Pakistan as a country is not well understood, says author
Dubai - Pakistani writers are among the best in the world today, but they have worked almost in isolation
Published: Sun 5 Nov 2017, 8:31 PM
Last updated: Mon 6 Nov 2017, 5:45 PM
Stories need to be told in depth of character and no one does it better than a passionate writer.
Bina Shah, a Pakistani writer from Karachi, tells stories from the heart. "Pakistan is not well understood," she tells the audience at a session on 'How writers are inspired to write about the history of their country" at the Sharjah International Bookfair (SIBF) underway until November 11.
Bina was referring to incidences that led to her write her fourth novel "A season for martyrs" that explores the arrival of Benazir Bhutto to Karachi through the eyes of a journalist.
"Our youth identified with this character in many ways," she says.
"We have many educated youngsters who relate to this character because they are exposed to the West and want to explore but some don't have the financial means or are denied visas and they become frustrated," she says.
Bina also says that Pakistani youngsters have a fractured sense of identity. "There is no structural identity such as linguistic differences.this adds to a sense of loss."
Referring to her novel and the similarity of a fellow speaker Elsa Osario from Argentina, Bina says that Pakistan and Argentina are the same on many levels. "Both have been under dictatorship and this is where writers look for common ground."
"The written word is such a powerful tool. There is something about struggle, adversity that makes us write well. The human spirit comes out and gives us a reason to write," she adds.
So does she select her audience before starting to write out, "Am so focused on the story that the audience comes as a later stage," she tells Khaleej Times.
Bina says that when she started her journey as a writer in 1999, she felt very isolated. "Pakistani writers such as Mohsin Hamid, Bapsi Sidhwa and Kamila Shamsie had started making waves around the world but all work was being done on an individual level," she adds.
Today, years later, Pakistani writers are competing with the world and are among the best having been nominated for Man Booker Prize lists.
"I don't see any gaps among Pakistani writers and the international community of writers," she adds. However, she laments a lack of enough local publishing houses and a Writers Guild in Pakistan.
"We have Goethe Institute and British Council trying to promote writers on individual levels," she says.
Giving advice to young aspiring writers, Bina says that they need to be very strategic and plan on how to get an audience which can be done through social media.
Bina is the author of four novels and two collections of short stories. Her novel Slum Child was a bestseller in Italy. She has been a regular contributor to the International New York Times, and she also writes for Dawn, Pakistan's biggest English-language newspaper. She has contributed essays to Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, Granta, The Independent, the Guardian, Wasafiri, and Critical Muslim. Her fiction has been published in Wasafiri, InterlitQ, the award-winning anthology And the World Changed, the Istanbul Review, Bengal Lights, and Asian Cha.
Her forthcoming novel Before She Sleeps is a feminist dystopia to be published by Delphinium Books in summer 2018.
She also writes extensively about Pakistani culture and society, women's rights, girls' education, and issues pertaining to technology, education, and freedom of expression.
Bina is a two-time winner of Pakistan's Agahi Awards for excellence in journalism. Her short story "The Living Museum", won the Dr Neila C. Sesachari prize from Weber University's literary journal, Weber - The Contemporary West.