoken to. Nobody can say I wasn’t a good learner.

That much, at least, is true.

Yasmin brought tea and as she handed around the cups, you asked me again what my name was.

‘Nazneen Khan,’ I said. ‘But everyone calls me Nazo.’

You smiled and I said, ‘Madam, I am working in Aijaz Sahib’s dry cleaners. You know Aijaz Sahib from Jackson Heights? He sent me to you. He said you help people fleeing the General’s regime. My whole family was murdered in the coup. My father was a doorman at the Parliament. He resisted when they tried to break in. Later the General’s men came to our house and killed everyone. I hid under the bed … survived somehow…’ I could not carry on talking.

You didn’t offer me any condolence. Instead you said, ‘Can you type?’

And that was how it all began.

Bailiff: All rise!

Clerk: Judge Muzzamdar will be presiding over this case. Bailiff: The court is now in session. Please be  seated.

Judge: Good Morning. Calling the case of Mr Omar Bin Omar versus Miss Nazneen Khan on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rani Shah. Are both sides ready?

Prosecutor: Ready for the prosecution, Your Honour. Defending Counsel: Ready for the defence, Your Honour.

Clerk: Your Honour, the plaintiff Mr Omar accuses the defendant of premeditated murder and of espionage against the state. The defendant is represented by the able and veteran lawyer Mr Hamidi while the plaintiff, being a known human rights lawyer, has decided to prosecute the case himself. Given his knowledge of law, and his closeness to the murdered politician, the court requests that his lack of criminal practice be overlooked and Mr Omar be allowed to prosecute.

Judge: Permission granted. Prosecutor Mr Omar and Counsel Mr Hamidi, please present your opening  statements.

Prosecutor: Your Honour, Miss Nazneen Khan, commonly known as Nazo,  has  been  accused  of  conspiring to assassinate the country’s first female Prime Minister, Madam Rani Shah. Although the body was charred in the explosion, new evidence has revealed that her death was not due to the suicide bombing as was previously believed, but by a bullet shot at close range. Almost as if by someone seated right next to her…

Counsel: Objection! Judge: Sustained.

Prosecutor: Very well. Let me start by asking a very simple and straightforward question. Miss Khan must answer why it is that she, who sat right next to Madam Shah at the time of the assassination, managed to escape unscathed, while Madam Shah lost her life. Now, Miss Khan, tell the court who sat where…

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Excerpts: The Party Worker by Omar Shahid Hamid

The Party WorkerThe batsman at the other end, your captain, says something to you but it doesn’t register. It doesn’t matter, it can only be some inane observation. The bowler returns to the top of his mark, licking his fingers and massaging the red ball. Here he comes again. Watch the ball. It’s tossed up. Move forward, bring the bat in a full arc and connect. There, it is now a red dot hurtling through the sky, over the bowler’s head, out of the ground for a six. The perfect shot. Suddenly, the heat doesn’t matter. Your captain’s prattling doesn’t matter. The bowler’s prior performance doesn’t matter. Your name is Asad Haider, you are nineteen years old and you are the best batsman in the world. That is all that matters.

‘That Asad Haider is the best batsman in Nishtar Park.’ ‘Arre choro yaar. That boy can only play on these dead pitches. Besides, he’s a bloody charsi. Always high as a kite. No proper coaching either. He wouldn’t survive five minutes on a real turf wicket.’

‘Still, I’ve never seen anyone with such a natural eye. And just look at the grace in his shots. And the pitch isn’t easy. The old concrete slab is falling apart. It’s not easy to maintain your technique on that surface.’

‘Arre, who ever heard of a six-foot-four-inch opening batsman. All the great batsmen were short men. Gavaskar, Bradman, Miandad. That’s what makes them compact players. This boy should have been a fast bowler with his height. But saala lazy hai. He doesn’t want to work hard. Just wants to bat and smoke charas.’

A third voice pipes up. ‘He’s nothing more than a khatmal goonda. Goes around the area with his little band of khatmals, shutting down shops and threatening the traders every time the Fiqah-e-Jaaferia decide to call a bandh.’

‘Saale badmaash khatmal thugs. Such are the times we live in, that every time something happens to one of them anywhere in the city, these pups who’ve barely started shaving start bossing around respectable people. At least, we didn’t have this kind of thing when Bhutto was still alive.’

‘Bhutto was a Shia too. He didn’t do anything to restrain them.’ ‘Yes, but all this started when Zia put his hand on the mullahs. Then this lot started acting up.’

‘It was the bloody revolution in Iran. That’s when things started going bad. Besides, these fellows have the biggest mullah. That fellow Khomeini.’

‘Don’t you dare blaspheme against the Imam! We will tolerate a lot of your rubbish but we will not accept any insult against the Imam. And you better be careful. Half of us living around Nishtar Park are Shia.’

Aleem Siddiqui walks into the small makeshift pavilion that has been set up under a bright red shamiana at the very moment that the cricketing debate turns into a sectarian confrontation. His trademark polyester shirt is plastered to his back and two huge sweat stains expand like ink blots under his armpits. It is not just the heat that makes Aleem sweat. It is fear as well.

Getting between the two offensive debaters, he ensures that neither will be able to deck the other. ‘Excuse me, sirji, I am very sorry but can someone please point me to where Asad Haider is? Has he left the ground already?’

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India: Pakistan writers not invited for South Asian Lit Festival

New Delhi, Feb 23:  The three-day South Asian Literature festival, which begins tomorrow, will not feature writers from Pakistan this year. The literature festival is being organised by the Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL) at the India International Centre here. “We did not get permission from the authorities to invite delegates from Pakistan,” FOSWAL Founder and President Ajeet Cour told PTI.

Based on the theme of ‘Beyond Borders’ and ‘Endeavoring for peace and tranquility in the region’, the festival will see participation from the other eight SAARC countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Malaysia and India among others. Cour said the festival this year will feature more delegates and writers than its previous editions. Read more

Source: India.com

 


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Book Review: This Wide Night by Sarvat Hasin

By Lakshmi Menon

this-wide-nightSarvat Hasin’s This Wide Night has been described as Little Women meets The Virgin Suicides. While this is not entirely wrong and there are some clear parallels between the works, the description belies the levels of meaning the author has packed into this work, and the comparisons fall short.

The majority of the story is told through the eyes of Jimmy, who, like Laurie in Little Women, is fascinated by the women who live in the house across the street from him. As he learns more about them, to live among them and love them, so do the readers. We grow to share his fascination with the Malik sisters – the beautiful Maria, firebrand tomboy Ayesha, shy Bina and the petulant Leila, and their mother Mehrunnisa who is as lovely as she is mysterious. In the absence of the patriarch of the household, Captain Malik, these women form parts of a whole that does not leave any room for outsiders. Even as Jimmy feels welcomed into their world he is aware that he will never be completely privy to it. They share “an invisible net of sisterhood” that he cannot penetrate, try as he may.

Through the course of the novel, we watch Jimmy try to find a balance for the failings of his own life. A loner in many respects, it is in this intimate shared space that he is invited into that he finds solace, even as he is aware that their world isn’t exactly considered “ordinary”.

No one lived as these girls did, no other mother would have allowed these freedoms. But even this freedom was not boundless. There were things you could live in the world without and things you could not. This was not a city for hiding sins or secrets.”

The isolation of the Malik girls from society in general becomes a real, physical thing in the latter part of the book, when circumstances force them to move to an island off Karachi, and Jimmy is aware of what it entails to share a roof with the women.

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Excerpts: This Wide Night by Sarvat Hasin

this-wide-nightXII.

They were married there in Paris, just the two of them with Khalajaan and witnesses gathered from the local mosque. It was not the wedding he remembered her having talked about as a girl; she’d wanted a grand reception at the Metropole and large golden-yellow tents. She’d wanted white silk tablecloths and rose petals down the middle of the aisle. I want a palanquin, she’d insisted, even when Maria had pointed out they had no male relatives to lift it.

There’s Papa and Jimmy, Leila said. That’s only two.

I’m sure you’ll all be married by then, she’d sniffed.

Your husbands can help.

And there she was in the small clerk’s office, dropping her head with the anachronistic coyness of brides. At dinner, Khalajaan told them to be good to each other and asked no  questions  about  anything: not  the  rush, not  the  secrecy, not  the  dumb fact of it here in a city that did not belong to them. Her hands folded on the tabletop, the glow of her rings in the candlelight. She looked at them with an indulgence he hadn’t expected, a flash of warmth in her smile like butter in a pan. She was fond of Leila, he knew. She was the only one of the girls who had followed, in some way, in her image.

Marriage is hard, she said, and she pointed at the space between them with her fork. You will have to work hard. You will have to compromise.

She had never been in his room before. He realized then, as she stood by the windowsill with her hips angled against it, that they had never really been alone together. Only in parks and restaurants, never in the deafening silence of a hotel room. She shifted in the window till she was the whole room, all he could see. He sat down, held on to his bed.

Did you mean what you said about loving me? she asked.

Her question small, and nearly swallowed up in the space between them.

They came together as lonely travellers will do. The ugliness of his proposal was buried under the language of their bodies. This time when he reached out to hold her there was a sureness to it that seemed separate from the wreckage of his nerves. He felt disconnected from his body, as if he is watching them from a great distance: the two of them in the empty room. Her body shivered, his hands shook.

Leila curved into him, fit a hand along his waist. The boldness of her touch pushed him back into the room. Here it was cold and she was near enough for his mouth to catch her breath if he opened it.

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Book review: A Requiem For Pakistan—The World Of Intizar Husain

By Syeda Hameed

When I first set eyes on Mahmood Farooqui’s book, A Requiem For Pakistan, I had just returned from Pakistan, where I met people who spoke with love and awe of the subject of this book. Novelist and poet Intizar Husain had died a few months ago. The Pakistan I saw was vibrant, then why “requiem”, I asked. The answer came to me as I reached the last page of the book; both the protagonists of the book were speaking to me. Husain writes, “Every affliction that falls from the sky and every turbulence that arises from earth comes asking for (the) address of Pakistan and having arrived here takes us into its arms.”

The book is not about one but two journeys, that of Husain and Farooqui; it is hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. “I keep inserting my story and words into this account of Intizar’s life in the hope that I too may exalt my status,” Farooqui writes. Read more

Source: Live Mint