Thursday, November 25, 2010

Surprise, Surprise - A Nuanced and Sensitive NY Times take on Literature and Fundamentalism in Pakistan

This gem of a blog entry was published in the "At War" blog of the New York Times. Funny how Pakistanis who are living their everyday lives, with only a little more than the average level of historic violence, are deemed "At War". Those people who are at war can be found in the underbelly of Karachi, or hidden in safehouses or safe-apartments throughout Punjab, Balochistan or Sindh. Maybe they're in the forest camps of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or FATA, or small herder groups in the rural hills of Balochistan. But I doubt the New York Times would pay the insurance rate for Adam Ellick to go to these places or people. Better to stick to authors and city bookstores.

Coming back to the blog entry, it finally manages to drop the pardes-returned saviour trope that, the renewal in Pakistani English fiction had acquired. This of course is in reference to the "Life's Too Short" literary magazine (it's wordpress blog here, and advertisement from Last Word bookstore). The highlighting of how popular Urdu fiction was one of many casualties in the geo-political embrace of General Zia-ul-Haq by the United States (along with city loads of dead Afghans) is also kindly mentioned.

The third comment is nice, in how the New York Times now deigns to grant agency (how I hate that annoying academic word) to ordinary Pakistanis. Our cutting off from our local Urdu/Punjabi culture is likely why our people went to seek recognition and affirmation abroad.

Oh well. The global cultural arbiter, the US establishment press, has deemed ordinary Pakistani's may now add to the world's culture. We thank them for their mercy. (/sarcasm)


Shahid said...

While not totally Orientalistic, this was a pretty rubbish post by NYT. Moreover, where did Manto vanish from such a post?

TLW said...

Dude, it's Adam Ellick. If he kept his snarkiness in check for even a few paragraphs, I'm willing to give him a little bit of credit.

But in terms of Manto, first off to be honest, not that many people know of him, secondly he was part of the progressive writers faction, so the US embassy throughout the Cold War, either would've ignored or opposed him. Thrid, he did write those "Letters to Uncle Sam From a Nephew", so maybe the United States would like to forget him as a Pakistani snarkster.

Shahid said...

True all that.