Brown hawks crowding the sky. Mangroves. Trapped black Arabian Sea water in the Creek. Dusty virtual streets in the planning and early settlement stage; behind them boulevards and hospitals and flyovers; behind those mile on mile of tower blocks and shanty towns, a city of almost eighteen million souls.

But closer than that: supersize puppets nodding to pumping dance music, and conference halls crammed with chattering people, and tent-loads of poets. What’s this? It’s the Karachi Literature Festival.

Failed states, Pakistan-specialist Anatol Lieven declared afterwards, don’t hold literature festivals. Perhaps Lieven assumed too much: there are festivals in Iraq and Palestine. And novelist Mohammad Hanif provided a grimmer perspective during his very well-attended and gently provocative session when he said ‘even places that don’t have running water want to have a literature festival now.’

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.

Access our entire archive of 350+ articles from the world's leading writers on Islam.
Only £3.30/month, cancel anytime.


Already subscribed? Log in here.

Not convinced? Read this: why should I subscribe to Critical Muslim?

Elsewhere on Critical Muslim: