Unreliable Witnesses?

Review of Fernando Castrillon and Thomas Marchevsky (eds) Coronavirus, Psychoanalysis, and Philosophy: Conversations on Pandemics, Politics, and Society (Abingdon: Routledge, 2021) by Claire Chambers In Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, the first-person narrator Saleem Sinai invites readers to imagine themselves in a large cinema, sitting at first in the back row, and gradually moving up, row by…

What Edward Said

by Claire Chambers Few twentieth-century books witnessed Silver Jubilee celebrations but, 25 years after the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), the monograph was commemorated in this way at his faculty in Columbia University, New York. Just a few months later, in September 2003, the Palestinian-American literary critic and theorist would die at 67 after protracted…

Down With The Flu

by Claire Chambers At the time of writing President Donald Trump is an inpatient at the Walter Reed Medical Center. He is of course receiving treatment for coronavirus, a virus he has repeatedly downplayed as being ‘like the flu’. Influenza causes a temperature, achy muscles, often a headache, and some upper respiratory tract symptoms such…

Controlled Passion: On the Ghazal

by Claire Chambers Ghazal poetry is an intimate and relatively short lyric form of verse from the Middle East and South Asia. The form thrives in such languages as Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and now English. Like the Western ode, these poems are often addressed to a love object. Influenced by ecstatic Sufi Islam, the ghazal’s subject…

Benazir Bhutto in Life, Death, and Letters (Part 2)

by Claire Chambers In my last post but one I pledged to continue my discussion of Benazir Bhutto’s two premierships and eventual assassination by examining the legacy she left behind for novelists to explore. Then, of course, the pandemic took hold, and I couldn’t not respond to the global health and welfare emergency. However, now…

Benazir Bhutto in Life, Death, and Letters (Part 1)

by Claire Chambers In Owen Bennett-Jones’s ten-part podcast, The Assassination, which he made for the BBC World Service in 2017, listeners become immersed in the circumstances around the murder of Benazir Bhutto ten years earlier. They learn of the security concerns, sectarian hatred, and patriarchal demands faced by even this most privileged woman. Benazir, a dynastic…

A Languorous Look at Lahore 

by Claire Chambers A few tall, dreamy-eyed Sikh men were on my plane to Lahore. Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary celebration was taking place nearby about a month later, on 12 November 2019, so I guessed their final destination was Nankana Sahib, Guru Nanak’s birthplace. The British-Indians’ presence was a reminder, if any were needed,…

Heartless or Broken-hearted? Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Film and Fiction

by Claire Chambers Today is the anniversary of 70 years of Pakistan, and tomorrow it will be Indians' turn to celebrate their nation's Independence Day. I recently wrote about South Asian cultural production that portrays Nehru, the Mountbattens, and the Edwina-Jawaharlal relationship or affair. Today I turn my attention to depictions of the Quaid-i-Azam or…

Islamicate Literature, Literary Theory, and Criticism

by Claire Chambers In discussions of postcolonial and diasporic literature, questions of faith and religious identity have until recently tended to be subsumed under such categories as ethnicity, nationality, hybridity, and race. Rae Isles, a character who lectures on Middle Eastern politics in Leila Aboulela's The Translator, accordingly asserts: 'Even Fanon, who I have always…