This Pakistani-Canadian writer, translator and essayist, is one of the authors who is par excellence. His CV boasts of several critically acclaimed works, critical essays, translations, etc. His writing prowess took his literary stature a notch higher when his previous novel ‘Between Clay and Dust: A Novel’ got nominated for the most prestigious 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize. Resham Sengar of Zeenews.com interacted with the versatile author to know why loves more children’s writing in comparison to adult’s fiction, his alternative career path, his upcoming works and more.
I saw this quote by you somewhere that read, “Literature gives us the ability to understand human weaknesses and forgive.” Please elucidate.
See there is a saying that literature makes you a more sensitive person. When we read flawed characters or anti-heroes, we realise that they are worth being shown some tenderness instead of being slammed. If you take the example of Madam Bovary, you tend to sympathise with her, looking at her dilemma. There is Anna Karenina who you can sympathise with. There are male characters too who can’t help acting the way they are. By placing characters in a challenging situation, we see that there is an understandable reason behind the way that character is behaving. Then we start tooting for that character. So literature’s job is to give a microscopic look at the psychological complexities of the characters and thus be more humane towards others even when they are not behaving well.
What kind of writing traditions would you prefer carrying forward in children’s work?
I want to write international stories that won’t have any cultural references so that everybody can relate to my work.
Which author would you suggest reading from the children’s fiction category?
Roald Dahl (without a doubt). Read Roald Dahl and stay happy.
How should one go about writing children’s fiction?
The book should not be boring. Kids don’t care who you are. Whether you write well or not does not matter to them. They only care about reading a good book. I have promised myself that don’t want to write any sad story for kids. I will write happy stories with happy endings because I have fun writing them for kids as well as for adults. Although I write for adults, that can be boring at times. But I am writing for kids to enjoy myself. Actually, when I thought about writing, I wanted to write for children and not for adults.
What alternative career path would you have chosen to follow if not writing?
I would have opened a bakery and made breads.
Of the books you have written, which one is closer to your heart?
I love ‘Between Clay and Dust’. I have spent 10 years on writing this book and there are some aspects of this book to which I could relate to.
What are you busy writing these days?
My next book is about false messiah (al-Masih ad-Dajjal - an evil figure in Islamic eschatology) called ‘The Goat’s Spy’. The book says that before Dajjal will come, it would send out the goat in to the world to find if that time has come for Dajjal to step into the world and there is much more to the story. There is another book I am writing which is about a group of book lovers who are scattered all over the world and they have never met each other. But they come together to revive something which they love.
So when have you planned to release the two books?
I might finish writing them this year and then perhaps get them released either this year or next year.
Please share with us the name of some authors who you love reading?
I like reading Charles Dickens and other classical authors.