Reviewing “The Scatter Here is too Great” by Bilal Tanveer


I believe in short book reviews. Unless you are discussing Homer or Freud, of course.

There have been a lot of long reviews about this book, Bilal Tanveer’s debut in 2014, but it is never too late to inform other readers about Pakistani literature. Tanveer’s attempt at fiction is indeed laudable, the prose is well written, and it has a theme which echoes through-out the book in various contexts all under the roof of “the impact of a bomb blast in Karachi”. It is interesting to note that his book is distributed in different stories and in three parts but all connects under one incident-the setting off of a bomb in Karachi and the immediate impact it pierces in the lives of those involved.

Tanveer writes with an individualistic sense of his own. An analytic reader can perceive that he aims to develop a writing style, while circulating stories pertaining to things he perhaps holds very dear. However this skill needs to be greatly enhanced as many times the writing is not consistent. It is dissonant to read a narrative story and on the next page, something poetically philosophical, and the narration with a slightly altered writing style again. It feels better and far steady to have each story separate, despite being bound by the same theme so that each story can have a different style. Or if it is all conjoining in a novel like this, the narrative must hold some consistency. Also, a few sentences in the book seemed lazy writing, perhaps a more formal way of opening the book could exist than “Ever seen a bullet smashed windscreen”?

Tanveer writes with a breath of fresh air as currently Pakistani authors pertaining to contemporary fiction are trying to maintain a style of their own and it is indeed commendable that he has every skill to be a better, more notable and highly achieving writer. By contrast, the theme of Karachi and its condition has been explored quite a lot and many readers could be bored with it but then again, the author has specific interests in urban fiction and the cultural thread which binds all people of the city together.

To all those who want to try South Asian or Pakistani literature, I recommend to read this one and develop a sense of their own, just to see how far Pakistani authors have come in writing good literature and the scope of the potential they hold for the next years to come by.

P.S. Do not attempt to pick this one if you find Urdu swearing in English medium novels rather distasteful and linguistically unsuitable.

Bilal Tanveer
Bilal Tanveer

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