chapter  2
25 Pages

1971

The prominence of child characters and narrators in Soomro and Hameed’s, Bilgrami’s, and Mohsin’s novels establishes a link between the present dis cussion and the one involving Bapsi Sidhwa’s Cracking India in the previous chapter. Sidhwa’s text deployed metafi ctional awareness, I argued, to reposition Lenny’s precociousness and her representation of her own memories. Rather than reading Lenny’s youthful behavior or her memories as “genuine” portraits of her experience, the metafi ctional awareness invites a consideration of the deliberateness of these representations; that is, Lenny presents her memories via recognizable conventions so that readers accept them as memory while they also see what

makes such memories narratable in the fi rst place. Less a matter of unreliability, Lenny’s metafi ctional tendencies consciously bracket her fi rst-hand “experience” of the 1947 partition to encourage a broader recognition of the conventions used to tell stories of that historical moment. Two of the three novels I discuss in this chapter use memories of childhood, too, but without the metafi ctional bent. Instead, memory works in Without Dreams and The End of Innocence to illustrate the abiding guilt the privileged characters, who are both children and adults in their respective fi ctions, bear long after the traumas of their childhoods. In both instances, these traumas connect to the 1971 confl ict, directly in the case of Bilgrami’s novel, as one of the characters is Bengali, and indirectly in Mohsin’s, which instead explores the implications of euphemistically framing the confl ict as a “domestic disturbance.” Bengal Raag functions as the counter example, as this novel fi gures the preservation of privilege, i.e. the ability to claim belonging to West Pakistan, as an indisputable “good.” Bengal Raag frames these preservation efforts with an idea of childhood as apolitical and naïve. Bilgrami’s and Mohsin’s novels also take on this idea of childhood, but, through their use of memory, both debunk it. Nonetheless, as I explore at several points throughout the chapter, the prominence of the child in all three novels exemplifi es how representations of this life stage often refl ect adult desire rather than a universal truth about human development.