Inspired by Jane Austen and set in contemporary Pakistan and England, Austenistan is a collection of seven stories; romantic, uplifting, witty and also, heartbreaking. These seven writers from Pakistan celebrate and pay homage to the queen of British Literature. They prove that Jane Austen is alive and kicking 200 years after her death and not just in English speaking countries but in the four corners of the world.
Pakistan has a 1,046-kilometre (650-mile) coastline along the Arabian Sea and its Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China in the far northeast, respectively. I selected a few pictures so you can see a bit of Pakistan and also to aid your imagination whenever reading the book.
Lahore: The ‘heart’ of Pakistan is known for its striking cultural heritage, warm Punjabi hospitality, indigenous cuisine, and a thriving arts scene.
All Things Jane Austen is proud to support this book and all the work of awareness these women are doing in showing us another side of Pakistan. Each one of these writers embodies Elizabeth Bennet, Emma and Jane Austen herself by sharing their stories of life and love and the desire to make the world a better place.
These are the women behind the book who take us on an austenesque trip to Pakistan and show us a little bit of their world to us and bring us together like only Jane Austen can.I asked them what they would like to say to the Jane Austen community to know about themselves or why they were inspired by her. Here is what these amazing women had to say to us:
“I fell in love with Jane Austen’s heroines as a teenager in Sri Lanka. Their trials and tribulations were closer to my own than those of the teenagers in Sweet Valley High books that surreptitiously circulated at school. I remember nervously waiting to be asked to dance at a party, stomach twisted with fear that I might be left seated alone while all my friends danced. To simply stand up and dance, without a partner, was unthinkable. That was some time ago but many aspects of South Asian society still evoke the world of Jane Austen and therein lies her enduring appeal. Also, just as her heroines delighted in witty conversation and the company of true friends, it gives me great pleasure to be among the remarkable ladies of Austenistan.”
Mahlia S. Lone
”I think the most important aspect of my life I would like to share with the Jane Austen world is that we as Pakistani women are not different from other women anywhere else. We have more similarities than we do differences. When you read our stories in Austenistan, you will see how, though we face many societal constraints, like women in the west at an earlier time, we are changing our circumstances one woman at a time, just as Austen did when she wrote her stories.”
One of the interesting things about having moved a lot between countries (the U.S. and Pakistan), is that I get to observe Austen-esque behavior in Pakistanis everywhere. Jane Austen’s world is so deeply entrenched in our culture, that we now witness numerous modern day versions of her stories playing out in real life. One of my favourite things about her stories are her characterizations. Whether it be a Mr. Darcy or a Lady Susan, each character is sorely conflicted, displaying a smorgasbord of emotions at a time when being too emotional was considered almost dysfunctional. Now, upon each new reading of a Jane Austen novel, I not only relate to the characters, but in fact, revel in our similarities.’
‘I think I fell in love with Darcy before I fell in love with Austen! I was twelve when I first read Pride & Prejudice and it was the first book among the classics that I thoroughly enjoyed largely due to her witty and accessible style of writing, the crisp dialogue and the fabulous characters.’
”The last few years have seen me shed my economist career, embrace single motherhood and redefine my position and desires in a socially constricted society. I find solace through writing and inspiration through reading, and Jane Austen has always provided many a love interest coupled with amazing female bonds. In between the swoon worthy romantic dialogue, there is the thread of strength and endurance. It was cathartic to write my own version of Emma, one that allowed my imagination to paint a desi love story that embraced a flawed female lead. I am honored to be among these stories.”
‘Having grown up in a family of independent women, Jane Austen and her works have always resonated with me. Throughout my life, self-reliance was always stressed upon from the get-go – standing tall on your own two feet is something my grandmother and mother, both, encouraged me do. But in Lahore, being single and ‘left on the shelf’ evokes sympathy and judgment in some – you could be bright, talented and accomplished, but without a ring on your finger, and past the ‘marriageable age,’ you will always lack as a woman. Why? Because a woman who is neither a wife nor a mother is incomplete, less than, grossly deficient. I see so many parallels between Austen’s stories and characters and society at large in Pakistan – it’s quite interesting. As an individual and as an author, Austen was so ahead of her time, no wonder how well-loved her works are even till today. As for me? I’m an independent Pakistani woman who still romances the notion of a wonderful Mr. Darcy to saunter into her life some day.’
At last but not least the woman who started it all:
“The idea for Austenistan started on a whim one evening in Islamabad. Many JASP (Jane Austen Society of Pakistan) members are journalists who have toyed with fiction without ever completing anything. The conversation grew into a seed of an idea which I developed into a concept in Karachi in the summer of 2016 and began a call for submissions among JASP members. Things happened very quickly, as you can see! I signed with my lovely agent, Jay Vasudevan at Jacaranda, followed by Bloomsbury India where my editor Faiza S. Khan has been phenomenally supportive. And here we are, a little over a year later, poised to take over the world! She says “Much like Austen’s heroines, Pakistani women are fabulous, fearless, and fascinating. Our stories reflect Austen’s world in bizarre and beautiful ways. We would love for you to journey to Austenistan with us!”
You can follow her on: http://www.laaleen.com, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JaneitesPakistan/, Instagram: @janeausten_pk & @laaleen_official on Twitter.
A bit more of Pakistan…
Islamabad: This scenic city was created in the 1960s and is the political capital of the nation as well as home to hundreds of embassies, news bureaus and international development organisations.Islamabad: This scenic city was created in the 1960s and is the political capital of the nation as well as home to hundreds of embassies, news bureaus and international development organisations.
Karachi: The financial capital of Pakistan, this fashion forward southern city is in the Sindh province and is the most populous in the country.
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Rita L Watts