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Interview: Irfan Husain



Irfan Husain is a columnist and a writer. His book, Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West, was published last year

What are you reading these days?

I always wander from one book to another. Currently, I am going though The Physiology of Taste by Brillat-Savarin, the 18th century epicure; Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State, edited by Maleeha Lodhi; and Political Journeys, a collection of essays by Fred Halliday.

Which books are on your bedside table?

I always have a pile of unread books on my bedside table as I pick them up and then struggle to find time to read them all. Currently, my bedside reading includes An Evil Eye by Jason Goodwin, and Antimatter by Frank Close.

Which titles are on your bucket list of books?

The bucket list includes In the Shadow of the Sword by Tom Holland, Levant by Philip Mansel and Malcolm X by Manning Marable.

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

I would urge everybody to read at least a part of the Dastaan-i-Amir Hamza, the magical series of adventures translated with great skill and love into English as The Adventures of Amir Hamza by Musharraf Ali Farooqi. Everybody needs to escape the grim realities of everyday life, and I know no better way than to lose oneself in Amir Hamza’s world of giants, fairies and heroes.

What are you planning to reread?

Being an escapist at heart, I re-read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings every few years.

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

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.

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

I am ashamed to admit that I couldn’t get past the first hundred pages of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, even though I have read most of his other books with great pleasure.

What is your favourite childhood book or story?

I read two slim volumes of stories in Urdu about Umar Ayar, a character from the Amir Hamza epic, when I was seven or eight, and became hooked.