A rare talent | Pakistan Today

A rare talent

INTERVIEW: Kanza Javed

An upcoming author to watch out for

 

Kanza Javed

Kanza Javed was a name not known to many till she shot into the spotlight after having an unpublished novel nominated for the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize. How she has become one of Pakistan’s brightest up and coming writers. On her way to hopefully publishing her first novel in India, Kanza has a fresh kind of writing that has the magic to hook a reader.

Pakistan Today sat down with the young writer to talk about her inspirations, her upcoming work and a whole lot more.

Despite having a way with words, Tibor Jones was something Kanza was absolutely unprepared for. Having her manuscript nominated for the prize took her by shock. She speaks about how it all began quite fondly.

“The Tibor Jones South Asia Prize was a complete surprise. I was 21, had just recently finished the first draft of my novel and decided to send it as a submission upon the request of an editor that I met at a British Council Event”, she recalled.

The manuscript in question is called “Ashes, Wine and Dust”. It’s a novel that Kanza began working on at the young age of seventeen. “I had a few characters entrapped in my head for a long, long time and I wanted to release them… allow them to grow… thus I began writing. I was uncertain about where I was heading but I just knew that I had to write this ‘thing’”, she explained while talking about her inspirations. “Being nominated for Tibor Jones South Asia Prize 2012 gave me a lot of exposure and introduced me to the world of poets, writers, publishers, agents and editors — a territory that was foreign to me once. I was the youngest writer to be nominated for the prize and the only one who travelled from Pakistan to Kolkata, a truly magical city,” she added.

For most writers their journey starts fairly early on in life. They can see things through a lens that is available only to them. Their observation of the world around them is a little sharper, the colours slightly more defined, and the people fuller with mystery. When you combine that kind of ability with a love for reading the results can be astounding. While this is rare in our side of the world, Kanza was able to harness the ability fairly well. On how she began her journey as a writer she said, “For as long as I can remember I have loved reading and writing. As a child, there were a few things I was good at, writing was one of them.

Despite having a way with words, Tibor Jones was something Kanza was absolutely unprepared for. Having her manuscript nominated for the prize took her by shock. She speaks about how it all began quite fondly.

“I found it fascinating, this very idea of manipulating reality for my amusement and having complete control of characters and episodes. Personal diaries became short stories and soon enough, I realised that this was something I wanted to do seriously. This made me study literature, a subject that was fashioned just for me. Often I found myself among people who believed that literature was something to be studied either by the idiosyncratic or those incapable of understanding the physics of circuits or the applications of theorems. I remained inclined towards a subject that catered to my needs to read and write avidly”.

Unlike many other writers, however, the young author doesn’t have a list of inspirations ready for declaration. “I still am unable to identify with what people call their “writing process,” for me the process can be trigged anytime, the inspiration can appear from anywhere. It can begin while having an interesting conversation with a complete stranger, or my grandmother; or by taking the train or any journey for that matter. Anything can inspire you and stimulate your feelings and senses; a recollection, a lucid dream, a myth, an old legend, a social condition, a past mistake, a certain character you once encountered, it’s all relative and sometimes an indescribable phenomena,” she said.

While she maybe one of the most promising young writers to watch out for, her journey hasn’t been easy. In fact the journey for many Pakistani writers, young or otherwise, is enormously difficult. Pakistan does not have a real publishing industry. There is a dire lack of agencies and publishing houses that can support writers and their work. Instead of being able to publish and release their work locally many writers have often had to look across the border, or find themselves in entirely different continents to get the job done. Another large problem is that there is no concept of author rights in Pakistan, publishing houses that are willing to publish books written by local authors will often offer them a meager one time “fee” instead of giving them any kind of profit that is earned off of the book.

Our young author finds the situation plenty distressing. “Approaching local publishing houses or agents comes with its own set of problems. Pakistan has no literary agencies and there are only a few publishing houses. I was fortunate when it came to finding an agency in India, because of the Tibor Jones nomination. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better for representing my work. But I meet people every day, people who write and wish to get their work published, and are hesitant or unfamiliar with the agent and publishing culture. I do wish that Pakistan finds a way to host a thriving publishing community because the amount of talent we harbor is immense”, she added.

Kanza Javed is also a sharp blow to the myth that there is a shortage of quality female writers in Pakistan. Her work is an example in how wrong this conception really is and she has a thing or two to say about the stereotype overall.

Kanza Javed is also a sharp blow to the myth that there is a shortage of quality female writers in Pakistan. Her work is an example in how wrong this conception really is and she has a thing or two to say about the stereotype overall. “There is absolutely no dearth of female writers in Pakistan; this is a myth, a preconceived reality that a country that is hovering over television channels because of its unconquerable insurgencies and evils, like subjugation and oppression of women, is bound to have a more expressive male ‘community.’

“We had Mumtaz Shahnawaz capturing the partition experience in the 1900’s, here in Lahore, and with every passing year, there is a significant increase in releases by female writers. They write about everything; politics, culture, domestic lives, relationships, societal norms, religion… you name it and they are working on it. They have made, and are making, significant contributions in English and Urdu Literature all the time.” Strong writers exist but unfortunately remain largely invisible.

We ended our discussion on a much happier and lighter note. She told us a little about her favourite works, and unsurprisingly they weren’t few in number. “There are so many. I fall in love with a different writer, era, character, every week. It is very hard to distinguish something as, ‘this is it, and no one could have done it better.’ Every writer and piece of Literature offers something new. I just finished, Soul Mountain by Gao Xinjian for the second time, had to experience that soul-cleansing journey again. Currently I am reading Ben Okri’s The Famished Road. I was familiar with Okri’s poetry but never had a chance to read this novel,” she said.

Kanza’s novel is going to be a book to look out for. Pakistan needs more serious authors like her to follow their real passion instead of shying away from what seems like the impossible. If this generation is able to churn out a few great writers then it will be doing the next one a huge favour.

Luavut Zahid

Luavut Zahid is Pakistan Today’s Special Correspondent. Her work places an emphasis on conflict and disasters, human rights, religious and sexual minorities, climate change, development and governance. She also serves as the Pakistan Correspondent to the Crisis Response Journal. She can be reached at: [email protected], and she tweets at: @luavut.



One Comment;

  1. talha said:

    she tought me in class 4 and because of her now i earn A in english

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