Urdu Literature as Testimony to Urban Upheavals
The 1990s were a particularly violent decade in the history of Karachi. Political, ethnic and religious conflicts, as well as a number of security operations, ravaged the city, which in the middle of the decade turned into an urban quasi-war zone. This study is an attempt to provide a glimpse into the life of this conflict-torn city from an inside perspective, through an analysis of the literary representations of the city’s upheaval in contemporary Urdu literature. The conflicts and violence of the said period provoked a fairly limited immediate literary response, which made it possible to include all of it – as far as the author is aware – in this study. The works analysed here include a novel, two collections of short stories and a collection of poems, written and published in 1995 and 1996, i.e. during the violence’s peak period. The implicit aim of these works was to provide a literary testimony to what was happening in the city, and for that reason they are analysed within the theoretical framework of witness literature, a mixed-origin genre that emerged around the 1940s and 1950s, aiming to give testimony to the various collective traumas of the twentieth century through the means of literary fiction. To the author’s best knowledge, no other study of the source texts has been undertaken so far.