22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Kamila Shamsie

Portrait Kamila Shamsie
© Hartwig Klappert

Kamila Shamsie was born in Karatchi, Pakistan in 1973. Her literary ambitions were supported from an early age by her mother, author and journalist Muneeza Shamsie, and other family members. She went to university in the USA; she completed her bachelor’s degree in creative writing at Hamilton College in Clinton, New Jersey and gained her MFA at the University of Massachusetts. In addition to her published novels, the author also writes short stories, essays and columns for various newspapers and magazines.

She published her first novel, »In the City by the Sea« (1998), shortly after leaving university. Even this early work met with wide acclaim, being awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature in Pakistan and short-listed for the John Llewellyn Rhys/Mail on Sunday Prize. Shamsie’s magical-realistic début tells the story of Hasan, a young boy from Karatchi whose prosperous middle class family is suddenly confronted with the instability of everyday life in Pakistan. Hasan uses fantasy to deal with the intrusion of reality into his world and finds imaginary friends in stories he knows – characters out of Shakespeare or the legend of King Arthur – who make it easier for him to cope with reality. Features of this first book are also present in the author’s later works, in particular the affluent middle class as inhabited by her protagonists. In her next book, »Salt and Saffron« (2000), about a woman’s return to her aristocratic family in Karatchi after completing her studies in the USA, Shamsie uses a problematic love story to shed light on the difficult search for balance between individual identity and society’s traditions. In the two novels that followed, »Kartography« (2002) and »Broken Verses« (2005), again set in Karatchi, the author continues to grapple with the experiences of the elite in a nation marked by political instability and social problems. The author strikes out in a new direction in her latest and most ambitious work, »Burnt Shadows« (2009), a family saga spanning world events from the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 to post-9/11 interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. In addition to novels, the author also writes short stories, essays and columns for various newspapers and magazines.

Kamila Shamsie has received numerous literary awards. Recently, »Burnt Shadows« won a Muslim Writer’s Award and was short-listed for the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in London and Karatchi.

© international literature festival berlin