Zulfikar Ghose: An Interview

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Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Date: 2005
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay; Interview
Length: 7,137 words

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[(interview date 14 August 1984) In the following interview conducted on August 14, 1984, Ghose describes the reasons for writing each of his novels, discusses authors and works that have influenced his writing, explains the evolution of his style, and critiques his poetic endeavors.]

Despite two decades of sustained literary activity, Zulfikar Ghose continues to remain relatively unknown in academic circles, hardly discussed in literary journals, and only tenuously linked to Commonwealth, British, and American writing. His refusal to be circumscribed by national boundaries and "ethnic flavor," his willingness to experiment with new modes, and his propensity to create antireferential and "difficult" works may partly explain his consignment to that area of gray where neither the student nor the literary critic wishes to wander. Neither mediocre nor an obscurantist, Ghose has at least three major claims to recognition: firstly, his writings, despite their differences in narrative mode and style, possess a remarkable unity; secondly, his works reveal a complexity of texture and depth of imagination which make him a contemporary writer worthy of serious attention; thirdly, the patterns of quest he demonstrates through his fiction could offer in the future the possibility of a new poetics for the literature of native-alien experience.

The bulk of Ghose's writing is so far removed from his biographical circumstances that the reader often fails to recognize how dependent one is on the other. In fact, in order to arrive at a unified vision of his writings it is necessary to turn to biography and history, to the crucial years before and after the Independence and Partition of India, the years in which Ghose learned to love and hate the country, and to recognize his predicament as an alien in the land of his birth.

Ghose was born in 1935, and his first seven years were spent in Sialkot (a city in East Punjab, close to the Indo-Pakistani border, which became part of West Pakistan after the Partition of India in 1947), in relatively prosperous circumstances, in the midst of an extended family. Ghose remembers that "several generations of a family lived and spawned in the same house" which, despite the irony, suggests a strong sense of continuity. Sialkot in the 1930s was an industrial city, which the author remembers as an organic community untouched by modernization and held together by shared values. In contrast to this period, the next ten years--1942 to 1952--were spent in Bombay, which was at that time, as it is now, a metropolitan, predominantly Hindu city. The ten years coincided with the last days of the British Raj, and with the possibility of Independence and Partition in the near future. The Hindus and the Muslims, who had lived for centuries in perfect harmony, were beginning to slaughter each other on a massive scale. For Ghose, a Muslim in a Hindu city, this was a period of fear and uncertainty, of growing awareness of his predicament as a native-alien, of a realization that India was no longer his home.


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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100063024