Fact, fiction and beyond

March 20, 2022

Here’s a list of the books that are being discussed at this year’s Lahore Literary Festival

Fact, fiction and beyond

The written word invites us into an intimacy, shaped equally by the flavours of reality and the spirit of the imagination. The books that are being launched at the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF), 2022, reflect a powerful blend of fact and fiction. The News on Sunday compiles a list of the books being discussed at this year’s LLF.

The Go-Between: A Portrait of Growing Up in Different Worlds by Osman Yousefzada

Writer and fashion designer Osman Yousefzada’s memoir The Go-Between: A Portrait of Growing Up in Different Worlds presents a moving meditation on the art of navigating conflicting worlds as the children of immigrant parents. Set in Birmingham of the 1980s and 1990s, Yousefzada’s work exposes the adult realities of racism, patriarchy and orthodoxy through a child’s perspective. The memoir raises pertinent points about how immigrant children are skilled cultural navigators who negotiate the “dual burdens of racism and community expectations”. The book is steered by insights on the fluidity of gender roles and the erasure of women.

The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars and Caliphs by Marc David Baer

Historian Marc David Baer has turned an intimate gaze on the Ottoman dynasty in his new book. The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars and Caliphs stands out for depicting the Ottoman Empire as the meeting point between East and West. As a result, Baer’s study acts as a counter to accounts that view the dynasty as purely Islamic and a direct antithesis to Western Europe. Through its portrayal of the Ottomans as “multiethnic, multilingual and multi-religious”, the book reveals the empire’s abiding influence on Europe.

Frontier Stations by Shakil Durrani

The wellspring of Shakil Durrani’s Frontier Stations is his over four-decade-long experience in public service. Durrani has worked at the highest levels of the civilian administration in various parts of Pakistan, including the erstwhile tribal belt, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. His book is fuelled by a distinct insider perspective and carries the dual focus of a personal memoir and a treatise on the system of civil governance in the country. Frontier Stations not only caters to the general reader who is curious about the intricacies of Pakistan’s civil administration, but also satiates the appetite of specialists and academics.

A Taste of Pakistan in Fusion by Shahziah Zuberi

Written by culinary expert and food blogger Shahziah Zuberi, A Taste of Pakistan in Fusion promises to be an insightful cook-book for food connoisseurs. The book includes fusion recipes with a distinctly Pakistani flavour.

The Good Children by Roopa Farooki

British novelist and medical doctor Roopa Farooki’s The Good Children has been billed as a “compelling story of discipline and disobedience, punishment and the pursuit of passion”. The novel follows the lives of four children who are raised to be docile in the Lahore of the 1940s. As time goes by, these ostensibly ‘good children’ defy social norms in their quest for happiness. The Good Children is about our enduring ties to the homes we leave behind and the sacrifices we make to inhabit our own private utopias.

Everything is True: A Junior Doctor’s Story by Roopa Farooki

Farooki’s Everything is True: A Junior Doctor’s Story reflects on her initial days of dealing with the pandemic “from the frontlines of A&E and the acute medical wards”. As the author works long shifts and copes with the Covid-19 crisis, she remains cognisant of another storm brewing with her that is triggered by the loss of her sister to cancer. Everything is True offers a valuable perspective on the pressures and pitfalls of the health sector in a time of crisis. At the same time, it serves as a gut-wrenching reminder of the bonds that make us human.

A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia by Manan Ahmed Asif

In A Book of Conquest, Manan Ahmed Asif reexamines India’s encounter with Islam through the Chachnama. The 13th Century text presents the story of Chach, the Brahmin ruler whose kingdom was captured by Muhammad bin Qasim in 712 CE. This is a unique project as the Chachnama has rarely been examined by scholars in a holistic sense.

In “untangling the various registers and genres” of the Chachnama, Asif succeeds in reconstructing the political vision that is embedded in the text. In addition, the author’s latest book enlivens a seemingly contentious debate on Islam’s influence on the history and politics of the subcontinent.

Pakistan Here and Now: Society, Culture, Identity and Diaspora by Harris Khalique and Irfan Ahmad Khan

At its core, Pakistan Here and Now: Insights into Society, Culture, Identity and Diaspora is a compendium of essays edited by poet Harris Khalique and development practitioner Irfan Ahmad Khan. The compilation has a multidisciplinary focus and tackles a diverse menu of themes, including cinema, censorship, music, history and poetry. The fundamental focus of the book is to determine the extent to which historical and political factors have moulded Pakistan’s culture. The strength of the narrative lies in its ability to break free from tradition and juxtapose “academic theorising” with personal narratives. What emerges is a conversation among contributors whose views complement and contradict one another.

The Reluctant Republic by Nadeem Farooq Paracha

In his sixth book, journalist and cultural critic Nadeem F Paracha delves deeper in his quest to demystify “the statist-nationalist narratives of Pakistan”. The author uses these narratives as a springboard for a counter-narrative for a country that lacks a “convincing national identity”.

Diplomatic Footprints by Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry

A seasoned diplomat, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry plumbs the depths of foreign policy decision-making in his book titled Diplomatic Footprints. The author categorically appraises the strengths and weaknesses of Pakistan’s foreign policy decisions. Diplomacy is a knotty affair and it is often difficult to comment on it with some semblance of authority. Chaudhry’s account is driven by firsthand insights and, therefore, provides a reliable, comprehensive glimpse into the minefields of foreign policy in Pakistan.

Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution by Beth Gardiner

The perils of air pollution remain at the heart of Beth Gardiner’s Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution. Gardiner’s account adopts a broad perspective on the subject. Readers drift from “the halls of power in Washington and the diesel-fogged London streets” to Delhi and Poland’s coalfields. Choked adopts a people-centric approach to understanding the political missteps and economic factors that have contributed towards air pollution across the globe.

Dasht-i-Imkaan by Asghar Nadeem Syed

Multan-born Urdu playwright, columnists and poet Dr Asghar Nadeem Syed’s novel Dasht-i-Imkaan adds to his formidable oeuvre. The author is known for his vast body of poems and TV plays, and is the recipient of numerous awards.

The Syncretic Traditions of Islamic Religious Architecture of Kashmir by Hakim Sameer Hamdani

Hakim Sameer Hamdanu’s The Syncretic Traditions of Islamic Religious Architecture of Kashmir examines the historical identity of the idyllic valley through the lens of Islamic architecture from the 14th Century to the 18th Century. The book will satisfy the curiosities of a general reader who is interested in South Asia’s architectural history. It also serves as a useful guide for architects and those associated with heritage bodies.

Rule By Fear by Ammar Ali Jan

Academic, historian and activist Ammar Ali Jan’s Rule by Fear offers eight theses to trace “the political, economic and social roots of authoritarianism” in Pakistan. The emphasis of the essays in the book isn’t on a specific leader or regime, but the structural elements that fuel totalitarian tendencies and “the rising militarisation of society”.

She-Merchants, Buccaneers & Gentlewomen by Katie Hickman

British novelist and historian Katie Hickman’s book uses diaries, manuscripts of memoirs and a string of letters to examine the ways in which women have the potential to shape history in subtle yet meaningful ways. While historical texts wax eloquent about the conquests of men, Hickman’s work speaks about the quiet unfolding of history from within the private sphere.

Making a Muslim by S Akbar Zaidi

S Akbar Zaidi’s Making a Muslim offers a critical rethinking of the idea of ‘the Muslim’. Through a detailed scrutiny of Urdu texts, the author comments on how British colonialists shaped a straitjacketed notion of Muslims that was at variance with the community’s perception of itself.

Are You Enjoying? by Mira Sethi

Mira Sethi’s Are You Enjoying? is a collection of short stories that offers a fresh take on the country’s contemporary realities. Each story moves beyond the stereotypical assumptions held by the West about Pakistan and offers a unique local flavour to life and love in a misunderstood country.

You Have Not Yet Been Defeated by Alaa Abd El-Fattah

You Have Not Yet Been Defeated is a compilation of essays that Alaa Abd El-Fattah wrote during his time as a political prisoner in Egypt. As a whole, the pieces in this volume chronicle a “decade of global upheaval” and present a rich array of ideas on the costs of political instability.

Womansplaining: Navigating Activism, Politics and Modernity in Pakistan by Sherry Rehman

Edited by Senator Sherry Rehman, Womansplaining is a collection of essays that documents the struggle for women’s rights in Pakistan. The compilation also explores the link between the women’s rights movement in Pakistan of the 1980s and the “post-millennial activism” that has resisted patriarchal norms with great gusto.

A Love Letter to Men and Women by Huma Price

Barrister Huma Price’s A Love Letter to Men and Women focuses on “men, women and children”. The theme of Price’s debut work is seemingly universal and will resonate with readers who want to know the extent to which men and women can love and despise each other and make or break their children’s future.

Defying stereotypes, and constantly reviewing old myths and practices remains at the root of this book about love, hate and survival.

The writer is a freelance journalist and author of Typically Tanya

Fact, fiction and beyond