22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

H.M. Naqvi

Portrait H.M. Naqvi
© Hartwig Klappert

H. M. Naqvi was born in 1974 and spent his childhood in Islamabad, Pakistan and Algiers, Algeria. He won a scholarship to study at Georgetown University and then completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Boston University. Naqvi has worked as a banker, run the poetry slam in Washington DC, and has taught Creative Writing at Boston University.

With his debut novel »Home Boy« (2009), which the author says he started as a game to fill the intermission at a Poetry Slam, Naqvi garnered not only commercial success, but also recognition from literary critics. For example, the »New York Times« praised the rhythm and energy of Naqvi’s language, which he had schooled in Poetry Slams; the paper also called his first work a remarkably engaging novel, equally entertaining and disturbing. The plot unfolds in Manhattan shortly after the 9/11 attacks, which shatter the self-understanding of three youths of Pakistani descent, AC, Jimbo, and Chuck. Where they had earlier acted as and felt themselves to be liberal citizens of the world, so-called Metrostani, in a city that invited them to invent themselves, now they experience the limits of their power to define their own identities. For example, two men in a bar take Chuck for a terrorist and beat him up. The three young men’s search for a missing friend draws the FBI’s attention. Its brutal methods of interrogation lead Chuck, who has ended up in solitary confinement, to question his religious and national affiliation. Here, Naqvi knows how to interlock demanding intellectual components with pop cultural narrative techniques and quotations, thereby criticizing the American war against terror and its acceptance of collateral damage. The author counters this grim background with much (linguistic) wit. Asked in an interview what his book is about, Naqvi replied that he regarded »Home Boy« as in part a meditation about male platonic relationships, which he felt too few writers were interested in. On the other hand, the female characters in his novel are no less important; indeed, relationships to them are the cornerstone of the whole story.

Along with the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, Naqvi also received the Pelham Prize for Poetry and represented Pakistan at an international Poetry Slam. Naqvi has appeared on CNN, National Public Radio, and Bloomberg TV and has written for Caravan, Global Post and Forbes. He lives in Karachi and his second novel, a comic epic, is set in the city.