Hybrid tapestries: Why Pakistani writing in English is thriving

Sadaf Halai in the Herald:

ScreenHunter_2722 Jun. 19 10.31Indian authors writing in English were the rising stars of the anglophone literary world in the 1990s, notes Muneeza Shamsie in the preface to her groundbreaking and exhaustive book, Hybrid Tapestries: The Development of Pakistani Literature in English.

At the time, she writes, many in Pakistan would ask her why there weren’t any English language writers in Pakistan. But, contrary to general perception, Muneeza recalls, she was “meeting and writing about Pakistani-English authors all the time”.

This disconnect between perception and reality served as a catalyst of sorts for A Dragonfly in the Sun, the 1997 anthology she went on to compile. The anthology included the works of several writers of Pakistani origin living abroad, raising important questions of “identity and belonging”. In Hybrid Tapestries, Muneeza addresses those questions and defines what it means to be a “Pakistani” writer: “anyone who claims that identity,” she argues.

She asserts early on in her remarkably well-organised, thoughtful and extremely readable book that Pakistani English literature is unlike other Pakistani literatures in that it is a “direct result of the colonial encounter”.

She uses a “historical trajectory” to trace the development of Pakistani English literature: the starting point of the trajectory are the “founders” of Pakistani English writing — writers who became Pakistani at the time of the Partition, whose writing cannot be separated from the “colonial encounter”. She, however, avoids using what she refers to as the “academic labels” of postmodern and postcolonial.

More here.

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