Amar Sindhu in Herald:
Fahmida Raiz, writer, human rights activist and the author of more than 15 books on fiction and poetry, has always remained at the centre of controversies. When Badan Dareeda, her second collection of verse, appeared, she was accused of using erotic and sensual expressions in her poetry. The themes prevalent in her verse were, until then, considered taboo for women writers. The feminist scholarship and women’s movement, however, not only acknowledged her expressions but welcomed them with applause. Riaz was also faced with challenges due to her political ideology. More than 10 cases were filed against her during General Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship. She was forced into exile during the same regime, only to return to Pakistan after Haq’s death in 1988. The poems from her collection Apna Jurm Sabit Hae are politically charged and reflect the torment her homeland experienced under dictatorship. In terms of using creative expression for political discourse, Riaz stands among literary greats such as Nazim Hikmet, Pablu Neruda, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Following are excerpts of a conversation she had with Herald on her literary journey and issues confronting Pakistan’s literati.
Amar Sindhu: Does creativity need ideology?
Fahmida Riaz: Once creativity expands beyond the very personal, almost biological paradigms, it seeks some ground to stand upon. Creativity is very often rooted in some idea. Our folk songs and stories do not seem to be ideological but they seem to have ideas, when looked at closely. The question of ideology is raised mostly in the context of progressive literature that sees individuals in a web of external circumstances and class conflicts. Literary creativity does not have to emanate from this consciousness, nor does this consciousness hamper creativity. In the 20th century, great writers such as Pablo Neruda, Paul Nizan, Nazim Hikmet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Gabriel García Márquez declared themselves to be Marxists. An artist like Pablo Picasso, who revolutionised the world of painting, was a member of the Communist party of France. On the other hand, two literary giants before these writers, Leo Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, saw the individual and the society in the context of Christian teachings and sought the answers of all human problems in Christ. You may notice, though, that too was a kind of ideology.