Author in Town

By Sonya Rehman

Dressed in a beige-cream shalwar kameez, author, Thalassa Ali cuts a graceful figure. Petite and elegant, her blond hair is neatly cut and behind her oval-shaped spectacles rest large and intuitive blue eyes. Her last book, ‘Companions of paradise’, has recently been published and she is in Pakistan for a book launch and a barrage of interviews, giving the literary circles in the city something to talk about. Apart from Moni Mohsin’s book launch for ‘The end of innocence’ and Shobhaa De’s recent trip to the country for a launch of a Karachi-based writer, the local literary scene in the country has been stagnant for a while. An American by birth, Thalassa met her Pakistani husband-to-be while at Harvard. What followed were twelve long years in the city of Karachi, the birth of her two children, the sudden demise of her husband, her return to America and finally, embracing Islam in 1984.

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Sound interesting? Sure does. Set amidst a backdrop of 19th century India and Afghanistan, the crux of Ali’s story revolves around protagonist, Mariana Givens, through a journey of strife and self-discovery.
“Since the 70s I’ve always wanted to write this story”, Thalassa tells Instep Today. “In these books I describe Lahore and its people very closely”, the author says as she goes on to add that her trilogy is aimed more so for the international market so that the foreign public see Pakistan for what it is rather than “imagining Pakistan as a country of violence”.  “This is not alien territory as Western culture has known stories of this part of the world for three hundred years!”

From her book launch at the ‘Sukh Chan Wellness Club’ in Lahore, to significant print coverage, and TV interviews – one such being invited as a guest on the popular ‘Begum Nawazish Ali Show’- Thalassa Ali describes her trilogy as a “tribute to Pakistan and its people”.

Thalassa’s trilogy is such that if adapted into a movie, it would make for an extremely interesting watch. If Mira Nair can do it with her recent adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, ‘The Namesake’, ‘Earth’ (a novel written by Bapsi Sidhwa and directed by Deepa Mehta), ‘The far pavilions’ (a bestseller by M.M. Kaye directed by Peter Duffell) and a host of other novel-to-film adaptations set in South Asia, so can Pakistani directors do the same. Mohsin Hamid’s ‘Moth smoke’ which was adapted by director Shahzad Nawaz into a telefilm did absolutely no justice to the book, yet, the effort put into its production must be lauded. Something’s better than nothing.

If Thalassa’s trilogy were adapted into a full-fledged film, it would perhaps aid in giving the country and its people a collective ‘identity’, a face and a personality in light of its historical milieu. Any takers?

Instep Today, The News

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