So with all the literature festival fever surrounding you, it must be difficult figuring out what you should read and what you shouldn’t. Have no fear. This handy little guide will help you pick out the best books and acquaint you with all the hoopla surrounding Pakistani literature in English.
Kartography by Kamila Shamsie
If Karachi inspires you, then this offering by Kamila Shamsie is sure to delight. Unlike her other works which have a touch of pretentiousness about them, Kartography is a gripping story set in the Karachi that Shamsie grew up in. The story is about Raheen and Karim, best friends who paint new worlds and speak in anagrams. But a long-buried secret creates rifts between their families, and Raheen, now older, questions the mistakes of the past. Shamsie’s Karachi is not far-removed from the Karachi of today, violent, mercurial but ultimately, resilient, much like the characters in her novel.
A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif
No list about literature from Pakistan is complete without Mohammed Hanif. A Case of Exploding Mangoes is Hanif’s darkly comic first novel, one that heralded him to the status of “The writer everyone is reading or wants to read.” In a country where politics can never be removed from any discourse, Hanif spins a tale about the death of General Zia-ul-Haq that is as sadistic as it is witty. You will laugh out loud but the characters’ and their stories will resonate with you long after.
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
This collection of short stories bring the boisterous fields of Punjab to your cosy corner of the world. Recurring characters connect the stories, set in the dog-eat-dog world of landowners, jirga laws and unbridled corruption. Mueenuddin prose is rich with vivid details and sensuous description that will transport the reader to sun-drenched lands with jeeps and bare-backed farmers husking the crop.
Home Boy by H.M Naqvi and The RELUCTANT Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
These two novels are grouped together for their similar themes. Chuck from Home Boy and Changes from The Reluctant Fundamentalist come to America to study, work and party. New York is their home away from home and here, they can be anybody and anything. But then, in the wake of 9/11, follows disillusionment, anxiety and danger. For a one-sit read on a lazy Sunday pick up The Reluctant Fundamentalist and for prolonged reading pleasure, go with Home Boy. Both write at a breathless pace and you will find yourself unable to put down either.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
For offerings from our neighbors either side of the border look no further than these two authors. Afghani writer Hosseini writes a coming-of-age tale of loss, hope and guilt while Indian writer, Roy delves in to the guilt that can haunt a family for generations. Both authors explore class differences and caste struggles but while Hosseini’s prose is crisp and solid, Roy’s takes us on a sensuous and intense journey in Kerala. Choose whichever one, you’ll be recommending them to all the readers you know.