Anjali Joseph: ‘Stop trying to label me!’

Posted on October 26, 2010

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From Anjali Joseph:

It’s a weird enough thing, for anyone without a cast-iron sense of their own self, to appear in public as yourself and come up with views which might be taken to define you. It’s stranger still when those remarks, or your work, are taken to represent something about your national literature, whatever that means. Seen from the outside, both Mohammed Hanif and Aamer Hussein are Pakistani writers. But when I read and admired the former’s A Case of Exploding Mangoes recently, I didn’t think of some of the other Pakistani writers I’ve been reading in the past few years; I thought rather of the absurdity, robustness and elastic humour of a novel such as Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Similarly, Hussein’s elegant, compact Another Gulmohar Tree seems to me to have strong links with European traditions, as well as being at home with strangeness in a way that I recognise from those Urdu short-story writers I’ve read. Surely this is unsurprising? We all read outside national boundaries, and find books to love without first considering their provenance: there is no incoherence in an Indian writer who reads Flaubert or Beckett, any more than an Irish writer who reads Marquez or Rushdie.

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Photo: Kalpesh Lathigra

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