Narrating Pakistani History Mingling Memory and Experience in Kamila Shamsie's Novels

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Naila Sahar


Kamila Shamsie writes revisionary historiography of her country. Official historiography erases some very significant areas and experiences which she has tried to recuperate, thus redefining the role of a postcolonial writer in the society. This article examines the relationship between history, memory and experience in Shamsie’s novels, elaborating on their potential to change the collective or individual lives of people in a society that is in the process of transition. Shamsie takes up challenges of putting a chaotic world in order, of recording what official histories erase most often. Her novels are penetrating analyses of Pakistan’s recent troubled history. She talks of the break-up of Pakistan in 1971, of the insecure, uncertain and perturbed times under the despotic rule of Zia’s regime, and ethnic violence in Karachi. History in her novels is not only the knowledge of past, it is also the continuity of past in present. She shows that what happened then is happening now, back and forth, now and then; the conflict between Bengalis and the rest of Pakistan in 1971 and now between native Karachites and Muhajirs or immigrants in the 1980s. Such frictions and hostilities produced fissures in the tight-knit social groups. Shamsie portrays this history painstakingly, as she identifies history as a major sight for the identity formation of any country.


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Author Biography

Naila Sahar, Forman Christian College, Lahore, Pakistan

Naila Sahar did her PhD as a Fulbright scholar at State University of New York, Buffalo in the department of English. The topic of her PhD dissertation is Reimagining Muslim Women: Gendered Religious Life and Resistance in the Age of Islamophobia. Her research interests include feminist studies, gender studies, gendered religious nationalism, South Asian studies, and postcolonial studies. Her work has appeared in South Asian Voices, South Asian Review, and Gender Matters. These days she is working as assistant professor in English department at Forman Christian College (A Chartered University), Lahore.