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Writer Uzma Aslam Khan captivates audience at IBA Karachi


As part of the series “When Writers Speak…” the IBA Karachi Ardeshir Cowasjee Centre for Writing presented another opportunity for our students and faculty to interact with a celebrated author. Uzma Aslam Khan discussed aspects of her writing and read excerpts from her works at the IBA Karachi Main Campus. Mr. Javed Jabbar, Chairman of the Centre, also spoke at the session.

Ms. Khan is a renowned writer with the incredible capacity of letting her readers become a part of the lands of her imagination that are shaped around the sights and sounds to which most of us can relate. Her book 'Thinner than Skin' claimed the French Embassy Prize for “Best Fiction” at the Karachi Literature Festival 2014.

At the session, Ms. Khan not only discussed aspects of her writing, but also read select pieces from her works. Most notably she read excerpts from ‘Thinner than Skin’ and ‘Trespassing’. She also talked about her use of what she calls “the holy trilogy” that helps her shape her work; namely surprises, research and immersion. According to her, “Wonder and research go hand in hand and you just stumble upon [a story]”. She talked about how her experiences have inspired her novels, as in the ‘Geometry of God’, voted the Best Book of 2009 by Kirkus Review, she used her personal experience of living near a site where fossils were discovered as the setting to shape the story. In addition, her sense of curiosity drives her extensive research as a writer, and, according to Ms. Khan, the third most important element of writing is emotional involvement, which she calls ‘immersion’.

The readings were followed by a question-and-answer session. Upon being asked about the importance of staying in or leaving one’s comfort zone as a writer, she said, “It can be really fulfilling to find one’s comfort zone,” while adding, “But it can be dangerous to stay in that shell.” According to Ms. Khan, “I don’t want to write the same book again. If two characters are similar, I have failed”. She was asked about her favourite authors and she named Patrick Chamoiseau, George Orwell and Virgina Woolf as few of the writers she admired. Concluding the session, she talked about the importance of extensive reading and the need for writing fearlessly.

With a previous session held with acclaimed author Bina Shah, "When Writers Speak ..." is a series of talks by writers of repute who share their views on different topics and ideas. The Ardeshir Cowasjee Centre for Writing is a unique initiative by IBA Karachi to enhance the writing skills of students. According to Dr. Framji Minwalla –Chairman of the Department of Social Sciences & Liberal Arts – and Ms. Maria Hassan Siddqui, Professor at the Department, the Centre has been fittingly dedicated to the memory of Ardeshir Cowasjee, one of Pakistan’s most-renowned columnists, social activists, and philanthropists.