Daniyal Mueenuddin, Kamila Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid
By Salman Hameed
Pakistan's literature is booming right now. Even better, some of these authors - "Pak-Lit Pack" - are also getting the attention they deserve. I recently had a post about the special edition of Granta that was dedicated to writers from Pakistan. Even issues pertinent to science & religion have featured some of the writings. For example, one of the featured writers in Granta, Uzma Aslam Khan, wrote Geometry of God, where the story involves the discovery of Pakicetus - a key transitional link between land mammals and whales (see an earlier post: Whales and the Geometry of God). Oh - and sorry creationists. Whales are mammals and scientists are finding out more and more about how and when some mammal species transitioned back to water - and some of the key fossils have been found in Pakistan.
Couple of days ago, I was visiting a coffee shop in Karachi and saw a large magazine with the cover blaring "Pakistan's New Rock Star Authors!!!". This was the March issue of Xpose - a "fashion and lifestyle" magazine. Much of the issue was dedicated to Karachi Literature Festival that was held in early February and organized by the British Council and Oxford University Press. I've heard that the festival was fantastic and I hope to time one of my visits to Pakistan around the festival time.
In any case, it is delightful that authors are being treated as rock stars. I think it would be great to organize a Pakistan science festival also. One problem I see is that, instead of science, it will be overrun by pseudo science of a) people claiming to find science in the Quran, b) minions of Harun Yahya and Zakir Naik pretending to be scientific, and c) astrology and other new-agey science. Perhaps, just like the literature, we will have to wait for the maturation of science in the public conscience. A festival hijacked by these pseudosciences will be even more detrimental than having no festival at all. I think amateur astronomy in Pakistan is at this threshold. There are sizable number of people doing serious astronomy. But, at present, I don't see a window for a science festival free of the pseudosciences. May be in a few years! Or may be in Sharjah or Cairo? But this could have a good impact on the society - as long as we keep the pseudosciences out.
In the mean time - we can perhaps all read some good Pakistani literature. For starters, read "Granta" issue on Pakistan here.