Literary matters: ‘Pakistani novelists taking over their Indian counterparts’

Published: December 5, 2011
" I found Pakistani
society a vibrant
one. Its social and
cultural diversities
are very strong,"
David Waterman.

" I found Pakistani society a vibrant one. Its social and cultural diversities are very strong," David Waterman.


Pakistani novelists are getting recognition and popularity in the West, particularly in English speaking countries because of their hard work through the years. Once Indian novels were popular but now Pakistani writing is gathering momentum, said David Waterman, an Associate Professor in English at the Université de La Rochelle in France, in an interview with The Express Tribune here on Saturday.

“I have read over 25 novels of Pakistani writers and found them to be very captivating. They are up to the mark as far as content and language is concerned,” he said.

This was Waterman’s first visit to Pakistan and he doesn’t know Urdu or any other local languages. However Pakistani literature, he said, reflects Pakistani society and its cultural diversities.

“I found Pakistani society a vibrant one. Its social and cultural diversities are very strong,” he said. He added even though people in Pakistan are culturally, socially, regionally and ethnically varied, for them, their religious identities come before their ethnicities.

Pakistani history provides a lot of interesting things to the readers for exploring the structure of the society, Waterman said.

Comparing Pakistani and Indian English novels, Waterman said that there are no big differences as far as the standard of their content and language is concerned. However, he said, Indian writers are more vocal about the taboos in their society — something Pakistani writers have not written about in too much detail.

Waterman added that the story of any nation cannot be explained without historical backdrop, particularly a new one like Pakistan.

He said that in Pakistan’s case, the literature, through its appearance during the freedom movement, highlighted the saga of Pakistan.

The literature describes the germs of extreme nationalism based on religious norms, social setup, quest for freedom protection of cultural and traditional heritage with defined reasoning, he said.

However, the post-partition literature deals with the socio-political, ideological and ethnic problems of the Pakistani society, Waterman said, adding that it is essential to make the distinction between literal and exemplary memory as the first subordinates the present to past while the second allows the past to be exploited in the present.

He elaborated that cultural identity is always a function of social relations and struggles of families offer the reader a personal perspective with which to consider issues of cultural identity on a large scale.

So, history can be taken as narratives of nation and families, he said.

Earlier on Saturday, Waterman spoke with International Islamic University Islamabad Rector Prof. Fateh Muhammad Malik and exchanged views on his research on contemporary Pakistani prose. He cited the names of scores of Pakistani writers that he had read, including Kamila Shamsi, Nadeem Aslam, Mohsin Hamid, Muhammad Hanif, Daniyal Mueendin, Uzma Aslam Khan, Sorayya Khan Noor, Nafisa Haji, H.M. Naqvi, Tahmina Anam, Taslima Nasrin and Muneeza Shamsie.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2011.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (10)

  • geeko
    Dec 5, 2011 - 6:51AM

    If we could put 1% of what we do in music in fields like cinema or literature, it would be awesome!


  • Dec 5, 2011 - 8:11AM

    Lets get one thing straight. English is the fastest growing language in India and hence, there are a lot of English Novelists coming out and have come out.

    This person has read only English novels, but India produces literature in some 2 dozen languages. So, only a super genius can really write about literature in India, since he has to read from all the 2 dozen or so languages.


  • Homa
    Dec 5, 2011 - 9:04AM

    Last time i checked taslima nasrin was still a bangladeshi, and a guest of india. Prof david waterman looking for a job in pakistan? He needs to try harder to curry favor.


  • Anthony Permal
    Dec 5, 2011 - 10:01AM

    Aren’t Taslima Nasreen & Tahmina Anum Bangaldeshis?

    Tribune, you really should get your reporters to do some basic – yes, basic – fact checking.


  • Ali Khan
    Dec 5, 2011 - 10:22AM

    Where do we find these no-name people. Associate professor of English from some random French University. At least get a professor from UK where they speak English.


  • Americano
    Dec 5, 2011 - 11:18AM

    @Bruteforce. He’s talking about the novel in English, which is a genre. Not interested in the “two dozen” other head-wagging languages. I’m surprised that Bapsi Sidwa, probably the most famous Pakistani novelist in English, wasn’t mentioned.


  • Faria Syed
    Dec 5, 2011 - 11:35AM

    What a strange HL


  • You Said It
    Dec 5, 2011 - 12:29PM

    Why is the headline on this article disconnected to the content? The interviewee said nothing to the effect that Pakistani writers are “taking over” their Indian counterparts. He said that “They are up to the mark as far as content and language is concerned” but that they hadn’t written about the taboos in Pakistani society.


  • wahab
    Dec 5, 2011 - 1:38PM

    i believe taslima nasreen belongs to Bangladesh instead of Pakistan. Reference your last para mentioning Pakistani Novel Writers


  • sooper
    Dec 6, 2011 - 8:10AM

    why are you people becoming so ferocious on just one positine statement regarding pakistan… have guts to accept others too…


More in Pakistan