Pakistani women’s writing

Kamila Shamsie, A God in Every Stone. Bloomsbury, 2014.
Kamila Shamsie, A God in Every Stone. Bloomsbury, 2014.

My review essay of three recent novels by Pakistani women–Fatima Bhutto’s The Shadow of the Crescent Moon, Kamila Shamsie’s A God in Every Stone and Uzma Aslam Khan’s Thinner Than Skin–has just been published in the latest print edition of Himal Southasian. This isn’t available online for free–although many other great articles are on the Himal website–but hard copy and digital issues can be purchased on the website.

The same issue also includes an excellent review of Kaushik Barua’s Windhorse, a novel about Tibet, written by my friend and ex-colleague, Scottish writer Ross Adkin. Ross’ fiction has featured in an earlier issue of Himal.

Fatima Bhutto, The Shadow of the Crescent Moon. Delhi: Penguin India, 2013.
Fatima Bhutto, The Shadow of the Crescent Moon. Delhi: Penguin India, 2013.

Below is an extract from my review. I have also reviewed two of these novels, Bhutto’s and Khan’s, on this blog.

“For a few years, Pakistani English literature has been on the verge of a ‘boom’; not quite an explosion, but what scholar of contemporary Pakistani literature Claire Chambers has called a ‘flowering’. While the hoped for (from the Pakistani side, at least) equation with the Indian English literature boom that began around 30 years ago may be far from materialising, Pakistani writers are consistently bringing out new works, particularly novels, in English. Internationally best-known among them are Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, and if we are to include a British author for Pakistan (India claims Salman Rushdie, so why not?), Nadeem Aslam. But, this boom-set is not limited to male writers. A small crop of successful and acclaimed Pakistani female writers are creating significant work, including Uzma Aslam Khan, Fatima Bhutto and Kamila Shamsie.

With Shamsie’s latest novel, A God in Every Stone, having been published earlier in 2014, her inclusion in Granta’s 2013 collection of the top 20 British writers under 40, the release of Bhutto’s debut novel The Shadow of the Crescent Moon in late 2013, and Uzma Aslam Khan’s Thinner Than Skin nomination for the 2014 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, now is a good time to take stock of this ‘growth’ in Pakistani women’s literature by looking at three recently published novels: Bhutto’s The Shadow of the Crescent Moon, Shamsie’s A God in Every Stone, and Khan’s Thinner than Skin.”

Uzma Aslam Khan, Thinner Than Skin. Delhi: Fourth Estate, 2012.
Uzma Aslam Khan, Thinner Than Skin. Delhi: Fourth Estate, 2012.

Weekly news


Delhi: 7th November, Himal Lecture 2014: ‘Between the People and the Polis’ by Arif Hasan at the India International Centre.

Excerpts available:

An excerpt of Avtar Singh’s Necropolis  is available here. I just received a review copy of this book, and have worked with Avtar (he is associated with the lovely Indian Quarterly magazine, where my work on Kathmandu street art has been published) so I’m particularly excited about this one. I just hope his novel’s similarity to Jeet Thayil’s award-winning Narcopolis doesn’t cause any confusion!

What I’m reading this week:

‘Logframe of Life’, by Usuru, on La.Lit. A foreigner’s take on expat life in Nepal, featured in the Nepali literary magazine.

‘Narcissistic Gloss’, by Prawin Adhikari, in La.Lit. On a recent Nepali film, Himmatwali.

‘India Court Says Ban on Female Make-up Artists is Illegal’, on BBC news. My WTF moment of the day.

Alice Albinia review’s Mirza Waheed’s new book ‘The Book of Gold Leaves’. I loved his previous novel, The Collaborator, but I think I read it pre-blogging days so don’t have a review.


I have discovered the excellent blog ‘Travelling in the Homeland‘, an Indian literary blog, that does a weekly round-up of the sort I aspire to. Why aspire, and not do? I don’t have as much time for South Asian literature as I once did–my primary job now is academic editing, and I rarely deal with anything South Asian-related in that work. My continuing link to the region lies with my editorial work for Himal Southasian, and my inability to concentrate on any literature that isn’t based in the area. BUT, it is good to aspire, and my blog is a little different in that I take a whole of South Asia approach (hey, I was partially schooled by Himal!) rather than an India focus.

Southasia Blacklist

My long-time readers will know that I was working in Kathmandu with Himal Southasian for about a year. I’m no longer based in Kathmandu, but I am still working with Himal, off-site.

Himal has just launched its long-planned ‘Blacklist’:

‘Southasian governments regularly misuse their discretionary visa allotment powers to keep out those they consider ‘undesirable’ – such as critical journalists, scholars, and activists. This practice is more widespread than is recognised, even in countries with a liberal image, as individual cases fall through the cracks and disappear. With our ‘Blacklist’, we endeavour to collate, track, expose and challenge this process. We see this as a collaborative effort; contact us whenever and wherever you come across any such instances. You can send the information anonymously, but it must be corroborated in some way.’

The Blacklist can be found here.


Indian Jewish Literature in Himal Southasian

Jew Town, Cochin.  Photo: Flickr/ Dietmut Teijgeman-Hansen
Jew Town, Cochin.
Photo: Flickr/ Dietmut Teijgeman-Hansen

After a few weeks of politically-heavy articles at Himal, we have just published this piece on Indian Jewish literature, by Navras Jaat Afreedi.

I’ve copied the first paragraph below, and the rest can be read here.

“2013 was an exciting year for Indian Jewish literature: two works of fiction were published, one in Hindi, the other in English. Sheela Rohekar’s Miss Samuel: Ek Yahudi Gatha (Miss Samuel: A Jewish Saga) is one of only two Hindi novels depicting Indian Jewish life, and the first Hindi novel in 52 years to explore the Bene Israel community, the largest Jewish group in India. Jael Silliman’s The Man with Many Hats, on the other hand, is the first novel by a member of the Baghdadi community, the latest Jewish settlers in India, and one of the only two novels to depict Baghdadi Jewish life there. Both authors are women, legatees of a rich tradition of women’s writing among Indian Jews.”



Himal Southasian event in Delhi, 28th March

Anyone in Delhi have some free time tomorrow? In collaboration with South Asian University, some of my colleagues will be hosting this event, with some prominent speakers, on Afghanistan.

Himal SA event


New issue of Himal Southasian

Himal Southasian 'Reclaiming Afghanistan' cover, March 2014
Himal Southasian ‘Reclaiming Afghanistan’ cover, March 2014

The new issue of Himal Southasian, the first for 2014 and titled ‘Reclaiming Afghanistan’, is nearly with us! Take a look at the preview on our website. In the coming month, a series of web-exclusive articles will be published on our website, and the hard-copy (containing different articles) will be available to purchase/subscribe to on our website shortly. Or, if you happen to live in Kathmandu or Delhi, they will also be available in several good book shops–including Bahrisons at Khan Market in Delhi, and all the big names in Kathmandu.


Fiction from Himal Southasian

At Himal Southasian we’ve just curated a small package of some of our fictional publications from recent times. It includes the winning entry from a 2013 short story competition judged by Prajwal Parajuly, a story and illustrations by Manjula Padmanabhan, and some brilliant illustrations from Himal’s regularly featured artist, Paul Aitchison.

Check it out here.