Reading Corner with Musharraf Ali Farooqi

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Musharraf Ali Farooqi is a writer, translator, and publisher. He is the author of the novel Between Clay and Dust which was a finalist for the 2012 Man Asian Prize for Literature.  He has translated the Urdu dastan classics Dastan-e Amir Hamza (The Adventures of Amir Hamza) and Tilism-e Hoshruba (Hoshruba: The Land and the Tilism). Farooqi is currently a Harvard University South Asia Institute Fellow. He could be reached via his website: www.mafarooqi.com or twitter @microMAF

How and when did you develop an interest in reading?  What is the importance of this habit in your life?

Reading and life are intertwined. I remember that I was a reader from a very young age. I could read the newspaper even before I went to school. The first Urdu book I remember reading was Abu Qasim Ke Jootay (Abu Qasim’s Shoes). My mother read it out to me and then I picked it up from there. The first English story was probably from one of the Radiant Way readers, or one of the secondhand books my father bought me form the street vendors.

When it comes to genre, which one do you prefer reading the most? Reason for this preference?

I read a variety of genres but these days most of my reading is on the occult and from the dastan literature as it is related to my recent work.

Recall an Aha moment(s) you had while reading. How has that changed your perspective to life?

I think the ‘Aha!’ moment for me was reading a trashy novel and thinking I could write better than that. That is the function of bad writing: To launch you into your writing career with a degree of confidence.

If you were to re-write a book that you have read, which one would you rewrite? Why would you change it?

I would not do such a thing, I’m quite sure.

Do you have an emotional bond with any specific books? What caused that bond?

I love picture books. I always wanted to be a writer of picture books. My new novel is an elaborate picture book.

Do you keep going back to any book(s)? Why? Any book(s) you have not been able to finish? Why?

I keep going back to the Urdu dastan literature, in particular Tilism-e Hoshruba. Some of the most unreadable books in my memory are The Heart of Darkness, My Name is Red, The Adventures of Augie March, and The Master and Margarita.

Who are your favourite writers?

Muhammad Khalid Akhtar, Ghulam Abbas, Shafiqur Rahman, Khalid Toor.

Any short stories or essays that you would like to recommend to our readers?

Muhammad Khalid Akhtar’s collected works which are available from the Oxford University Press Pakistan. For those who wish to read him in English, his novel Chakiwara Mein Wisal and short fictions based in Chakiwara have recently been translated into English by Bilal Tanweer as Love in Chakiwara and Other Misadventures (Picador India, 2016).

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