Pakistani British writer explores themes of plagiarism and identity in debut novel ‘The Center’
Posted by Salwar Alam
Debuting author Ayesha Manazir Siddiqui said she tried to “deconstruct the notion of great literature” in her first novel. Center.
The protagonist of the novel, Anissa Elahi, is a Pakistani Muslim woman living in London who dreams of becoming a translator of great literary works. Elahi enrolled to learn a European language when she learned Urdu in ten days with her white boyfriend, Adam, who is fluent in nearly a dozen languages. bottom.
“I tried to dismantle the idea of what she (Elahi) considers a great work of literature. I think it represents my own journey,” Siddiqi said. eastern eye.
“I wanted to fight society’s idea that ‘this is good literature and this isn’t’, ‘this is a legitimate writer and this isn’t’. Even though my journey is about translation, and my journey is about writing and literature, there are some similarities.”
Siddiqi said race plays an important role when it comes to what is considered great literature. She revealed that when she wrote her story as a child, her characters had blonde hair and wore western costumes, even though she was studying at a learning center in Pakistan. .
“We mostly find Western literature great. Growing up, what effect did it have on our psyches? It makes us feel anxious and silent, it makes us feel like we can only live in a certain space, or if we live in that space, we are Sometimes what we end up doing is a kind of imitation and writing for a white eye,” she explained.
“There are almost white supremacist institutions that lead us to believe that knowledge, intelligence, so-called literature, can only come from these places.”
Siddiqui’s novel explores other themes the author has experienced since moving to London as an eighteen-year-old student. She has been a writer, editor, playwright and occasional translator for over ten years. “
This super-mysterious language school promises to make you fluent in any language in just 10 days, but at a secret cost. And as you read through the novel, you’ll find out what this is all about. There have been some twists and turns in this process,” Siddiqi said.
“It’s about many things. It’s about gender, race, sexuality, class. It’s about cultural appropriation, assimilation, and the struggle for self-actualization.”
At the center, Elahi first learns German and then Russian. Eventually her dream came true and she became a multi-gotten and popular figure in the British literary world. But her joy doesn’t last long either, as she feels uneasy about her new life and begins to question her own identity and her sense of belonging – is her mother tongue English or Urdu? language?
“If you have a Pakistani background, being a woman, being a Muslim, all of this, you know that the dominant culture in this country expects a certain story from you. How do you avoid it and how do you fight it?” Siddiqi said, reflecting on herself and the novel’s protagonist.
Elahi was raised in an upper-middle-class family in Karachi and spent most of her adult life in London, so she speaks very little Urdu. Elahi, who returns to Pakistan with Adam to meet his parents, is complimented that he speaks Urdu fluently, but Elahi is furious that he feels his native language has been “stolen”.
Siddiqi acknowledged that this reflected the problem of cultural appropriation, where dominant cultures take something from minority cultures without understanding the true nature of what they have taken away. .
“I have a habit of always saying ‘Bismillah, Inshara, Alhamdulillah’. It means I stay with myself and my culture,” Siddiqi said.
“I basically speak in English, so it’s not a big problem.
“Sometimes I worry, is it because I’m embarrassed? Why should I tone down certain parts of myself?
“When I find myself saying or whispering it in my head, it makes me feel like I’m compromising and it hurts. may think of me as an assertive person.”
She added: “But I don’t like it when other people (non-Muslims) start saying it (Bismillah).
Ms Siddiqi said she decided to use Urdu. Center.
“I have to say it’s so beautiful that no publisher, no agency, no one questioned my use of Urdu in the book. 10 years ago this would have happened. I don’t think it happened,” she said.
“The fact that the text remains is very important to me because it allows me to write and speak the text as if it were a conversation with my mother, my sister, my best friend. It creates a sense of humor and allows you to go deeper with your writing.”
she added: She says, “The conversation has changed around using our own language in books.
“But I think you can go a step further from there. If you don’t understand it, I think you can say maybe it’s not for you. And maybe let it go.”
“Again, this is the prerogative of the dominant culture, and we feel that everything belongs to us and we have to translate everything for ourselves. It’s okay to have it, it’s okay to keep it, it’s okay to talk to each other.”