Literature now needs to make sense of the world more than ever because all writing is a battle against wrong and an act of courage, said a Bangladeshi author living and teaching in the US.
“Art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgement,” said Nadeem Zaman, author of “In the Time of the Others”, quoting John F Kennedy.
If it is not truth-telling, there is no need to write it at all, for even fiction as art is a mirror to the world, he said during a talk at Brac University where he had taught last summer.
The Department of English and Humanities organised the event on the campus on 6 November 2019.
With the novel being longlisted for this year’s DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, Zaman was invited over to Dhaka Lit Fest as a distinguished speaker.
On his novel, Zaman said “Others” in the title referred to East Pakistanis and that being born five years after the Liberation War, he had tried sourcing events of that time connecting with eyewitnesses.
No story of his elders was without the Liberation War and Robert Payne’s “Massacre” was the first book he had found while searching for details of those times, he said.
Zaman suggested students talk to people about whatever that comes to mind to make connections. He referred to his curiousness about the people who facilitated everyday life for him that got him into writing.
He also emphasised that though reading came first, it was inseparable from writing, which should become a practice with discipline and teachings from mentors and critique.
On choosing a subject matter, he said one philosophy was to make sense of the world, give shape and send back out with the hope that some essence has been made.
He asked young writers to naturally figure it out themselves and not follow what others want.
Anika Saba, a faculty member, introduced the writer, with whom students later engaged through a question-answer session.