Zulfikar Ghose and the Land of His Birth

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Author: Tariq Rahman
Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Date: 2005
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 4,394 words

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[(essay date summer 1989) In the following essay, Rahman examines the importance of Ghose's writing to Pakistani and Indian literature in English, paying special attention to Ghose's poetry and his novel The Murder of Aziz Khan.]

In an interview in 1984, Zulfikar Ghose remarked: "I have not been back to India or Pakistan for twenty-three years. Neither country has given me the slightest recognition. But this has nothing to do with writing."1 Yet, Ghose's relationship with the subcontinent has had a profound influence on his work. In fact the most important themes of Ghose, the consciousness of being deracinated and alienated from both Western and Indian society, are directly connected with the fact that he migrated to Bombay from his native Sialkot (which is now in Pakistan) in 1942 and from there to England in 1952.

Ghose's consciousness of being in exile is expressed in the title of his autobiography, Confessions of a Native-Alien (1965). In an earlier article I have interpreted the main concerns of Ghose's fiction in relation to this feeling.2 In the interview mentioned above, Kanaganayakam makes three important points about this aspect of Ghose's relationship with the subcontinent. First, that Ghose's consciousness of exile produced "a need to create a model of what ... [he has] ... left behind or lost in order to explore the possibility of creating a new identity" in the earlier fiction; second, that Ghose's changes in the narrative mode "are not the result of technical legerdemain so much as a consequence of the complex perception of exile"; and third, that "the idea of home whether it appears as a farm, a ranch, a man-made paradise, or an Arcadian village, remains a central preoccupation and a unifying force."3 However, no other aspect of Ghose's relationship with the Indian subcontinent has received critical attention in Pakistan, India or the West. In fact, as he justifiably complains, he has not received any attention in Pakistan at all except Alamgir Hashmi's review of Hulme's Investigations into the Bogart Script (1981), Beatrice Stoerck's article on the Brazilian trilogy, and my own article mentioned earlier.4

This article, therefore, aims at studying all aspects of Ghose's relationship with the Indian subcontinent in general and Pakistan, the land of his birth, in particular. The major emphasis will be on Ghose's novel about Pakistan, The Murder of Aziz Khan (1967). The quality of his literary achievement will enable us to determine all aspects of Ghose's relationship with the land of his birth and his position in the literature in English produced there. This, I believe, has not been done yet and needs doing.

Zulfikar Ghose was born in Sialkot in 1935. His family was Muslim and Punjabi-speaking and its name was Ghaus. The first two letters represent a phoneme which does not exist in English. The name which he took up (Ghose) rhymes with "rose" and the "gh" is pronounced as the /g/ phoneme in English. It is, however, aspirated in Hindu names in Indian languages. Sialkot was becoming...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100063027