A decade on, the case is very different. Last year’s Booker shortlist contained a Pakistani writer for the first time, and an exceptionally talented one at that: Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist was unquestionably one of the most witty, accomplished and thought-provoking novels of 2007; it received ecstatic reviews, and instantly became a New York Times bestseller and notable book. Now, within the next few months, a whole raft of Pakistani novels are due to appear, all of which have already caused considerable pre-publication stir in the publishing world.
Nadeem Aslam’s latest, The Wasted Vigil, is out shortly and is said to be even more observant and beautifully written than his wonderful Maps for Lost Lovers. Kamila Shamsie’s Burned Shadows, to be published in March 2009, is a narrative which moves its characters from Hiroshima to 9/11, and is also said to be much her strongest book to date. Next summer will also see the debut of two highly rated new novels by writers in their mid-twenties, one by Ali Sethi, nephew of Pakstani novelist Moni Mohsin, who was one of the unexpected stars of the last Jaipur Literature Festival; and the other a collection of tales by Daniyal Mueenuddin, whose short stories in the New Yorker have already been included by Salman Rushdie for Best American Short Stories and have also been nominated for a National Magazine Award. His remarkable debut, Nawabdin Electrician, can be read online at www.newyorker.com and reveals a writer who seems to combine the intimate rootedness and gentle humour of R.K. Narayan with the literary sophistication and stylishness of a Jhumpa Lahiri.