Friday, October 15, 2010

Granta 112: Paksitan

If the most poignant image of the Partition of 1947 is sought in fiction, one will have to turn to Saadat Hasan Manto. Specifically to Bishen Singh, the “lunatic” Sikh in Manto’s Toba Tek Singh, who, failing to figure out whether his native village was in India or Pakistan, refuses to budge from the no-man’s-land between the two countries. We are now 63 years removed from that episode of blood and pain, and reading Granta’s latest Pakistan issue, a collection of short stories, essays, poems and images from mostly Pakistani writers and artists, one realises that the intellectual moorings have also shifted from a question of where-is-home to what-is-home.

Granta 112: Pakistan; Rs599; pp 288
That question of Pakistani identity is complicated not just because of its ethnic or cultural diversity, but also because the country thrives in popular perception through a series of negative associations. For India, it’s the arch adversary with whom it had to fight three wars; for America, it’s a cauldron of jihadi fanaticism that has suddenly intruded into the consciousness; for the rest, it’s a country whose democracy is periodically undermined by direct or proxy military intervention.

Granta’s collection — its ornate cover designed by artist Islam Gull with the same industrial paints used to decorate trucks — tries to represent some of the vibrant potency in contemporary Pakistani society, to sift through all the violence and anger and find some meaning or even traces of humanity in the chaos, to critique its own society while also shredding apart America’s foreign policy that has significantly contributed to the mess.

Full review here Hindustan Times

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