Barbarism In Cultured Soil: Rushdie’s Great Pakistani Novel

Shehryar Fazli at The India Site:

ScreenHunter_12 Jan. 17 17.47Salman Rushdie’s third novel, Shame, which will turn thirty next year, may have an unenviable legacy. Squeezed between its author’s two most famous books – and two of the most famous books of the 1980s – Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses, it is seldom given its due in discussions either of the author’s body of work, or of the direction of Pakistani fiction. Yet, even with the recent ‘boom’ in Pakistan’s literature, it remains the most ambitious English-language novel about that country, yet to be surpassed in terms of scope, inventiveness and humor.

But first, a word about my own copy of this novel. It’s a 1984 Picador edition, with the Urdu word for shame, ‘sharam’, written as if by hand with Tippex in Arabic script above the English title. I say ‘my’ copy, but it in fact belonged to my father, who bought it in the 1980s at a secondhand bookstore in Islamabad. What’s peculiar about this is that General Zia-ul-Haq’s military government had banned Shame in Pakistan, a decision that attracted more attention to the book than the dictatorship intended, and induced several Western capitals to ship copies to Islamabad through the diplomatic bag for their envoys to read. Once done, these people would sell their copies to one of the many used bookstores in the capital.

More here.