The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3

By John Clement Ball | Go to book overview

Z

Zameenzad, Adam
KAMILA SHAMSIE

Adam Zameenzad belongs to a generation of postcolonial South Asian writers who opened up the possibilities of the anglophone novel form in the 1980s. Yet it goes against the spirit of his work to speak of it in connection to a specific region. His characters inhabit a range of nations and identities, resulting in an oeuvre that adamantly refuses to view the world through any kind of narrowing lens, preferring to seek collective truths. Stylistically, there is an exuberance and generosity to his work, even while it depicts tragedy and injustice. Both the comic and the cosmic feature strongly in his fiction, which has been published and translated widely.

Born on March 14, 1947 in Pakistan, Zameenzad spent part of his childhood in Nairobi, Kenya, and later lived in Canada and the US before moving to Britain. These geographical shifts are mirrored in a journey through faith: he was born into a liberal Muslim family but as a young man immersed himself in Buddhism, followed by a series of other religious traditions, before becoming an adherent of two diametrically opposed Christian denominations–Catholicism and Quakerism. Quests and voyages, both literal and allegorical, appear in much of his work.

Zameenzad began writing novels as a steppingstone to having his poetry published, but the form soon drew him in. He was attracted by the novel’s ability to influence people around the world through stories, characters, and settings. His debut novel, The Thirteenth House (1987), winner of the David Higham Prize for first fiction, is set in a poor Karachi suburb during the military regime of Zia ul-Haq. A concern for the dispossessed and the marginalized, a mark of all Zameenzad’s fiction, is already evident, as is his fierce criticism of charlatans who exploit people’s spiritual hunger. In this case, the charlatan is Shah Baba, a so-called holy man, who seizes upon Zahid and proceeds to divest him of his life savings. Many reviewers talked of the novel, and of Zameezad’s later work, as belonging to the realm of magic realism, a label he rejected. Overall, the book explores the possibility of a reality that extends beyond the world of so-called natural laws.

In My Friend Matt and Hena the Whore (1988), Zameenzad explores brutality and the injustice of a globalized world via events in an unnamed East African country. In one of the most remarked-upon images of the novel, starving children watch the American soap opera Dallas on television. The child protagonist, Kimo, and his group of friends lead readers through a world of war with an effective mix of innocence, numbed horror, and lavatory humor. Despite all they witness in this often harrowing novel, they never lose their own humanity.

Love, Bones and Water (1989) explores the lives shaken by the politically powerful. The central figure is, once more, a child–9-year-old Peter Paul Poacher Peruva. Peter’s affluent and politically well-connected mother is the moving force behind a plan to remove the dwellers of a shanty town, in the name of progress. Peter’s identification with the victimized despite (or because of) the fact that his mother is chief among the

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The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editors i
  • The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Literature WWW.Literatureencyclopedia.Com ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Entries vii
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Notes on Contributors to Volume III xv
  • Introduction to Volume III 937
  • A 942
  • B 980
  • C 995
  • D 1034
  • E 1052
  • F 1066
  • G 1094
  • H 1121
  • I 1145
  • J 1154
  • K 1167
  • L 1180
  • M 1198
  • N 1252
  • O 1270
  • P 1277
  • Q 1296
  • R 1300
  • S 1325
  • T 1365
  • U 1370
  • V 1373
  • W 1378
  • Z 1398
  • Index 1400
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