22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Nadeem Aslam

Portrait Nadeem Aslam
© Hartwig Klappert

Nadeem Aslam was born in the Pakistani metropolis of Gujranwala in 1966. During the regime of General Zia-ul-Haq, when Aslam was 14 years old he and his family were forced to leave Pakistan owing to the political convictions of his father, a writer and film-maker. They moved to England, settling in the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield. At the University of Manchester, he studied several semesters of biochemistry and literature, but eventually gave up his studies to pursue his writing career.

In his début novel, »Season of the Rainbirds« (1993), Aslam displayed great refinement as a storyteller as he peeled back the societal strata of his native Pakistan: a train accident in the provinces unearths a postal bag that had been lost for nigh on two decades. The letters believed lost reveal the chasms that open up between the planes of time as well as in the attitudes of the villagers. Aslam thus creates a multi-layered portrait of the politically and religiously riven land; more essentially, he illustrates his study of the contrasting realities through writing. For his second novel, »Maps for Lost Lovers« (2004), he once again chooses an isolated setting to shed light into the abyss of religiously motivated violence. Through the prism of an honour killing in a small English city, he examines divergent perceptions of love, faith and justice from a variety of perspectives. While the story does deal with specific circumstances, the richly metaphorical and allegorical language transcends all borders. »The Wasted Vigil« (2008) condenses the history of Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion to the hunt for terrorists in Tora-Bora into an encounter of characters: lovers and fighters with their respective convictions and personal losses. Aslam’s latest work, »The Blind Man’s Garden« (2013) picks up the Punjabi tragic romance »Heer Ranjha« and infuses it, re-interpreted, into a story taking place against the backdrop of the war on terror. Both timeless and timely, the narrative meanders between the characters in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Praised by critics as Aslam’s most mature work to date, the novel was shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2014. Aslam has also received honours for his other novels, including the Betty Trask Award (1994), the Author’s Club First Novel Award (1993), the Encore Award (2005), the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize (2005) and the Windham Campbell Literature Prize at Yale University (2014). In 2006 he was also shortlisted for the British Book Awards as well as the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Aslam lives in London.