Uzma Aslam Khan

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Uzma Aslam Khan (born 1969) is an award-winning Pakistani writer. Her four novels include Trespassing (2003), The Geometry of God (2008), and Thinner Than Skin (2012).

Early life and education[edit]

Khan was born in Lahore and brought up in Manila, Tokyo, London, and Karachi.[1] She was educated at St. Joseph's Convent School and St. Patrick's High School, both in Karachi. She received a scholarship to study at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York, from where she obtained a BA in Comparative Literature and obtained a MFA from the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA.[2]

Khan is married to the novelist David Maine.


Khan’s first novel, The Story of Noble Rot, was published by Penguin Books India in 2001,[3] and reissued by Rupa and Co. in 2009.[4] It was met with positive reviews in major periodicals and newspapers in Pakistan and India – including Newsline,The Herald, Dawn, The Deccan Herald, and The Indian Express – and Khan was recognized as “a voice to watch out for.”

Her second novel, Trespassing, was published simultaneously by Flamingo/HarperCollins in the UK and Penguin Books India in 2003. It was subsequently translated into fourteen languages in eighteen countries.[5] Set in the 1990s during the aftermaths of the Afghan War and Gulf War and completed a few months before 9/11, the book has been called “prescient”[6] for how it illustrates the dark and troubled context of the west’s involvement in the east and a precursor to the post-9/11 fiction from Pakistan that was to come. As Khan puts it “So much of this book is about history coming back to haunt you.”[6] Its epic proportions span three continents, involving three intimately linked families. It is also a love story, between Dia, daughter of a silkworm farmer, and US-educated Daanish, who meets Dia upon his return to Karachi for his father’s funeral. The book drew international attention, with Tariq Ali describing Khan as "marking the emergence of a new generation of Pakistani novelists."[7] Writing for Outlook magazine, Nilanjana S. Roy wrote that “While Khan's prose may be subtle, her style is as forceful as any of the great storytellers… Khan is creating a tradition and style of her own as a writer.”[8] Trespassing was shortlisted for the 2003 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Eurasia region.

In 2008, Khan’s third novel, The Geometry of God was printed by Rupa & Co. India. As with her first two novels, Khan’s third was praised for boldly charting new territory, and for its characters – particularly its strong, spirited, yet curbed, women characters. She was by now also becoming recognized for her poetic depictions of the natural world, and for her frank exploration of sexuality, both unique in Pakistani English-language writing.[9] Other critics have marked her ability to “delve, literally, into the soil of (Pakistan’s) land, its paleontological strata, to develop her themes of origins and identities,”[10] in an intensely sensory process of, as Khan herself puts it, “turning history into narrative.” [11] Still others have marked upon the prevalence of violence and brutality in her work. Following its release in India, The Geometry of God was also published in Spain, Italy, France, the US, the UK, and Pakistan. It won the Bronze Award in the Independent Publisher Book Award 2010 (in the category of multicultural fiction),[12] was selected as one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2009,[13] and was a finalist of Foreword Magazine’s Best Books of 2009.[14]

Khan’s fourth and most recent novel, Thinner than Skin, was published in Fall 2012 in the US, and subsequently in Canada, and India. It was nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2012, the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2014, and won the inaugural KLF-Embassy of France Fiction Prize at the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) in February 2014. In a joint statement, the jury explained its choice for selecting Khan’s book for "The eloquent and elegant way in which she reveals a myriad of different worlds with masterly restraint. The novel animates mountains, lakes, wind and fire and other elements of nature that echo the complex emotions of her characters. Through the carefully structured plot and the well wrought patterns of recurring images and incidents, emerge insights about homeland, belonging and dislocation, central to contemporary Pakistani life."[15] Others have called it Khan’s finest work so far, a culmination of her uniquely sensuous yet unflinchingly realistic depiction of harsh and beautiful landscapes, likening its poetry to the geography it constructs, "suspending you somewhere between floating and falling." [16] Like the characters in her book, Khan has said of herself that she is a nomad at heart, and that "I am never completely at home anywhere. I must be a writer." [16] Thinner Than Skin is most of all a story of exiles, dreamers, wanderers, and fugitives fiercely yet tenderly committed to cherishing the peace and liberty they so rarely have, often with heartbreaking results. The book is slated for release in France in September 2014.

Khan’s fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, including "Look, But With Love," an extract from Trespassing, in And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women (The Feminist Press, 2008); “Ice, Mating” in Granta magazine’s highly popular edition on Pakistan;[17] “The Missing” in Tehelka magazine;[18] and “The News at His Back,” an extract from Thinner Than Skin, in The Massachusetts Review.

In addition to her novels and short stories, Khan has published essays and articles around the world, including in Drawbridge UK, Dawn Pakistan, First City India, and for the online political journal, CounterPunch. Included in her articles for CounterPunch is her 2008 letter to Barack Obama, “Where’s the Change, Barack?”[19] in which she criticized the then-Senator for threatening to expand the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (a threat that was later carried out through accelerated drone attacks in the region).

Published works[edit]

The Story of Noble Rot (Penguin India, 2001. Reissued by Rupa & Co. in 2009)

Trespassing (Flamingo/HarperCollins UK, 2003. Metropolitan/Henry Holt and Company USA, 2004)

The Geometry of God (Clockroot Books/Interlink Publishing USA, 2009. Haus Publishing UK, 2010.)

Thinner than Skin (Clockroot Books/Interlink USA, HarperCollins Canada, HarperCollins India, 2012)

Awards and nominations[edit]

2003 Trespassing is shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize, Eurasia region.

2009 The Geometry of God is selected as one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books.

2009 The Geometry of God is a finalist of “Foreword” magazine’s Best Books.

2010 The Geometry of God wins the Bronze Award in the Independent Publishers Books Awards.

2012 Thinner Than Skin is longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize.

2014 Thinner Than Skin is longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

2014 Thinner Than Skin wins the inaugural KLF-Embassy of France Best Fiction Prize.

Source: The Susijn Agency website [5]


External links[edit]