DWL Karachi Meetup June 2015

June 10, 2015
Desi Writers Lounge met on 5th June 2015 for its monthly meetup at Liberty Books. The book under discussion was Bina Shah's "Season of the Martyrs", a recent addition to Pakistani fiction that deals (for the first time) the events of Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan and her subsequent assassination.

A couple of new faces joined the meetup as Farheen took the lead to initiate the discussion, briefly talking about the various characters introduced by the author and how parallels have been drawn between the present and the past of Sindh. The Sufi aspect of the book was discussed, concentrating on stories like those of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, and the life of the main protagonist Ali Sikander as he experiences his disdain of politics with Benazir's return.

Some argued that Ali's life made little sense as there was too much going on for him. Being in media and having a Hindu girlfriend, many aspects of his life seemed unrealistic. Some parts of the story such as Ali's experiences of US Consulate and French Beach drew criticism, all the while praising for prose that described the story. Jalal was of the opinion that despite excellent prose, the story has too much going on which did not synchronize with the reader in a satisfying way. One aspect could be the language itself, as English language has an inherent wooden feeling when it comes to express subcontinent's stories.

This prompted a debate if the book was written in Urdu, would it do justice and will it find readership? All agreed the nature of story and the way it was set, the target was clearly western audience who know little about Sindh. Many parts of the story would become redundant when translated to Urdu, such as Latif's story or that of Charles Napier, since many people already know them and its fictional counterparts wouldn't be of much interest to them. Wasio was of the opinion that the parallels drawn by Bina have already been experimented by Banu Qudsia in her novel "Raja Gidh" with comparison between human lives and those of animals in the jungle, therefore it is possible to carry on with parallel timelines for this book. To that Farheen countered that it was Banu Qudsia who masterfully managed that; even after so many years there is no similar work done in any meaningful way. The last two chapters of the book, one from Benazir's perspective and the other about Benazir from Ali's perspective, were well written and both Farhheen and Wasio agreed that they were written from the author's heart.

In the end it was agreed that there would be a lot of demand for the book in Urdu if it is translated expertly. DWL will be deciding upon the next book soon and put it up on its Facebook Page.

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