Book Talk: The humorous side of Pakistan's troubles

Thu May 5, 2011 7:08am EDT
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By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI (Reuters) - When Pakistani author Moni Mohsin was struck with a familiar case of writer's block, she turned to humor to cure it.

Rather than writing a serious novel about what ails Pakistan, she told the story of a nation in turmoil through the eyes of Butterfly Khan, a socialite whose social life suffers because of fundamentalists and terror threats.

"Tender Hooks" is her third novel, and is based on characters that were part of a column she used to write for a Pakistani newspaper, "The Friday Times."

Mohsin spoke to Reuters about her book and why she chose humor as a means to tell Pakistan's story.

Q: Your first novel was a totally different genre from the next two. How did you graduate to humor writing?

A: "It happened organically. I had been writing my column for 20 years. It predated my first book 'The End of Innocence'. I never thought the column would have a wider readership because it was so specific to what was happening in the country and how people were.

"I wrote my first novel purely as a novel, but when I went to the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2008, I was approached by an Indian publisher who had been reading my column and she wanted to know whether I could put it all in a book. I didn't realize until I came to India how much interest there was in Pakistani writing across the border. So I went back to London and thought about it.

"Also, I was writing another book at the time and I was a little stuck with it. So I thought to get over this temporary writer's block, I'd edit these columns and put them together. I put them together and sent them off to four Indian publishers and the response was immediate. I hadn't expected anything from it, but the response I got totally stunned me. It became a bestseller, and people talked about it, I was flooded with interview requests. I realized that people identified with the character.   Continued...