In the last three years, Pakistani literature has been undergoing a ‘boom’, an odd appellation that makes me think of both Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions and the exploits of its cricket star Shahid ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi: all fire and drama that creates a blinding flash, performs inconsistently, then burns out quickly. Certainly Pakistani writing seems to have exploded in the world’s eye, with today’s contemporary English writers climbing to the top of best- seller lists, winning major literary awards, and novels being adapted into major Hollywood screenplays. But are we simply the flavour of the month, or is there a deeper evolution of our nascent literary tradition that will continue to expand and flourish in the next decade and beyond?
How many books does a boom make? Well, Mohsin Hamid’s second novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2007, Mohammed Hanif’s A Case of Exploding Mangoes won the overall Common- wealth Best First Book Prize in 2008, Daniyal Mueenuddin won the 2010 regional Commonwealth Best First Book Prize for short story collection In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Aamer Hussein’s novella Another Gulmohar Tree was nominated for the regional Commonwealth Best Book in 2010, while Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows was shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2009. HM Naqvi’s debut novel Home Boy won the $50,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature at last year’s Jaipur Literary Festival.