BBC Culture

Talking Books

Kamila Shamsie: Re-imagining a violent city

Kamila Shamsie is an author who has based several of her novels in Karachi – but how does she tackle the city’s turbulence? She talks with Talking Books’ Razia Iqbal.

As part of Talking Books’ visit to the Lahore Literary Festival, Razia Iqbal interviews Kamila Shamsie, a young Pakistani writer who has set many of her novels in her home city of Karachi.

Shamsie wrote her first book, In the City by the Sea in 1998, while still at university. Five other novels followed: Salt and Saffron (2000), Kartography (2002), Broken Verses (2005) Burnt Shadows (2009) and A God in Every Stone (2014).

She comes from a long literary line that includes three generations of women authors. “I realised how important it was for me to grow up in a family where the written word mattered so deeply”, she told the Guardian. “Even later that I saw how the various women writers of my family were involved in dismantling stereotypes and breaking free of the traditional roles expected of women.”

In this clip, Shamsie describes her attitude towards Karachi as similar to “the way that you love that difficult member of your family” and stresses that, although damaged by violence, Pakistan’s largest city is a vibrant and cosmopolitan place. Iqbal and Shamsie discuss the importance of fiction in highlighting the city’s positive features.   

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.