10 things I hate about Pakistani fiction in English

Published: May 16, 2010

1.  The constant attempts at stimulating the olfactory senses — the smell of spices/fruit/sweat and what have you.

2.  The reviews that focus on the paradox between Taliban-ridden Pakistan and any semblance of civilisation as shown by the act of writing.

3.  The writers who panders to just those critics.

4. Food — lengthy, pornographically detailed descriptions of. People in other countries have it too, eating isn’t a quintessentially Eastern trait (this also applies to films about Italian immigrants).

5.  Wedding scenes involving extended families. Extended families in general.

6.  The lengthy, detailed explications about Islam, too often taking place between Muslim characters who wouldn’t ordinarily feel the need to elucidate each other about their own religion.

7.  The women.

8.  The 60s. The obligatory, nostalgic reference to Pakistan’s allegedly liberal, tolerant, glorious past.

9.  The adverbs. Less is more, people!

10.  The doom. If it doesn’t begin with doom, rest assured it’s lurking a few pages away

Published in the Express Tribune, May 16th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • dr_aur_billah
    May 16, 2010 - 4:30PM

    unfortunately, I dont think anybody (fictitious or not) can ‘elucidate each other’.
    long live the pedantic.Recommend

  • May 16, 2010 - 5:10PM

    The hilarity of these examples stems from the truth of their inclusion. How wordy was that? Bodes well for me writing career. And by ‘me’ I of course mean ‘my’ – Our pronounciation in London isn’t a patch on our Pakistani counterparts.Recommend

  • Sami Shah
    May 16, 2010 - 7:44PM

    Hilarious! It’s funny ’cause it’s true.Recommend

  • Hassan Malik
    May 16, 2010 - 8:07PM

    This piece of writing belongs on Ms. Khan’s facebook, and not in a newspaper. Recommend

  • Zeeshan
    May 16, 2010 - 8:46PM

    This should be required reading in all secondary school English classes!Recommend

  • Zia Ahmed
    May 16, 2010 - 9:22PM

    Whatever the case may be Pakistani Fiction is an emerging Pakistani identity and is one of the soft images of Pakistan. Literature over all and fiction in postcolonial Pakistan has played a more positive role in shaping and reshaping the lives of Pakistani people as a whole and that women in special. the need to is to explore and research and appreciate the role played by these Pakistani fiction writers. ZiaRecommend

  • surprised
    May 16, 2010 - 10:04PM

    Examples please. How many Pakistani authors have written in English, for example, about weddings?Recommend

  • May 17, 2010 - 8:49AM

    its like you read my mind, but i’d expand this to include all south asian writers, not just pakistanis!Recommend

  • Rabz
    May 17, 2010 - 11:24AM

    Pakistan has some promising extremely writers like Mohsin Hamid and Mohammad Hanif. The writer criticisms seem to be of one who does not know what makes a good piece of writing.Recommend

  • Rabz
    May 17, 2010 - 11:27AM

    This article is a waste of space and as someone rightly said that it deserves to be on fb not a national newspaper. Pakistan has some promising extremely writers like Mohsin Hamid and Mohammad Hanif. The writer criticisms seem to be of one who does not know what makes a good piece of writing. These sort of articles reflect very badly on the Tribune. Why not get someone who has more knowledge of good writing and literature to write a critical piece on contemporary Pakistani fictionRecommend

  • rosysblue
    May 17, 2010 - 11:37AM

    fb material indeed..quality tribune not just quantity!Recommend

  • May 17, 2010 - 11:12PM

    I’m glad somebody finally came out and said it – I think there’s a lot to talk about besides food and the Taliban, to be very honest. Can I also add the insufferable use of passive voice that every writer loves to use – ‘the lemon-yellow daal ka halwa was eaten by Mehak in the Taliban camp’ – makes me cringe every time.Recommend

  • Marium
    May 17, 2010 - 11:32PM

    Mohsin Hamid and Mohammad Hanif are NOT the only Pakistani writers. For someone who has recently read about 10 different books by talented Pakistani writers…I think this list is pretty good! Well done! Especially #1, #4 and #9.Recommend

  • Mudassar Ali Khan
    May 18, 2010 - 1:48PM

    I wont even call it an article but merely a list of facts and expressions that the author has managed to grasp after having read some pakistani/south-asian bestsellers. I think every nation/region has its own story which makes it stand out from others. The above mentioned things that the author hates about Pakistani fiction in english are in fact the problems,sights,sounds and smells of Pakistan’s past and present and it would’nt be fair to rule them out while sketching a real Pakistan in a fiction. As of now for a change, I recommend all of you to read a compilation of short stories by Daniyal Mueenuddin, ‘In other rooms, other wonders’ if u have’nt already done so.Recommend

  • Asad Hasnain
    May 18, 2010 - 6:31PM

    lovely and true true!!
    one more thing,, pakistani wrtiter cant bring in that “chatkhara” that we find in the foreign authors.. despite writing about food women and romance. they lack something.. the grip

    but list is goodRecommend

  • Iqra
    May 18, 2010 - 9:38PM

    The list is funny and somewhat true and even though many people who have commented make some good points about Pakistan, Pakistani authors and their writings, this entertaining list is, after all, Ms. Faiza’s opinion and she is entitled to it. After all, it spurred the above discussion, which in my opinion, is healthy and needed.Recommend

  • May 18, 2010 - 10:56PM

    I like reading about Pakistan in the 60’s and our glorified past. You take it for granted since Pakistan is heading in that direction intellectually again.Recommend

  • Amna
    May 19, 2010 - 10:41AM

    but its just these things that make Pakistani fiction so distinctive. Plus I think you OD-ed on Bapsi Sidhwa recentlyRecommend

  • Beenisch
    May 28, 2010 - 12:10PM

    “9. The adverbs. Less is more, people!”

    I think this applies to all forms of writing in Pakistan- from journalism to routine report writing. Perhaps Hemmingway is the answer.Recommend

  • Zuhayr Merchant
    Jun 18, 2010 - 12:51PM

    Personally, I think its a vivid description of what we get to experience while reading ‘desi’ authors. I wouldn’t call their writing gaudy or peppered-with-adverbs, the writing is immensely impressionistic. I would specially refer to Kamila Shamsie, Sehba Sarwar and Mohsin Hamid when I say so. :)Recommend

  • Jun 18, 2010 - 3:16PM

    Mr. Hassan Malik was right on point.Althought the writer has pointed out some very witty and humorous things about Pakistani writers but this content itself or the format of its doesnt belong to a newspaper.Recommend

  • yn
    Sep 12, 2010 - 1:04PM

    lol so true. kamila shamsie take note.Recommend

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