Sunday, March 31, 2013


By Mansor Puteh

Just what’s wrong with ‘Corner Shop’ the novel by colored-British-Pakistani and English university-trained author, Roopa Farooki? Hell of a lot.

I have just read her novel which is set in England and also France, the two countries where she and her small family shuttle to live in. Unfortunately, she, like the few other colored-British with Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and also Sri Lankan backgrounds all try to sound and behave like the British if not English.

How could anyone not want to notice it?

They do not tell the real stories about how those people had come to England or the Britain to live a better live. There is too much value judgment, and self-criticism, other than the inherent hatred of the color of their own skin, races and even religions.

This is what I hate the most. But this may be what the publishers comprising of the English themselves may like, so that they do not have to be blamed for encouraging the colored authors to come up with works with promote the better sides of their own cultural, social and religious backgrounds, which should add better colors to the overall literary world in England.

The worse novel I have seen coming from a colored-British is ‘Brick Lane’ by Monica Ali, which has also been turned into a feature film, or a television movie, the book of which I have read and the film I have also watched. Both get my thumbs down.

Monica Ali comes from Bangladesh. But the novel is not set in the real Bangladesh, but the Bangladesh of her mind.

In fact, this is what’s really wrong with the colored-British authors, who are from these countries in South Asia, and the fact that most of them are women.

They do not seem to have much fascination with their own countries; they let fly their imagination to come up with preposterous stories to write on, with realism flying out of their windows.

There are many other more important things and issues that they could write on, but they did not bother to do that; instead, they like to dwell on sex, sex, and liquor and unIslamic behaviors of the immigrants to Britain, like them, who are all divorced from British way of life and that of their own.

It is the sort of novel the English or British and westerners could get on their own. But for Roopa it would be just the way for her to get a publisher for her novel, who would otherwise not be enamored with works which deal with true stories of colored-British in England, who face rejection, prejudice and also not being able to fit nicely into mainstream British society and life, even though this may be the sad truth. 

Brick Lane, which I have visited is nowhere near the place that is seen in ‘Brick Lane’ the novel and film or in Monica Ali’s convoluted mind.

Here is also where ‘Corner Shop’ fails and it fails miserably. The author, Roopa like her counterparts, Monica and Roma Tearne who wrote ‘Brixton Beach’ sound alike. Their novels could have been written by one person using different names.

The issues they deal with are also the same, as do their description of human characters and behaviors.

Some of them are Muslims and who are from Muslim countries, but they do not seem to realize that Muslims generally do not dwell on these characteristics, that concentrate on how humans, especially the woman look like, and how much this that they have and do not have.

This characterization of human forms and features are those which were first introduced by the Pagans and later on, their counterparts in modern-day America, who like to make passes.

Many of these have been found in novels and books written by Muslim writers who are mostly women. How shameful!

I read ‘Corner Shop’ feeling ashamed that such a novel could have been produced by someone from Pakistan or someone who have Pakistani background, who many would presume to still be Muslims.

There is no Muslim virtue in this book; they are many non-Muslim or unIslamic virtues that one can see.

No wonder, this and the other novels could never be translated into Urdu, Arabic or Farsi for the readers in countries that use these languages.

And all these novels and the others do not have the right historical, cultural, sociological, political or religious perspectives that can be used to form the better themes and stories for the characters to move about.

Even the way the characters in ‘Corner Shop’ talk sound like they are American cowboys; they do not sound like Bangladeshis, Pakistanis or colored-British at all.

They were not created by the characters themselves but by the author herself, which is tragic which only means to suggest that the characters were not formed properly and they were still the figment of the imagination of the author, so all the characters sound like they are the same person who all seems to have similar patterns in their thinking and which also exhibit their likes and dislikes.

How could someone from Dhaka in Bangladesh just fly off to Paris to confront his son who is studying in the city and the two of them are engaged in verbal abuse?

This is not even the English or the Americans themselves.

But it makes good drama, seeing characters with impossible backgrounds and in implausible circumstances engaged in such a highly verbalized scene. They can only be created by the infertile minds of the author herself.

Any Bangladeshi, or for that matter, Pakistani, Indian or Sri Lankan who has made it to Paris or any other city in Europe or America is seen to be a successful person by his own parents and family members.

And whatever spat they had had earlier is erased, as they expect the guy to be better off compared to them, and who could help provide them with a better future too, especially if they succeed in life later.

There are many Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrant workers working in the factories in Malaysia that I know of; none of them forget their families in their countries. They provide them with financial support sending most of what they earn as factory workers, and wasting most of what they have on cigarettes.

I am sure the situation is also true with the Bangladeshis and Pakistanis and also Indians who have managed to find whatever employment in any factory in England, so that they have become major breadwinners for their families in their countries; they are not a burden to them anymore.

So why bother to dispute with them on anything?

Roopa found a cheap and easy way out to create additional mess in her ‘Corner Shop’, but I am sure it is not convincing. It is just her infertile creative minds which had made her do that.

So her novel and the others sound similar, with the different female colored-British authors looking like they had studied writing at the same university under the same professor; they who have not felt any pang of guilt for being able to come up with such novels which I dare say are garbage. British literature can do without these and them.   

In the end all the characters appear like cartoons with so thin a description of them.

In fact, even the first Arab to win the Nobel Prize for literature, Naguib Mahfuz too follows in the same trek, when he dwells mostly on unIslamic and non-Muslim characteristics and behaviors of his characters.

I have read one of his novels where he describes the decadent lifestyles of some Egyptians who if their names are changed to English or western ones, can still fit better.

So what’s wrong with these authors? Plenty. 

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