On Saturday evening Bungalow 8, not the famous New York nightclub, but one of our favourite Mumbai stores, (not forgetting Le Mill), played host to HM Naqvi, Pakistani author of critically acclaimed novel ‘Home Boy’. In a fitted, dazzling white blazer he held a sizeable audience’s rapt attention as he read from and discussed his excellent debut novel with fellow writer Namita Devidayal.
‘Home Boy’, typically for a first novel, is a bildungsroman- a ‘coming of age’ story, tracing the intertwined stories of three Pakistani guys, leading endearingly chaotic, excitable lives in New York City. Their priorities and personal trajectories are dramatically disrupted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But there’s nothing politically correct or self-consciously ‘relevant’ about the way Naqvi explores this territory. Instead, as he discussed with Namita at Saturday’s event, its significance unravels gradually, shifting from the background of their lives into the fore. The political dialogue that ‘Home Boy’ interacts with is fascinating and important, but the story is king.
I first discovered Naqvi’s novel at the Jaipur Literature Festival back in January, where he won the DSC South Asian Literature Award, and brought a couple of friends along to the discussion at Bungalow 8, hoping to convert them…
I’d tried to describe the rhythm of the book and when Naqvi read aloud in his deep, sage, black coffee voice, I had an even stronger sense of the rhythm in his writing than when I’d gobbled the novel up myself, reading in my head.
This heady textual rhythm means that ‘Home Boy’ sometimes feels like a dreamscape, and there’s a musicality that impresses itself upon you, so I was intrigued to hear Naqvi say that each chapter was set to a piece of music. Just as interesting were his comments on living in Karachi- a city he evocatively describes as a place where “you turn a stone and discover a story”.
Reading English at Oxford I was taught never to seek to tie yourself too closely to the intentions of the author when reading any text. That’s all very well for Chaucer or Shakespeare, but when you can have a glass of wine and a chat with them, sometimes it’s just wonderful to hear the author speak outside his book. To hear the writer on writing…
‘Home Boy’ available on Amazon here