History, Memory and Fiction: New Dimensions in
Contemporary Pakistani and Kashmiri Writings
Literature and Politics
Written by David Waterman, the book, ‘History, Memory and Fiction: New Dimensions in Contemporary Pakistani and Kashmiri Writings’ is a perceptive exploration of the convoluted relationship between history, memory, and fiction in the Pakistani and Kashmiri literature. First published in 2014, this book lays out a comprehensive analysis of how Pakistani and Kashmiri writers utilize historical events and memories to generate fictional narratives that explore contemporary issues.
Waterman begins by bringing forth a theoretical framework for his analysis, drawing upon the works of literary theorists such as Mikhail Bakhtin and Hayden White. He then goes on to survey the works of eminent Pakistani and Kashmiri writers, including Intizar Husain, Uzma Aslam Khan, Mohammad Hanif, and Mirza Waheed. Through close readings of their texts, Waterman unearths how these writers use memory and fiction to create alternative historical narratives that challenge dominant narratives.
One of the strengths of this book is its focus on the intricate relationship between memory and fiction. Waterman argues that memory and fiction are closely intertwined, and that writers often use memories to create fictional narratives that provide a unique perspective on historical events. He further explains this through his analysis of Uzma Aslam Khan’s ‘Trespassing’, which he argues uses the memories of the protagonist to create a fictional narrative that challenges the official narrative of Partition.
Another strength of this book is its focus on the role of literature in moulding cultural memory. Waterman argues that literature has the power to shape cultural memory by providing alternative narratives that challenge dominant and supreme narratives. He illustrates this through his analysis of Intizar Husain’s ‘Basti’, which he argues uses fiction to challenge the official narrative of Partition as well as to create a new cultural memory.
Waterman’s analysis is also notable for its emphasis on the relationship between literature and politics. He argues that literature can be a powerful tool for political critique, and that Pakistani and Kashmiri writers use fiction to critique the political establishment and to challenge dominant narratives. He explains this through his analysis of Mohammad Hanif’s ‘A Case of Exploding Mangoes’, which he argues uses fiction to question the official narrative of Zia-ul-Haq’s regime.
Predominantly, ‘History, Memory and Fiction: New Dimensions in Contemporary Pakistani and Kashmiri Writings’ is a well-researched and intuitive analysis of the relationship amongst history, memory, and fiction in Pakistani and Kashmiri literature. Waterman’s theoretical framework provides a solid foundation for his analysis, and his close readings of literary texts are insightful and thought-provoking.
This book will prove to be of great interest to scholars of South Asian literature, and to anyone interested in literature, memory, and politics. Nonetheless, one inherent weakness of this book is its narrow focus on Pakistani and Kashmiri literature. While this focus is understandable given Waterman’s expertise, it would have been interesting to see how his theoretical framework could be related to literature from other parts of the world. Furthermore, the book is aimed at an academic audience, and its theoretical framework and close readings might be too dense for casual readers.
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