Sometimes a few words can capture life better than lines or paragraphs. Short stories have a way of staying with us, and this has led to considerable commercial success for writers in the field. Although this particular writing style has been in vogue for long now, new-found success has led to many experimenting with radical writing styles. Any innovation is good for the field, but often, the liberty that comes with experimentation leads to complex artistic expressions, which are ever more difficult to judge or review, as they bring conflicting opinions. Sarvat Hasin is one such writer, whose radical experimentation is sometimes too much for the reader to handle.
In her latest sojourn, You Can’t Go Home Again, she experiments with a new style of storytelling, which evokes more confusion than appreciation. The story, no matter how beautiful, gets lost somewhere in a barrage of analogies, metaphors and pronouns, and somehow the plot loses its meaning. Although multiplicity of narratives can be one reason to blame for this never-ending confusion, it has more to do with the artistic expression that the author conveniently fiddles with.
Combining seven short stories detailing lives of a group of teenagers, Hasin tries to give a picture of the new Pakistan still lost in shrouds of the old. To this end, Hasin does well to engage the reader with her characters, as they try to balance their modern upbringing with stories of djinns and chudails. What are more interesting are the analogies that the author uses throughout the book, which, at times, are stretched beyond the artistic licence into the bizarre. The stories, though interconnected, become confusing, as the author moves from one life to another. There are massive ups and downs in her writing. Some stories do keep the reader engaged; others can leave the person dizzy.
More importantly, the author loses the plot somewhere in between and becomes more predictable. The experiences are vividly explained, but glimpses of Karachi are far too less. Hasin is more comfortable in describing the streets of London than she is telling about the galis of Karachi. This is where the author loses an opportunity to depict the charms of her city. Although ambitions and lives of a young Pakistan, especially women, are apparent throughout the book, the narrative could well be fitted into any closely-knit developing country’s society and culture.
We would have loved to see the stories as individual collections; the interconnectedness is what contributes heavily to the confusion and dizzying writing style. There are some glaring grammatical mistakes, which make it all the more annoying for the reader. The inadequate peek into her characters’ lives also leaves the reader wanting for more.
The writer is a former journalist