30 July, 2021

East Of Aden

Give me a novel—like this one—with something to say, rather than a novel that says precious nothing with fashionable smoothness

East Of Aden

I have always felt that the excellent films of Saeed Akhtar Mirza, such as Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai and Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho! are not specimens of social realism, as some film critics suggest, but of what should be called purposive realism. Without being moralistic or ideological in the narrow sense, they are driven by some thematic purpose justifying their use of social realism, even verisimilitude.

Mirza’s first novel reveals a similar sensibility. The purpose that drives Mirza’s narrative is a vital one: combining fiction and history, he sets out to expose a disturbing forgetfulness that informs (Western) modernity. As serious scholars have started noting, European Renaissance and Enlightenment were built on non-European, particularly Arab and Moorish, achievements.

Not only did non-European Muslims preserve, develop and pass on the achievements of Greek and Roman antiquity (civilisations that existed as much in Africa and Asia as in Europe) to late medieval Europeans, they also worked...

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