Three novelists dissect the Western gaze – Journal

LAHORE: Novelist and translator Bilal Tanveer says the Western gaze is not separate from the way we see ourselves.

He was explaining the concept of the Western gaze in his introduction to the session, Pakistani Writing Beyond Western Gaze, at the Indus Conclave, a private college event, which kicked off Saturday at the Alhamra Art Center.

He was in conversation with two female fiction writers, Mira Sethi and Dur e Aziz Amna. Mira presented The American Fever, a novel by Amna, describing it as an interesting read.

When asked about the influences she had had, Mira said she loved Faiz’s poetry, followed by Indian novelist Arundhati Roy. She also spoke about VS Naipaul whom she loved as a college student but later found him to be toxic, creating binaries and giving problematic treatment to the women in his life.

Amna said her novel, The American Fever, is about a 17-year-old girl “who travels to the United States on a student exchange program and receives culture shock there.” She read a passage from her book, describing an incident where American and Pakistani cultures came face to face.

Mira said that two questions a non-Western writer would ask were, “Do I want to be a bridge builder and do I want to be accessible to the West?” She said you were expected to iron out specificity in order to be accessible (in the west) and there was nothing worse than that. She raised the issue of “universalist literature”, saying there was no such thing. “I would prefer my book to be accessible to local audiences rather than to three continents.”

Mira Sethi also read passages from her collection of short stories, Are You Enjoying?

Both authors spoke about publishing issues in the West, including the UK and the US.

PAKISTAN TURNS 75: Veteran journalist Najam Sethi says news is circulating that a hybrid system is going to be introduced when there is already ‘a guy’ who says he is the prime minister but has no no power.

He said the promises made by the nation’s founding fathers included democracy. However, what happened to democracy is evident as the country remained under direct military control for 40 years.

Najam Sethi was speaking at the session, titled Pakistan at 75. He said the promise that the two parts of the country would remain united by religion had not materialized. “Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world, along with Israel, to be at war with its neighbors and vice versa.”

Lawyer Salman Akram Raja said nature has made us realize this year that we are facing a gigantic problem of climate change, suggesting that the country should wake up to the dangers of climate change. He mentioned older education and health issues in the country.

Retired Judge Nasira said 75 was not much in the age of nations and we could not say conditions had not changed.

Mr Raja said: “In the 1950s when we were making defense agreements with the United States, India was making agreements to develop their institutes of technology and they established 17 such institutes with the help of of the United States during the same decade.”

He said Pakistan had put explosives in its foundations while India was focusing on education. He referred to the repression of those people who raised the voice of the masses in the 1950s.

CLIMATE JUSTICE: Justice Jawwad Hassan said the Supreme Court had taken action to control air pollution since 1996. ‘It is the innate right of every citizen to have clean air and clean water’ , he said during a keynote address on climate justice.

Judge Ijaz Chaudhry gave a judgment in 2002 where he spoke about air pollution, ordering the government to have buses, giving examples from other countries. “Judge Mansoor Ali Shah filed a petition on his own behalf in 2009 when two-stroke rickshaws were banned on Jail Road and Mall Road. In the Asghar Ali Shah case, the issue of climate justice was raised for the first time,” the judge said.

Posted in Dawn, October 16, 2022

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