KARACHI: The classics – Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters – are taught in most private schools in Pakistan, but do scholars pick them up afterwards?
Reading books for most young Pakistanis is primarily for relaxation. The idea with the latter is to not put more pressure on your brain with complicated syntax and vocabulary. This is a primary reason why Pakistani students prefer easy fiction.
“I like satire in classic literature. Other than that, I feel that the language should be simple for me to understand to be able to enjoy reading. I read to relax. I do not want to get a headache from concentrating too hard, trying comprehending whatever I am reading,” said Amenah Mahmood, a recent graduate of Karachi’s Institute of Business Administration.
For Anis Yousuf, a business major, reading modern fiction is beyond the scope of language alone. “I read books in a modern writing style since it illustrates today’s mindset and the information provided in it is easily absorbable.”
Sales representatives of various bookstores shared their insights about the general preferences of young readers aged 20 to 30.
“The trend of reading classic fiction is diminishing. Young people prefer books of modern writers like Paulo Coelho and Daniyal Mueenuddin”, said a representative of a leading bookstore of Karachi.
Given their popularity abroad and the books being turned into blockbuster films, fiction series such as Harry Potter and Twilight may seem to have taken young Pakistanis by storm, but that may not be true.
“There is a general shift from classic to modern literature. But youngsters find very contemporary literature immature. The general impression is that very contemporary fiction is what youngsters read. While we see a very short term interest in vampire and wizard series there is a long-term and heightened interest in South Asian writers,” said Rabeea Arif, a project manager at The Second Floor in Karachi.
Although the shift towards modern literature is huge, it does not imply the death of classic fiction. Young adults still admire the works of authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Arif believes that the readership for classic fiction is concentrated around the fiction written after twentieth century.
John Johnson, an assistant manager at Liberty Books, revealed a unique tactic to attract young readers towards classics, “Recently some of the classic literature has been reintroduced with colourful titles that have boosted its sales. Paulo Coelho, John Grisham and Jeffrey Archer are the most popular among a younger market. Then there are Pakistani writers like Daniyal Mueenuddin (In Other Rooms, Other Wonders) and Mohammed Hanif (A Case of Exploding Mangoes). The craze of the Harry Potter series is now fading out but the Twilight series is still doing great.”
Rukhsar, the assistant manager of Readings Lahore, believes the current trend is still in favour of contemporary series which he thinks is more a matter of social symbol than that of personal interest. “Young readers mostly prefer contemporary fiction, be it romance or thriller.
It is partly because these readers are more aware of the latest series through the media and partly because it is ‘in’ within their social circle,” he told The Express Tribune.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 18th, 2010.