We’ll take smutty gossip over literature
Syed Talat Hussain
Pakistan’s most talked-about book hasn’t even been published yet, said Syed Talat Hussain. The salacious details leaking out about the forthcoming autobiography of Reham Khan, former wife of cricket star–turned-politician Imran Khan, have Pakistanis “going gaga.” Reham is angry that her ex dumped her for another woman, and she is out to get him. She accuses Imran of being a secret homosexual who had carnal relations with both male and female members of his Tehreek-e-Insaf party. She claims that sexual favors were traded for political gain. Everyone named in her book has, of course, vigorously denied every charge. But the public doesn’t care whether the sensational claims are true. Modern Pakistan “satiates itself with ungodly gossip, and expends energies on the scandalous scouting of lustful dirt.” You know what we could be reading? Home Fire, the latest novel by British-Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie, who recently won the U.K.’s prestigious Women’s Prize for Fiction. But no, we leave literature to the expats. Nobody buys books here. Some of the best-known authors writing in Urdu print fewer than 1,000 copies of their novels, in a land with 193 million people. How many of us, though, are going to buy Reham’s work of “sheer vengefulness”?