Not every author can claim his works of fiction are credible enough to dupe the heads of intelligence agencies, but according to Mohammed Hanif, his novels have done just that.
Hanif, a Pakistani author and journalist, spoke in the Avaya Auditorium on Tuesday night about how the political turmoil in Pakistan has shaped his books and allowed him to confront controversial issues through literature.
His books, “A Case of Exploding Mangoes” and “Our Lady of Alice Bhatti,” provide details from his life in Pakistan and satirize divisive issues, such as the plane crash that killed the former Pakistani president or views of Christians in Pakistani society.
Hanif said he often makes his work humorous as a way to provide levity for the people of Pakistan and make controversial issues easier to discuss.
“There’s a long history in Pakistan of making fun of stuff … because we live in such troubled times,” Hanif said. “It comes out of despair. It comes out of a kind of oppression that people know they are trying to live with, but they can’t. [The books] are a way for people to relate to that.”
International relations junior Myra Ali said she could relate to Hanif’s work because of a shared ethnic background.
“As a Pakistani, I’m always interested in reading about Pakistan,” Ali said. “It’s in such a limbo all the time, the nation, and I’m always interested to read writers who I share views with, because oftentimes it’s hard to find that sort of material.”
Roanne Kantor, a comparative literature graduate student, said she appreciated Hanif’s writing for its cultural and literary portrayal of Pakistan and South Asia.
“[Hanif has] written a lot journalistically, but also novelistically, and South Asia is really interesting to me, especially to see how it’s represented in literature,” Kantor said.
Hanif said he still can’t believe the impact his books have had on people, especially Pakistani government intelligence officials.
“I’ve had … some [officials] take me into a corner and say, ‘Son, you’ve written a brilliant novel. Now tell me, who’s your source?’” Hanif said. “My God, these people are running my country and they actually believe all the lies that I’ve written.”