Tears and joy: Reading Tehmina Durrani-Sharif’s latest

Published: June 30, 2013
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The heart-wrenching tale of a young Afghan girl Basrabia, is set in a time when Soviet tanks rolled into the mountains of Afghanistan, decimated whole encampments and silenced scores of singing, laughing and wailing Afghan families.

The heart-wrenching tale of a young Afghan girl Basrabia, is set in a time when Soviet tanks rolled into the mountains of Afghanistan, decimated whole encampments and silenced scores of singing, laughing and wailing Afghan families.

KARACHI: 

Fifteen years after she wrote her third book Blasphemy, Tehmina Durrani-Sharif confirms that she writes from the heart. Her latest offering, the 203-page Happy Things in Sorrow Times will be wept for and sighed upon, and cherished for a long, long time.

The heart-wrenching tale of a young Afghan girl Basrabia, is set in a time when Soviet tanks rolled into the mountains of Afghanistan, decimated whole encampments and silenced scores of singing, laughing and wailing Afghan families. The author’s writing fuses the era’s politics and her own storytelling prowess with such breathtaking perfection that one can’t help but feel the IED explosions, the anxiety, the sorrow and the terror as the pages are turned. Good fiction constantly engages every sense and Durrani-Sharif’s writing evidences she is well-aware that good stories aren’t just read — they are heard, seen, smelt and felt.  Her pen creates images where the sight of towering mountains, the sound of chattering women and the feel of a dead mother’s silk frock are conjured to convey Basrabia’s plight.

Durrani-Sharif’s character Basrabia is quite the Jane Austen heroine — or perhaps one that rivals her! Despite her humble origins and poverty, Basrabia has nerves of steel and an imagination which delights one to no end. She is fearless, thoughtful, resentful of authority and extremely intelligent — the way women should be.

The reading experience is enhanced by 38 simple yet thought-provoking water colour paintings used as illustrations, done by Durrani-Sharif herself. But the book cannot be dismissed as ‘light’ fiction for the seasonal book worm; it stands has a text which confronts stale political narratives on modern-day Afghanistan — particularly on ‘militants.’ Durrani-Sharif shows that these militants were much more than Soviet pawns who served as a menace for enemies – they were human. They cooked bread; they told stories; they had colourful lives.

In her marvelous fourth published work, Durrani-Sharif has re-focused the spotlight on a graver real story with her words. Happy Things in Sorrow Times should be remembered not just as a great story, but also a book that shifts the paradigm. It is good enough to draw the attention of some prestigious global awards.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Maqsood
    Jun 30, 2013 - 9:37AM

    Very good review! nicely put.

    Recommend

  • Ali
    Jun 30, 2013 - 3:13PM

    Must Read!!!Recommend

  • Mohammad Ali Naqvi
    Jun 30, 2013 - 3:44PM

    Please check out the short film based on the book ‘Happy Things in Sorrow Times’ by Mohammad Naqvi http://vimeo.com/69386021

    Recommend

  • Saman
    Jun 30, 2013 - 8:12PM

    Nice review, makes me want to read the book :)

    Recommend

  • Tamoor R
    Jul 1, 2013 - 10:43PM

    nICE

    Recommend

  • sohail
    Jul 2, 2013 - 11:32PM

    Jane Austen heroine? Seriously? Jane Austen’s heroines were able to demonstrate “nerves of steel” in their tiny English countryside idylls where literally nothing ever happened only as part of an aristocracy whose riches and wealth was accumulated thanks to a rapacious greedy and inhumane empire responsible for unimaginable and uncountable misery. The Afghan character in this book is hardly in the same league as Austen’s imperialistic colonial heroines because she is a victim of empire, not its beneficiary. How is it praise to call her a Jane Austen heroine? You don’t understand Austen at all, nor can you comment on postcolonial literature, clearly.

    For the record, this book is barely readable.

    Recommend

  • Libra
    Jul 4, 2013 - 12:36PM

    Review is nicely written. It is concise and properly worded.

    Recommend

  • choclet
    Jul 13, 2013 - 1:41PM

    wow! without going to afghanistan and writing a book based there TDS must have some imagination!!! if not ghost driven!

    Recommend

  • Ali
    Jul 18, 2013 - 12:05AM

    @choclet: You have quite the imagination to assume she didnt go to Afghanistan : ) She did. She is also a Pakhtun and her family is from there. Separately it is about Children of war no matter where theyre from. Buy a copy, it has a section on her background, roots and reason to write the book.Recommend

  • Ali
    Jul 18, 2013 - 12:15AM

    @choclet: You too must have quite an active imagination to assume she didnt go to Afghanistan : ) She did. She is also a Pakhtun and her family is from there. Buy a copy, it has a section on her background, roots and reason to write the book. More importantly the book is very moving and a plea for Children of war no matter where they’re from.

    Recommend

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