Pakistan: Literary Treasure Trove

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Kamila Shamsie at Asia House

Last week Bunty and I spent the evening at Asia House for the continuing literature festival sponsored by the Bagri Foundation. The festival is on until 21st May and there are still many wonderful events to attend! and follow on twitter @asiahouseuk @festofasianlit

Multi award winning writer, Kamila Shamsie was the star of the evening and new writer, Omar Shahid Hamid was introduced and interviewed in Extra Words, a new segment created by Asia House to focus on new talent at the festival.

Kamila was asked all about her new book, A God in Every Stone (I’m reading my signed copy, review to follow asap!). Breathtaking in scope from 500BC to the 1930s it is faction at its best; based on true history, events and people peppered nicely with an ambitious and colourful imagination. The book is about Peshawar, North West Frontier Pakistan, as much as the human characters. Kamila spoke of her extensive research for the book, for example pouring over documents from the British Raj safeguarded at the British Library. She also spoke of how she had to spend time exploring and learning about Peshawar as people from Karachi tend to know very little about the historic city that was so important to ancient warriors and even Buddha.

Kamila Shamsie at Asia House

I wish I had read the book before attending the event as the discussion would have meant more but Kamila conveyed the overall tone, plot and characters with such passion, wit and charm without giving any plot spoilers that I wonder if anyone left the room with a mission to buy/read it.

Omar Shahid Hamid

Asia House director Adrienne Parkins with writer Omar Shahid Hamid

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New writer, Omar Shahid Hamid used to be a policeman in Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub sitting on the Indian Ocean. Based on true events and characters, The Prisoner is a thriller based on the underworld of Karachi where the writer himself served as a police officer for over ten years. The central character is a policeman set up by his enemies and thrown into prison and how he negotiates his way out.  Temporarily swapping the Karachi underworld for the London underground, Omar was clearly very knowledgeable about his subject and the excerpt he read aloud left us quite intrigued!


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