Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lapata on Daniyal Mueenuddin (via Chapati Mystery)

A great post by lapata on Daniyal Mueenuddin, Manto, Pakistani (as opposed to Indian) fiction, and representations of women. Check the comments thread out; one of my responses is pasted below:

"A superb post, one of the best on this blog in recent times. Since Dalrymple and others (I remember Amit Chaudhuri wrote a lengthy essay in the last year or so that touched upon the difference between Indian and Pakistani writing (the complete piece is not available online; here's a link to the abstract); more specifically, it was in large part about what he felt was the desiccation of Indian art — classical music was exhibit A — by state patronage; even the Indian novel-in-English was thoroughly implicated in the Indian national project on Chaudhuri’s reading, and thus condemned to a bland liberalism (unlike Dalrymple and Mishra, then, Chaudhuri’s criticism is not based on the writer’s “inauthenticity” as on the fact that his/her artistic vision is, perhaps despite himself/herself, compromised by the Nehruvian project, pursuant to which illiberalism becomes a kind of cardinal sin)) have used Daniyal Mueenuddin as a kind of representative of “Pakistaniness”, it is a troubling omission on Dalrymple’s part that he does not acknowledge or recognize that Mueenuddin’s stories could be said to reflect the almost untouchable privilege of the z– “farm manager.” In fact, lapata’s post is the only thing on him that I have read that seems to raise questions based on Mueenuddin’s position. Not that that position prevents one from creating great art, but lapata hones in on the fact that it is a particular kind of art — no less particular than the sort of art a well-heeled urban person, whether in Pakistan or India (see the novels of Mohsin Hamid; Kamila Shamsie; and Uzma Aslam Khan) might be said to write. One can certainly say that one kind of writing is less bland, less expected, less common to English-language readers — but I must confess I am a bit uncomfortable with the idea that the latter kind of writing incarnates a “truth” about Pakistan whereas those others don’t (about pakistan or india). i.e. Mueenuddin can be considered a very good/great writer without the burden that the “third world” writer always seems to have, namely the obligation to be authentic. [Not exactly sure why, but writing this comment reminded of a funny quote from Foucault's "History of Sexuality" (Vol. 1), where he says something to the effect that women once upon a time struggled for the right to have an orgasm, and now are condemned to live under the obligation to have one.]"

While searching for a link to the Chaudhuri piece, I found a second one by him that touches upon some of these issues.

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