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Updated: October 28, 2013 20:50 IST

‘Women have always been humanists’

Anusha Parthasarathy
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Inspired by reality: Fatima Bhutto. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan
Inspired by reality: Fatima Bhutto. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

Fatima Bhutto launches her book The Shadow Of The Crescent Moon in the city

The politico-religious novel is set in the conflict-ridden town of Mir Ali, and spans three hours in the lives of three brothers. Poet and writer Fatima Bhutto’s fictional debut The Shadow Of The Crescent Moon was launched in Landmark recently where she was in conversation with Mukund Padmanabhan, editor, Business Line.

This is Bhutto’s third book, after a book of poems and a memoir. “I never planned on writing anything. It happened naturally,” she says. “I started writing this book much before Songs Of Blood And Sword was published. All those incidents that bothered me from my travelscame out as fiction.”

While the story might be fictional, the town of Mir Ali isn’t, though Bhutto has admittedly taken a creative licence with her descriptions. “It’s a real town but my Mir Ali is fictional. I wanted to write about the North of Pakistan, it’s a beautiful part of the country but everyone has just one view about it — that it’s a dangerous, ugly place. It’s a misunderstood place but when I visited it, I fell in love with it. The people there are extraordinary and live fearlessly, especially the women. They are oppressed and they fight back. I didn’t want the book to be set in Peshawar or Bajaur, and Mir Ali was perfect. There is no need to make up a town in Pakistan, we have so many,” Bhutto explains.

The book also has two strong women characters and Bhutto feels they are central to the story. “I wanted to write about the women in the fringes. There are two of them in the book and in the heart of suffering and turbulence. The women of Mir Ali absorb the tension more than anyone else. The men are ruthless and want to get out of the place but the women have allegiance and a sense of belonging to that town,” she adds. Do her books have feminist elements? “Women have always been humanists. Only men can be feminists. But, yes, there are some elements.”

There is also a political message that Bhutto hopes her readers will take back with them. “It is that war is never the answer, no matter what cause. Because once you engage in violence, there is no end to it.” And on why she wrote about people outside the limelight, she says, “We don’t see enough about the voiceless. There is plenty to read about those in the public eye.” Bhutto says she will focus more on fiction in the future. “There’s something empathetic about fiction. It makes everything relatable,” she says. The Shadow Of The Crescent Moon is available at bookstores for Rs. 499.

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