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Talkingbooks: Sehba Sarwar

July 09, 2011

sehba sarwar, black wings
"I’ve never read to appear smart," says Sehba Sarwar. -Photo by Emaan Rana/White Star

Sehba Sarwar is a writer and activist, whose debut novel, Black Wings, was published in 2004. Here, she talks to Books & Authors.

What are you reading these days?

Dear Heart: To Faiz in Prison [1951-1955] by Alys Faiz and The Escape and Other Stories of 1947, edited by Niaz Aman (Dhaka).

Which books are on your bedside table?

Saving the World by Julia Alvarez, The Cloud Messenger by Aamer Hussein, The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz, The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass, The Time of the Doves by Mercè Rodoreda.

Which titles are on your bucket list of books?

It’s hard to say. New and republished books appear all the time and I pile them up on my desk and bedside table. I can’t predict what I’ll be reading further down the road — depends on where I am and what information/inspiration I’m looking for.

Mostly, I’m grateful to translators who work with so many different languages and have opened up a world of literature to all of us. I hope this industry continues to grow and we can have exposure to more and more global writings.

What is the one book / author you feel everyone must read?

There are many inspiring authors: Julia Alvarez, Ismat Chughtai, Sandra Cisneros, Edwidge Danticat, Mahmoud Darwish, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Patti Smith, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf… The list is endless.

What are you planning to reread?

Different books by all of the writers listed above. Also The Bone People by Keri Hulme, A Wet Afternoon: Stories, Sketches, Reminiscences by Saadat Hasan Manto (translated by Khalid Hasan), The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje, The Crow Eaters by Bapsi Sidhwa and War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

What is the one book you read because you thought it would make you appear smarter?

I’ve never read to appear smart.

What is the one book you started reading but could not finish?

I usually finish what I start even if I’m not crazy about the work.

What is your favourite childhood book or story?

Wizard of Oz. I also loved MAD magazine and Asterix comic books — thanks to one of my cousins.