More honest than the facts

Growing up under a censoring dictatorship taught me how fiction can be a place of truth.

Kamila Shamsie in The Guardian:

Shame_2Growing up in Pakistan, in the benighted days of Zia ul-Haq’s dictatorship, I knew there was always some sense of consistency to be drawn from the evening news, which year after year assured viewers that every day only three items of note occurred in the world: president inaugurates something; someone of significance lauds president; X number of Kashmiris killed (later changed to “martyred”) by Indian army. The print media was rather more courageous in what it was willing to publish, but even so, in those times of censorship and state control the news told you very little about the truth of the country in which you were living.

Remarkably, this absence of truth was often possible without recourse to lies – the president really did inaugurate all kinds of things; disgraceful numbers of the world’s noteworthy figures did extol the virtues of Zia, America’s frontline ally in the Afghan war against the Soviets; and the Indian army was brutal in Kashmir, though it’s worth mentioning that the level of brutality that started in 1987 seemed already to have made itself known to the prescient Pakistani newscasters in the early 80s – though this may well be the unreliable narration of my childhood memory speaking.

Into this world there dropped a book. A novel, to be precise. Its title was Shame, its author Salman Rushdie, its subject the world of Pakistani politics.

More here.