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Trauma and Remembering: Individual and Collective Dimensions
An Examination of Hope: Surviving through Trauma
Contemporary fiction, to a large extent, is a fiction of trauma. Many theorists pointed out; ‘ours appears to be the age of trauma’ (Miller and Towgaw), ‘a catastrophic age age’ (Caruth). The era of twentieth and twenty first century is marked by severe devastating tragedies such as world wars, totalitarian mass terror, social and ethnic wars, revolutions, civil wars and terrorism. Hence the contemporary society is continuously fraught with trauma. South Asian literature deals with various types of traumas and its individual and collective dimensions.
Bilal Tanweer is an emerging Pakistani English fiction writer. Besides fiction writer, Tanweer is also a poet and a translator. His various translations and poetry including The House of Fear by Ibn e Safi, Love of Chakiwara and Chakiwara Chronicles by Muhammad Khalid Akhter etc. have appeared in various national and international journals such as Annual of Urdu studies, Granta, Words Without Borders and Pakistan academy of Letter’s Pakistani Literature etc. He got fame internationally and was also selected as one of Granta’s New Voices in 2011 and holds an MFA in writing for which he received full bright scholarship.
The Scatter Here is Too Great is his debut novel. It was published in 2013 by Random House in India, in UK by Jonathan Cape, in US by Harper Collins and in France by Gasset and Fasquelle. He won Shakti Bhatt First book prize in 2014. He was also short listed for South Asian Literature 2015 and for another literary award – the 2015 Chautanqua’s prize for his debut novel.
Bilal Tanweer’s The Scatter Here is Too Great is a Karachi based novel and is written in the backdrop of a highly chaotic event. The novel is more like a collection of stories. Basically there are nine fragments which are aligned into five main segments. The novel encapsulates the journey of different characters and the bond which they share. Through various narrators ranging from a kid to a young boy, to a communist and a writer, Tanweer depicts the life of its characters in the midst of violence which plagues the city. Amidst all hustle and bustle of life, there goes off a bomb blast near the Cantt station. The author captures the violence of that traumatic incident and skillfully portrays the after effects of the tragedy. The novel sheds light on the various modes which characters adapt in order to survive in a world fraught with violence. The novel is a microcosmic presentation of various megacities of South Asia, in fact of the World. It represents the plight of ordinary men living in Karachi along with exploring the resilience of the city itself. Apart from the violence and trauma of a bomb blast, many characters in the novel are facing violence which induces trauma. Historical trauma on the communist is represented by Comrade Sukhansaz, School violence and generation gap leading to broken relationships is also explored in this book through the businessman, his father and his son.
Hence through the experiences of these characters, Tanweer depicts the nature of life lived by the people living in a terror ridden city. The novel explores the resilient nature of city and the role of Karachi in the reconstruction of its inhabitants’ psyche. The central theme of the novel besides violence and trauma is the healing power of narratives.
The novel seems to be based on the real act of terrorism. In Karachi, on December 2012, terrorists planted a bomb in the bus which exploded near the Cantt station. That blast was disastrous and took the lives of six peoples besides injuring fifty others.
Some of the issues that have concerned Pakistani writers are nationalism, Post-colonial dilemmas, forms and genre of writing, memory and healing, diaspora and trauma. Writers have not only concentrated on the depiction of overwhelming violence but have also shown the process of reconstruction. This novel too deals with the trauma of the bomb blast but there is a feeling of catharsis- catharsis for the writer and the audience that is brought about by the freshness of narration. The focus of this account is to elucidate the characters’ engagement with violence and their post- traumatic growth.
Trauma fiction has emerged after a lot of research was done on the nature of trauma. Psychologists have observed and explored many facts and responses of sufferers to examine the long lasting effects of trauma. The responses towards trauma are not uniform; it varies due to various factors, for example, gender, age, intensity of trauma and many others. The responses range from depression to post-traumatic stress but sometimes it leads to positive psychological change which is termed as post-traumatic growth. Positive change has been defined as personal transformation (Schneider n.pag.), post-traumatic growth (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2001). In Freud’s point of view, Trauma refers to an ‘infliction not upon the body but upon the mind’ (Freud 3). By innovating Freud’s concept Cathy Caruth in Unclaimed Experiences defines Trauma as ‘The responses to an unexpected or overwhelming violent events or event that are not fully grasped as they occur, but return later in repeated flashbacks, nightmares, and other repetitive phenomenon’ (Caruth 91).
Tanweer’s fiction, similarly, depicts the psychological scars upon minds of survivors and the re-happening of tragedy in the form of flashbacks and nightmares as Caruth stated. Furthermore, Kai Erikson, by focusing on post-traumatic responses claims that trauma can result from ‘a constellation of life experiences’ and ‘a discrete happening’, from ‘a persisting condition’ and ‘an acute event’ (Tanweer 185). He distinguishes individual trauma from collective trauma, which refers to the blow of an individual psyche and the damage to the bonds between people (Erikson 187).
Tanweer’s novel is a literary witness to Trauma in Pakistan and knits the individual and collective dimensions through different narrative voices. It frequently involves examining the unknown wounds left by tragedy and it attempts to speak the unspeakable. Tanweer portrays the complexities of urban life. The world which the Author depicts is full of chaos in which ordered relationships and meaning have essentially collapsed. The city is a full-fledged character in the novel.
This thesis examines the survival of Tanweer’s characters amidst violence by linking the concept of human suffering in urban chaos to the idea of post-traumatic growth and resilience.
In constructing the theoretical framework, this thesis makes use of some groundbreaking works concerning trauma theory. Most of these works have been written in light of the Holocaust but they are, in most cases, applicable to other major collective, historical traumas as well. One of the first theories comes from Cathy Caruth. She is the author of Trauma: Explorations in Memory (1995) and Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History (1996). The main theme in her work is the strange paradox between the trauma of death and the trauma of survival. The second academic, from which this thesis borrows theories, is Dominick LaCapra. This paper will draw on his theories as formulated in his book Writing History, Writing Trauma (2001). It also briefly discusses Kai Erikson’s studies on the influence of catastrophes, natural and technological, on the individual and the community. Finally, Tedeschi and Calhoun’s model of Post-traumatic growth is used to evaluate characters’ positive change. Apart from that the resilient nature of Karachi has also been explored.
Realistic literature indicates that spiritual domains significantly impact the growth process in the aftermath of stressful life events (Bray n.pag.). A survey of practitioners, defines spirituality as “the search for meaning, purpose, and connection with self, others, the universe, and ultimate reality, however one understands it, which may or may not be expressed through religious forms or institutions” (Sheridan 10). Further she elaborates that “the domain of spirituality is one in which individuals can experience significant posttraumatic growth” (Sheridan 117). In other words, individuals’ may find meaning of life in the aftermath of a traumatic event and may change spiritual domain.
Victor Frankl, a neurologist, psychiatrist, holocaust survivor and author, in Man’s search for meaning says:
The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances to add a deeper meaning to his life. (Frankl 88)
This thesis is divided into two main chapters apart from literature review and conclusion. The first content chapter entitled “Trauma and Remembering: Individual and Collective Dimensions” deals with the introduction to the main arguments related to trauma and its negative outcomes. This chapter conducts a close analysis of representations to the trauma in Tanweer’s novel. It elucidates the chaotic urban space as the setting of the novel, in addition to the characters’ suffering, pain and loneliness focusing on the dilemma of identity in flux. The various responses of characters towards different types of traumas are explored. The symbols which Tanweer employed in the text are highlighted and cross examined with the behavior of characters. By using Kai Erikson’s study of individual and collective responses towards trauma, various dimensions of characters are analyzed with reference to the novel.
The second content chapter entitled; “An Examination of Hope: Surviving through Trauma” explores the positive changes among the characters of the novel. It deals with post-traumatic growth of the survivors and explores the various modes which the characters utilize in order to survive in the midst of catastrophe. Friedrich Nietzsche said it much more accurately, that, which does not kill us, makes us stronger. The thesis also explores the resilient nature of the place, Karachi. It explores the relationship between trauma and narratives- narrative as an essential tool both for working through and bearing witness to the trauma. It illustrates Karachi as a character itself and its role in the revival of its people.
Not so very long ago, the earth numbered two thousand million inhabitants: five hundred million men, and one thousand five hundred million natives. The former had the Word; the others had the use of it.
Preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth.
South Asian literature in English have progressed a lot as recently there is a flood of new and young writers attempting to pen down their new and untold stories. The writers of South Asia, from its beginning, explore various political, social and domestic issues of its people. The massive dislocation of people from Pakistan to India and vice versa is the main subject matter for the historians and novelists. The history of South Asia is marked by violence, threat, trauma and struggle, that is why its literature portrays this struggle. Pakistani writers have specifically incorporated the issues related to nationalism and independence in their fiction and non-fiction. The major subjects that have concerned Pakistani writers are struggle, nationalism, and quest for separate identity, as can be found in the writings of Manto, Khushwant Singh and Ismat Chughtai. With the passage of time Pakistani fictional works have begun to portray other themes as authoritarianism, personal desire, liberty of thought, male domination, fundamentalism, along with glimpses of absurdism. With the civil right movement the subject matter often is the middle class society and their subsequent issues. Politics have always been the prevalent subject for writers such as Salman Rushdie, Zulfiqar Ghose, Tehmina Durrani and many others. Writers like Kamila Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid and Kiran Desai, though rooted in South Asian experiences, have received recognition at global level due to their universal subject matter which ranges from domestic violence to power politics. Pakistan is a country where human suffering and human exploitation is indeed undeniable, whether we’re speaking of the horrific treatment of women and religious minorities or the use of terrorism, both as a tool of political strategy or simply in order to take lives in the name of religion.
In the article “And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women” Muneeza Shamsie sees that; Pakistani writers employ English as a creative language live between the East and the West, literally or figuratively, and had to struggle to be heard. They write from the extreme edges of both English and Pakistani literature. (qtd.in Chatterjee n.pag)
Bilal Tanweer is a new addition to Pakistani English fiction world. He argues with the reconciliation of joy and suffering in the texture of everyday life. He was chosen as Granta’s “New voice of 2011”. The Scatter Here is Too Great is Bilal Tanweer’s debut novel.
Mohammed Hanif, author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes, viewed his book as, ‘A beautiful debut, and a blood-soaked love letter to Karachi’. (qtd.in theNews n.pag)
He has taken up a difficult subject matter, as in the time when terrorism is at its peak, and this subject is acknowledged by writers around the world, he is concerned in capturing the positivity of people’s mind.
As Somak Ghoshal, Live Mint (India) compliments, “Tanweer’s stories soar to mythical heights in the imagination of the characters, becoming gem-like testaments of loss that have resonances beyond the narrow trappings of national context”. (Ghoshal n.pag.)
In The Scatter Here Is Too Great he takes the question of reconciliation head-on, as subject and as method. This is a collection of fragments in which there is a portrait of a bombing at a railway station in Karachi, told from the perspective of witnesses, victims, family members, friends, associates, lovers. The focus of the author is not on the description of scene of death but on the daily struggles, fantasies and angers of the living.
Another reviewer, Lorraine Adams, author of Harbor goes on to say that; In one slim volume of interconnected stories Bilal Tanweer creates characters so deftly alive they illuminate the world’s strangest and least-charted megacity in all its soiled and yes, hilarious, splendor. (qtd. In goodreads n.pag.)
In the beginning of the book a visionary, half-mad poet, Comrade Sukhansaz — who is about to become one of the first victims of the bombing — recites aloud on a bus, over the mocking shouts of the other passengers, ‘The tussle of this believer with the other / is how to worship. After this, both are ignorant. / The brawl of this politician with the other / is how to gain power. After this, both are ignorant’. (Tanweer 34)
The verses sum up the life of the people going through trauma, living an existence which is fraught with conflict and political strife— the sense that the world’s suffering will always make a mockery of our attempts to measure it or describe it, let alone defeat it.
Tanweer uses Karachi as a setting for his novel. Karachi is the biggest city of Pakistan and the rate of terrorism is the highest there. However, the microcosmic presentation of violence on urban life in this novel basically portrays the misery and situation of all third world countries.
As Alaa Al Aswany, author of The Yacoubian Building, by praising his narrative technique said; This is a beautiful, deeply powerful novel. Tanweer is a talented writer who manages with simple, elegant phrases to draw a very touching, humane portrait with real characters that can almost breathe on paper. (qtd.in Goodreads n.pag.)
Similarly Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet says, ‘Bilal Tanweer has written a modern love letter -- furious, passionate, playful, and longing -- to Pakistan. And in his brilliant hands it becomes the universal story of home.’ (qtd. in Public.gr n.pag.)
Experiencing violence first hand is very traumatic and for those who go through it “it will take months-or years-to measure their impact and meaning” said columnist Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in the first issue of The New York.
Jon Wise compliments, “Intriguing- Each of the voices rings emotionally true” (qtd. In weekendsport n.pag.) Though, using trauma theory in order to examine post-colonial fiction is of great interest to researchers, Tanweer’s work being recent has not been processed so far in this regard especially with reference to the setting of the novel. In Bilal Tanweer’s debut The Scatter Here Is Too Great, the city of Karachi is a full-fledged character, as vivid and alive as the motley crew of individuals that people it.
A reviewer compliments on Tanweer’s portrayal of terrorism and narrations as; Tanweer's eloquent, moving debut wants us to get it. Through the voices of various narrators in what amount to little more than vignettes fragments of stories, to borrow Tanweer's words this novel wants us to understand that a city is more than the sum of the ten o'clock news story about a bomb exploding in a railway station. Karachi… is, in many ways, a terrorized city where residents live under the daily threat of violent death and destruction. In a larger sense, though, these stories of Karachi are also valid in every city where either violence or commercialization or gentrification or merely the shifting sands of time destroys great swaths of real estate that, in fact, constitute very personal histories. Each of Tanweer's characters, whose lives ultimately converge at one terrible point in time, speaks this truth… (qtd. in booklist n.pag.)
Like the other complicated and nuanced characters, Tanweer lovingly portrays Karachi in all its beauty and brokenness. Whether it is the litter-strewn beach of Sea View, the inside of a small, dingy café in Cantt Station or the chaotic streets of Empress Market pulsating with the throng of people and vehicles, Tanweer’s descriptions of the city are tinged with an affectionate familiarity, like someone talking about an intimate friend. This collection of loosely interconnected stories is, therefore, to a large part about Karachi and the characters’ often ambivalent relationship with what one character calls “this ruinously mad city.” Hence, Karachi can be taken to be the protagonist of the novel.
The Wall Street Journal compliments Tanweer as, ‘A vivid picture of a city blown to pieces by years of violence. . . . From his shards of stories he reconstructs a vibrant, hopeful panorama’. (qtd. In Sethi n.pag.)
Kamila Shamsie compliments as, ‘Bilal Tanweer uses his many gifts as a writer to evoke a Karachi of humor, violence, frustration, love -- and breathtaking stories at every turn’. (qtd. in dawn n.pag.)
The subject and the problems which Tanweer portrays can be considered as the subject and current problem of the whole world. It can be taken as a microcosmic representation of violence and terrorism which is prevalent in the whole universe.
As Scholar Jaideep Gupta during his ethnographic research in Mumbai was told by an interviewee; After all, the (local) word for a bullet and a sweet candy (goli) is the same!’ similar to the usage of the word ‘sipari’ that can mean both betel-nut as well as the sum paid to the target killers.
No story about Karachi in a contemporary setting can exist without at least touching upon the violence that regularly plagues this city. Here, too, a thread of violence – a bomb blast at Cantt Station – connects all the stories.
Another reviewer goes on to say that, ‘ The Scatter Here Is Too Great offers nuanced characters, rich textures of fragmented experiences and a distinct writing style. . . . One hell of a good read’. (qtd. in washingtonreview n.pag.)
Laura van Dernoot in“Trauma Stewardship,” a social worker, defines trauma as ‘being unable to live with the knowledge that, despite our best efforts, most of the world’s suffering goes “unnoticed and unattended.” “Still,” she writes, “people who are working to help those who suffer . . . must somehow reconcile their own joy — the authentic wonder and delight in life — with the irrefutable fact of suffering in the work. Bilal Tanweer celebrates the power of writing and storytelling to heal individual and community contaminated by violence. (qtd. in sundaybookreview n.pag.)
Publishers Weekly in their paper “published in his praise, ‘Edgy. . . . Stylish. . . . This poetic novel-in-stories is an invaluable portrait of modern-day Karachi’. (qtd. in harpercollins n.pag.)
Moreover, The Guardian wrote; A timely and unconventional debut. . . . Powerful. . . . Its beautiful fragments coalesce to form an elaborate, haunting portrait of urban Pakistan, one that is rich with acute sociological detail and subtle existential contemplation. (Sawhney n.pag.)
Hence narratives are very important for reconciliation. In an interview on the novel’s release by USEFP (United States Educational foundation on Pakistan) Tanweer talks about how the growing threat of terrorism worldwide has heightened our awareness of disasters. He further goes on to say about the importance of writing, in an interview by Hira Nafees Shah named “Debut Novel by Fulbright Alumnus Lauded as Love Letter to Karachi”; The notion of fiction these days is that it is about information in the world, but I feel that fiction is not about so to say what is happening in Karachi, but it investigates the human heart. How real human beings are affected and what is like to be alive in those circumstances… (Shah n.pag.)
Similarly in an interview “The storyteller: Between literature and life, he’d choose life any day” to The Express Tribune, he says; In journalism, the events are important. But in fiction writing, the writer uses the events to show how they affect the character… in the time of crisis, we are faced with the possibility of death… artists and writers are supposed to take on the subjects like war, death and fragility of human body. (Tanweer n.pag.)
Nadeem Aslam, author of Maps for Lost Lovers praises his novel by saying that; A superb and genuinely exciting debut He assembles a story of Karachi through lovingly-collected fragments. By the end of this book he had made me see that certain things are more beautiful and valuable for having been broken. (qtd. in pakistanusalumininetwork n.pag.)
In this New York Times review of the book, Jess Row mentions that; The novel attempts to illuminate Karachi through nine voices that reflect on their experiences of a bomb blast. The narrators range from an obnoxious cartoonist on a bus, a horny young couple going on a date, an ambulance driver‘s brother, a successful businessman encountering an old teacher, a young man who hijacks cars, a kid whose sister‘s bedtime stories had taken bizarre twists, and a writer who is collecting these stories and investigating his own past as a writer in Karachi. The bomb blast at the heart of the novel represents the kind of blind violence that shatters… (qtd. In newyorktimes n.pag.)
Bilal Tanweer depicts the mental problems due to bomb blast at the basic level in order to excavate the solutions and tools that help in overcoming it. Further findings are accounted in the body of next chapter.
In The Evil Hours: A biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Trauma destroys the fabric of time. In the normal time you move from one moment to the next, sunrise to sunset, birth to death. After trauma, you may move in circles, find yourself sucked backward into an eddy or bouncing like a rubber ball from now to then to back again… in traumatic universe the basic laws of matter are suspended…. ( David J.Morris)
The third world countries are a victim of terrorism and due to continuous threat people go through severe traumas. Tanweer’s fiction The Scatter here is too Great is set against the backdrop of violence and trauma arising due to it. The novel encapsulates the lives of the survivors who face the bomb blast at the Cantt station ‘in the heart of the city’. Various characters that are encountered with that tragedy respond differently. The novel offers a graphic description of chaotic contemporary Pakistani society, “A man tears away from another burning car with a large scrap of metal sunk into the back of his shoulder. He’s screaming but his screams barely reach you” (Tanweer 62). The world which Taweer portrays is surrounded by violence and death.
Several interlinked stories representing contemporary world full of chaos and tragedies form the plot of the novel. Apart from the bomb blast there are other parallel stories running such as there is an illustration of the communist’s past, dysfunctional families, ideological and cultural conflicts etc.
There are multiple narrators; absent fathers; superstitious single mothers; brooding sons; a traumatized ambulance driver and a lovelorn teenage girl who invents bittersweet fairytales for her little brother, which tell interlinked stories capturing the life of ordinary people in urban land and their sudden encounter with a devastating bomb blast. Through these multiple narratives, the readers get a direct insight into the minds of people belonging to various age groups about the effects of trauma in the aftermath of tragedy. Through them is portrayed the chaotic nature of modern world, as quoted by Bilal Tanweer; Living in the city, you developed a certain relationship with violence and news of violence: you expected it, dreaded it and then when it happened, you worked hard to look away from it… the city is full of bottled up grief. (Tanweer 178)
Tanweer uses his narratives to reveal the fragmented nature of contemporary existence. Amidst all chaos, he focuses on the fractured city and reveals the pain and loss of people through various characters in fragmented stories. He said, ‘only fragments were true’ because the world can only be understood through fractured narratives.
According to Caruth; The victim of extreme trauma repeats an unassimilated experience that was unknowable in the first instance. By ‘repeats,’ Caruth and others seem to mean that the witness is frozen in time, unable to do more than tell the same story again and again. When he or she does so, the story is relived or re-experienced in an intrusive manner, involving flashbacks, the witness feeling and acting as if he or she is reliving the experience rather than narrating it... (Caruth 91-92)
Different characters respond to trauma differently. For example the character of Akbar becomes mad after witnessing a bomb blast. To begin with, Akbar, a young man of nineteen fails to cope with the disastrous situation and loses his mind while doing his duty as an ambulance driver. Akbar is a young paramedic undergoing a psychic crisis after witnessing the bombing. The narrators in this story are the brother of Akbar and Akber himself. Akbar is about to be married in three days, and it is his last day of job duty. His brother describes Akbar’s post-traumatic stress after the event. Akbar shows severe symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
As ‘his condition was beyond description… he walked in door without his soul in him. His collar was torn open and shirt buttons were all broken as if he had been in fight.’ (Tanweer 140). The fight is symbolic of his mental struggle and at the same times his struggle with the outside world. The chaos in his mind made him realize the nothingness of his existence. After facing serious tragedy he fails to resume his life in a normal way and is unable to make relationships. Acting out in case of Akbar is apparent through his nightmares and compulsive behavior. The fact that Akber has lost his speech makes it impossible for him to talk about his trauma. He finds himself incapable of expressing his feelings which appear to be locked up inside of him. He finds himself at the paradoxical boundary between what Cathy Caruth calls a “crisis of death” and a “crisis of survival”. She asks herself the following question: “is trauma the encounter with death, or the ongoing experience of having survived it” (Caruth 7)? This contradictory experience is exactly what makes it so hard to grasp the nature of Akbar’s trauma. Cathy Caruth goes on to state that “the trauma consists not only in having confronted death but in having survived, precisely, without knowing it” (Caruth 64). The traumatic violence makes him isolated from his relationships and makes him notice the gap between the materialistic world and the reality of his life. This could also be interpreted as a sign of the nature of trauma that can resurface at any given moment without being announced, for example in the nightmares of the survivors.
As Cathy Caruth puts it: “trauma is not locatable in the simple violent or original event in an individual’s past, but rather in the way that its very unassimilated nature… returns to haunt the survivor later on.” (Caruth 25) Akber as well is haunted by his trauma. He struggles to fall asleep, and when he finally does he has nightmares. After the traumatizing event, Akber isrepeatedly “slapping his forehead with his palms” (Tanweer 142) and repeatedly narrates the incident to his family, ‘Maa. I held the dead body of a boy today… You know his clothes smelled of hashish… his body was crushed inside a car… it was cold with sweat. (Tanweer 142).
Kevin Williams quoted in “Scientific Evidence Supporting Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife” Dr. Kenneth Ring’s arguments, which are originally published in his scientific paper; ‘Journal of near death studies’. He accounts the experience of people near death. He says that such people find themselves outside of their bodies and observing detailed events happenings again and again. The same happens to Akbar who is trapped within the time frame of the traumatic event and can’t help but relive it again and again. (qtd. In Williams n.pag.)
The behavior of Akber shows the continuous chaotic working of his mind as when ‘Akbar entered the room enraged, and shouted at everyone, ‘Enough! Shut out this singing and dancing! You don’t know- doomsday if here! Rectify your end! There is no time left now’ (Tanweer 144). Though his family does not witness the blast but through Akber the trauma transfers to his family and turns the lively ‘house in utter silence’. Tanweer employs the imagery of Gog Magog which symbolizes the Day of Judgment. He himself explains that; ‘their arrival was supposed to mark the coming of the end of the world’ and ‘they will bring strife and disharmony and, ultimately, the apocalypse to the world’ (Tanweer 155) and this is how ‘the city is dying’ (Tanweer 156).
Prominent Trauma theorist Dominick Lacpra, describes trauma as a ‘disruptive experience that disarticulates the self and creates holes in existence; it has belated effects that are controlled only with difficulty and perhaps never fully mastered’ (Lacapra 41).
In Akbar’s case, the disarticulation of the self occurs in narrative that shifts between past and present, between the time of bomb blast and the time of the telling. In the process of retelling the experience, it is evident that he might not have full mastery over the memories, as he misunderstood the two men in the pink cloak as Gog Magog. His voice is always the voice of a traumatized survivor of grievous wounds and losses. Working through of Akber is evident in his acceptance of reality. (Working through the trauma means that the victim is overcoming the traumatic aftereffects of the accident. In this stage, the traumatized person is ready to accept his trauma as a part of his life and because he recognizes this trauma as his own, he can finally start to mourn and learn to live with it).
Another survivor is a youth who takes his mother’s car to drive his girlfriend, Sapna, to the sea. As he passes the bus, he sees his grandfather, Comrade Sukhanaz, get off. When the blast occurs blood splatters on the rear windscreen of his car. This story deals with the fears, anxiety and trauma arising out of the blast. The fear of being caught by his mother and found out with his girlfriend is played against the larger threat of violence that looms over the city. He is spotted by his grandfather and that troubles him as he believes that his grandfather ‘would report to’ his ‘father who might report to his mother’ which would destroy his ‘access to this car’ (Tanweer 36). Then there is a concern towards his grandfather as he is present at the sight of bomb blast.
Through the voice of this young boy, Bilal Tanweer closely illustrates the intensity of the blast by telling that the ‘strength’ of the blast was ‘so terrible’ that it ‘shook the bridge’ and suddenly ‘something flew and smacked solidly into the back windscreen’(Tanweer 37). There is shown a contrast between individual and collective responses of people towards disaster. People on the roads ‘drive to survive’ (37) in Karachi. Moreover, there is contrast of reactions of males and females towards a particular incident.
In “Understanding trauma through gender lens”, it is quoted The ways in which youth respond to trauma has important implications regarding how to best address their needs. While both boys and girls often respond to trauma with anger and dissociation, girls also more frequently experience depression and anxiety. Another important difference is that while boys have a stronger response when they are the victims of trauma compared to witnessing traumatic events, girls have similar psychological responses whether they witness or experience trauma themselves. (Foster n.pag.)
Textual analysis shows that ‘Sapna’s hands trembles’ and she becomes quite. On the contrary, the young traumatized boy of the novel displays outbursts of anger. He is troubled because his grandfather is also there and he has no idea whether he is alive or not. He ‘was seething with anger. Why me? Why us? Why now? Why here?’ (Tanweer 37). In this catastrophic condition, everybody tries to escape and save their lives without thinking of others but they are thinking of others, people who relate to them.
There is also a collective response towards the blast which is shown in the reactions of the crowd, as the ‘cars raced’ in a ‘wrong way’ and ‘no one was going to stop’ and everyone ‘wanted to rush out from that center of fire and hell’ (Tanweer 38).
This story contains adequate description of trauma victim acting out. For instance, when the boy and Sapna get to the beach, the boy tells the story of a comrade and tells her later that he is his grandfather and his troubled relationship with his son. Sapna just listens, without interrupting, which is exactly what the boy needs at that point. The novel is full of conversations between the characters. They not only talk about the attacks but about everything surrounding it and even about things that happened in their past but can be related to the attacks. It is as if a single event triggers all events of the same kind leading first to a built up and then catharsis. Acceptance is the key to working though. They both accept the reality and overcome their trauma through dialogue and building connection.
Tanweer described their condition through the narrative as, ‘our hearts still pulsated with fear and our eyes were fiercely set on the sea… we stood like that for a long time, breathing, and then, suddenly, she slid her cold hand into mine and held it tightly’. (Tanweer 40)
Cathy Caruth notes that ‘Trauma can be located neither in quality of the event, but solely in the structure of its experience or reception.’(Caruth 4). It indicates that the degree of trauma depends on its experience. With reference to the context of Noor beghum and Narrator’s mother in ‘Lying Low’, the traumatic reactions are different. Acts of terrorism are known to cause a trauma in survivors, but also in people who were less directly exposed to the catastrophe. Noor begum and narrator’s mother are in the family apartment with the business man (the comerade’s son) at the time of blast. They experience the fear and threat of the bomb blast from distance in their apartment near Cantt Station. They instantly develop the feelings of fear, anger, horror, insecurity and depression. The helplessness of the situation, their weeping and static gestures are the clear symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as the narrator describes ‘your mother is moaning, ‘Ya Allah, Ya Allah’, her hands firmly pressed to her chest, as if trying to push her heart back into its original groove…both women are too old to make abrupt moves… should you become their human shield?’ (Tanwee 42).
The smell of burned flesh, crying for help and screaming and the fear of death carved in the minds of survivors all contribute to set the scene. In this story Bilal Tanweer portrays the internal and external chaos through flashbacks of the past Dr. Raymond Moody- a psychologist in his book, Life after Death, reports the experiences of people near death. This includes hearing an unusual noise, going through a life review for evaluation and regret of things which one had failed to do. Similarly, the businessman who is the human shield for his mother and Noor Begum, feels guilt at abandoning her mother, experiences ambiguous feelings toward his communist father and longs for his son runs right in the middle of that devastating tragedy. (qtd. in theintutionnetwork n.pag.)
There are other multiple plots in this novella. Consequently, there are other characters who suffer from trauma as well. As for instance, in the story ‘Blackboards’, a young boy narrator suffers from double trauma. His parents drop him out of school due to his anger issues; everyone at school calls the boy “parrot, parrot” due to his protruding teeth leading him to a big fight with his bullies. Added to it is the financial crisis from which his family passes. His father, who loses his job in an office, where he prints children’s books, teaches his son at home. The later trauma from which he suffers is that of the terrorist’s attack on the bus. One day they take the bus to the sea. Some thieves attack the bus and snatch all the money, torturing the passengers physically and mentally as ‘everyone on the bus stayed quite’ (Tanweer 16). Even the fat man ‘was not smiling’ anymore. The happy mood of the passengers and liveliness of the bus, in a fraction of second, changes as they experience the threat of violence first hand. The thugs in the bus function work very much like the bullies at the boy’s school.
The three voices in the story of “Blackboards” are the child narrator, his father and the fat man. Hence through this story the readers can hear the story through multiple viewpoints. Since children do not react in a uniform manner to traumatic events and certainly, in some ways, differently than adults, the child’s reaction to violence becomes more poignant. He is from a generation who is brought up on violence and hence exhibits signs of it himself as well.
A clear sign of PTSD in the boy is in the aggressive answers to his father, as this is a common symptom for children of his age group. At one point in the novel, before the thieves attack, he is asked by the fat man about his future goals to which he aggressively answers “I will be a pilot and fly fighter planes and fight with India” (Tanweer 13). Then after the attack on the bus, when his father asks him if he is ‘afraid of thieves’ he answers that he wanted to fight with them.
According to Dominick LaCapra, mourning can be seen as a form of working through and melancholia can be seen as a form of acting out. Working through the trauma, on the other hand, means that the victim is overcoming the traumatic after effects of the accident. Acting out, or melancholia, means that the traumatized person is still stuck in the past, as he or she keeps on repeating the painful events in the form of nightmares or compulsive behavior. So this compulsive behavior is seen in the attitude of the boy.
The most powerful metaphor used by Tanweer in this story is that of a blackboard. An imaginary blackboard, where the father and son draws their moods, when they are not sharing thoughts. While returning home, after the attack, the boy imagines a blackboard ‘as big as sea on which’ there is ‘a ship and then he sees cloth with which the thief covered his face’. (Tanweer 17). The imaginary blackboard shows that the boy is still in trauma and in that state he imagines that darkness and wants to escape from it. For that matter, he draws the sun in the sea in order to escape darkness from his life, by giving light. Similarly, when the father loses his job, the son felt as if “Baba was drawing a night on his blackboard; a night with a lot of rain and the wet lights of cars, but no sun”. (Tanweer 8). Sun was often there before. The blackboard here is a metaphor for my mind and the sun represents hope in the midst of darkness.
In research on the Holocaust, Dori Laub came to the conclusion that “the survivors did not only need to survive so that they could tell their stories, they also needed to tell their stories in order to survive” (Laub 78). The tendency to relieve the trauma by storytelling is manifest through the story of ‘Turning to Stones’. Tanweer have employs various symbols to demonstrate the mental stress of Asma’s mind; such as in her stories she uses Stone body, Dark Mountains, speaking birds, singing tree etc. Asma’s stories ‘ended with strange problems like sadness that couldn’t be cured’ (Tanweer 111). In her stories, the imprisoned king symbolizes her imprisonment as a female. The king also writes poetry in order to lament on his condition and fate just as Asma articulates stories in order to escape from her oppressive grandmother. Anger and lying are the outcomes, in most of the times, due to the fear of being caught. When grandmother suspects Asma and asks questions she lies and even shouts at her brother. So there is always a fight or flight mechanism, when the victim is not able to defend himself, he usually finds a way to escape. Asma’s art of storytelling is a tool, through which escapes her oppressive environment. Her repressed sexuality resurfaces in latent symbols in her stories.
Immersed in the story of a young boy whose older sister’s criminal boyfriend is a victim of the bombing, three degrees removed from the actual event, the readers forget, temporarily, about the chaos and clamor and horror of Karachi and grieve instead for the three baby chicks given to the boy as presents, which he kills, unconsciously, and buries in a flowerpot. Tanweer uses the imagery of Birds of Death in ‘things and reasons’ to describe the modern day predicaments; ‘In this city; a part of us dies each day, and a bird springs out of our open skulls each day announcing deaths and addresses of our murders… but nobody listens. The air is thick with the chorus of these birds of death…’ The last narrator is a journalist who assesses the scene after the blast. All these people suffer from trauma both individually and collectively. The difference between individual trauma and collective trauma, according to Erikson, is that individual trauma involves a blow to the individual’s psyche, which happens all of a sudden so that the individual cannot come up with an appropriate reaction or defense in time, while the collective trauma consists of a blow as well, but “a blow to the basic tissues of social life that damages the bond attaching people together and impairs the prevailing sense of communality” (Caruth 187). Hence, there are various contradictory perspectives and experiences that co-exist in a single disastrous event. Everybody faces tragedy and reacts differently. The social fabric is torn but it also repairs itself. There is something which is distinctive; there is always a room for revival. And the liveliness of the city is the witness of that. For that reason, Karachi itself become as much a character as it suffers, at times playing its role in providing ways through which people can heal. Hence, the city has an ambivalent role in the novel.
When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered...the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls...bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory. (Marcel Proust)
No one forgets the devastating tragedies but one can learn lessons from abrupt experiences and can explore new horizons in life. South Asian past has been marked by severe disasters and wars. The effects of traumatic experiences are harsh and cruel, but not all are affected in the same way. Post-traumatic stress (PTS) is a very obvious outcome of trauma, but it is not always a sign of disorder. Instead, PTS signals that the person is going through a normal and natural emotional struggle to restore their beliefs, lives and make sense of what has unexpectedly happened to them. The notion of individuals and communities being somehow ‘strengthened’ after disaster is beginning to emerge in the literature as ‘resilience”, that is, the potential strengthening of individual and community capacity following disasters.
Posttraumatic growth can be summed via an adage ‘that which does not kill us makes us stronger’ (Nietzsche). Posttraumatic growth suggests that through the struggle of adversity we may change in ways that actually force us to higher levels of functioning. Post-traumatic growth deals with how one can ‘re-evaluate their priorities, deepen their relationships, and find new understandings of who they are’ (qtd. in Ehmcke 31). This is pretty much evident in the case of the comrade’s son. When confronted with trauma, the survivors struggle to resolve the tensions similarly; there is a sub plot in the novel whose core theme is broken relationships. When blast happens, the comrade’s son (businessman) desperately wishes to see his son with whom he has an estranged relationship just as he had with his father, he wants to ‘hold his hand like the time when he was ceaselessly crying newborn’ (Tanweer 56). This signals that he wants to reconcile all those dilemmas that have to with his own childhood. Therefore, there then arises another tussle from a pre-existing struggle.
Prof. Stephen Joseph, author of What Doesn't Kill Us explains that anyone who is surviving trauma doesn’t necessarily quit from life, rather for him there is a new way of thinking which offers hope, a room for betterment, in his words ‘is light at the end of the tunnel’, which in other words is called resilience or post-traumatic growth. Hence whenever encountered with adversity, people often feel that ‘their views of the world, their sense of themselves, their relationships – has been smashed’ (qtd.in Joseph n.pag.). In the novel, the image of glass panes in a huge mess on the floor signifies the metaphoric shattering of life. The life once scattered cannot be brought back in the same way hence those who try to put their lives back together exactly as it is remain fractured and vulnerable. However those who accept the breakage and build themselves in a new manner become more resilient and open to new ways of living.
Achieving growth in the aftermath of trauma does not necessarily mean that the person will be free from the memories of what happened to him rather he learns to live his life more meaningfully in the light of what has happened. Bilal Tanweer highlights various modes that people adapt in order to survive amidst chaos. It is the potency of mind that enables humans to improvise its own values and learn lessons, discover new approaches towards life in order to heal and move on.
Cathy Caruth emphasizing on the importance of listening to the ‘crisis of trauma’ also recognizes that we must pay attention to what the victim says. Since they can’t physically escape the time or space they inhabit, they escape through other means. The characters in the novel continue to find escape as well as expression through building narratives. The Writer in the city explores the fact that his father ‘wrote poetry to find a language for his wounds’ (Tanweer 196). Hence poetry is used as a tool for healing. There is also the little boy struggling to understand the world with the help of the stories his older sister spins for him. The character of a writer, a man struggling with his grief for his dead father and trying to imitate his father’s simple love and awe for his city also writes to both express and escape. Added to these forms of narratives are the larger narratives of the text which structure its plot. Caruth’s writes in the introduction to to Unclaimed Experience:
For history to be a history of trauma means that it is referential precisely to the extent that it is not fully perceived as it occurs; or to put it somewhat differently, that a history can be grasped only in the very inaccessibility of its occurrence (Caruth 18).
But since this would mean that nobody’s trauma is accessible for other people who were not part of the event in question, she adds to this, a few pages later, that ‘trauma, is never simply one’s own, that history is precisely the way we are implicated in each other’s traumas’ (Caruth 24). This explains then why so many novels and movies have been made about devastating incidents, because people need to share their trauma, in order to overcome it. The same notion applies on acting out and working through and the character’s desire to narrate their lives in Tanweer’s novel.
The concept of Resilience is best understood by French Psychologist, Boris Cyrulnik; who consider pearl in the oyster as an emblem of Resilience; When a small piece of grift irritated the oyster, it responds by secreting the salivary substance that covers the grift and hardens to form a pearl. The oyster response to trauma generates something valuable- the pearl exemplifies PTG. (qtd. in goodreads n.pag.)
Positive psychological reactions and resilience is the core theme of The Scatter here is Too Great. Bilal Tanweer depicts those mental problems at the basic level in order to excavate the tools that help in resilience. Hence, his keen observation provides survey of chaotic Pakistani life. Further findings are accounted in the next chapter regarding trauma and remembering, individual and collection dimensions towards trauma, the examination of hope and how people survive through trauma.
The concept that hardships and misfortunes can be the source of strength, or that insight or understanding about life came from severe pain and big loss is not new rather classic one, just as tragedy and catharsis. The postmodern literature supports the growing psychological writings and refers back to these classical notions. Everybody knows about destruction and traumatic outcomes. Modern man, hence, is continuously struggling for psychological survival.
Post-traumatic growth according to Prof. Stephen Joseph reflects our attitude about life itself and our place in the world. In order to illustrate the concept of PTG he uses the metaphor of the shattered vase in his book What doesn’t kill us: the new psychology of posttraumatic growth. It includes two processes of assimilation (Assimilation is when the child strives to make sense of new experiences through their existing understandings of the world) and accommodation (Accommodation is when the child makes new sense of their experiences and modifies their understanding of the world). The attitude of the survivors is shown through the writer in the novel. There is a gradual development in the character of the writer in the city which is explored through his narration. His way of looking at the city differs from his father. His father teaches him ‘how to love the city’ and tells him ‘a city is all about how you look at it’, he teaches him that one must be aware about the various dimensions of the place and must ‘learn to see it many ways, so that if one of the ways of looking hurt us, we can take refuge in another way of looking’ (Tanweer 188), no matter what but one must always love the city. It’s the vivacity of the place that makes people more resilient.
The concepts of assimilation and accommodation are apparent in the novel. The three parts of the book shows the development of the writer’s mind as in the first extract, he calls Karachi broken city, but still beautiful because it is born out of severe tragedy. In the second extract, he says “the hole at the center becomes the eye” – and the scatter of the cracked glass radiating outwards from the center. This analogy refers the blast is not linked to an actual bullet, but is used to denote the blast affecting people’s lives in different, fragmented ways. In the last part of the book “maps of the new city”- he consider the cracks as new paths and boundaries. A marvellous piece of writing, Bilal Tanweer has done a very good job. The City is used as an extended-metaphor, as a character and as a protagonist. He emphasizes that certain things are more beautiful and valuable after they are broken. The city is used as metaphor that can be taken as home and a place where we dwell. Explosions, violence and bomb blast though destroys this city and makes life intolerable. It still gives them their identity and a sense of belonging. The motif of home however distorted it is there. Due to explosions, violence and bomb blasts, is distorted, yet people search for its beauty and get pleasure from it. There is an optimistic approach in the novel as the title of one of the story “The World does not End” suggests that the long dark shadows and the clouds of darkness over the city will be scattered away if people struggle for the hope to survive, as after darkness there is light, that will again enlighten the city.
Overcoming trauma can be difficult but it is not impossible. Relationships, environment and surroundings play very important role in this respect. Karachi has been the victim of terrorism for many years but despite of continuous violence, people live there and overcome all cruel obstacles. This is because of the nature of city. Characters of Tanweer find peace near the sea and ‘Karachi has a sea’. Sea is symbolic of the fact that life must goes on. When somebody place any stone, it changes the direction of water but ultimately it moves and reaches where it was intended to go. Similarly, trauma distracts people but by overcoming all hurdles, they can find new direction in order to reach their directions. Hence living in the city full of violence is not easy yet the life must go on.
The city plays an important role in the revival of its inhabitants. Every character has different perspective towards their city and hence deals with trauma differently. The city is used as a metaphor that can be taken as home, a place where we live. Karachi is a place as well as a character, as it is affected by the violence in the same way as the other characters. Explosions, violence and bomb blasts that cause trauma among the characters destroy the city in a similar fashion. But it is the optimistic approach of the inhabitants who devise life out of chaos. Though due to violence, the beauty of the city is distorted but still the characters are hopeful and excavate pleasure out of chaos. As Psychological revival is important for survival and the restoration can be achieved in different ways. Karachi provide lively and resilient environment to its people and hence there is an air of hope everywhere. Just as Karachi suffers with its people when adversity strikes it also provides shelter ways to its inhabitants as ‘you fight for inches on this city’s roads. It’s always survival on these roads. You train your eyes to scour them and the rest of yourself to place devour them. Drive to survive.’ (Tanweer 45)
In the middle of the chaos, “it was the most alive smell you’d ever smelled- the smell of survival”. Bilal Tanweer portrays the city as lively and vibrant and the characters full of hope and energy, as they devise ways to survive hoping that the ‘dark shadows’ over the city ‘will be scattered away’ if they continue to struggle. Life consists of both tragedy and comedy, and the fact is that there is no escape from life. Bilal Tanweer in one of his interviews to The National, ‘Chaotic reality of Karachi’ says; For me, the concern is that people write about Karachi from a very distant perspective. And I wanted to make sense of the violence with a novel. You know, most people are not in the center of the troubles but see it from the margins. Life does go on. (qtd. In east n.pag.)
Most characters have got their optimism back at the end of the novel. This is quite evident in the symbols and images employed by the writer. The imagery of the blackboard in the story of the schoolboy is one such example. The boy imagines the blackboard ‘as big as sea’ and his desire to draw the sun in the sea illuminates his hope for peaceful life, in which there is no darkness, just light. The author employs contrasting images of light and dark, sun and moon etc. at various incidents. There are various symbols of hope in the novel, for instance, symbol of sun in ‘Blackboards’ indicating hope amidst darkness or distress. Sun provides light and sheds darkness. The boy at the end draws a sun on his imaginary blackboards ‘that no one can turn off’ (Tanweer 17). Since the blackboard is a tool of catharsis which the little boy uses to calm down his nerves the image of sun manifests his optimist state of mind.
The writer, while riding in the bus emphasized the nature of relationship of Karachi and its people by saying;
That’s where they all go when they run away at first! But then they all come back. The sea, you see, feels good for only a few days, but then it starts suffocating you. You first escape to the sea to escape yourself, but after a while that’s all you find there. City is better that way. There are too many lanes and alleys. You never run into yourself there. (Tanweer 79)
It shows that there is a strong relationship of people of Karachi with the sea. The sea is a source of inspiration and it often provides space to reconcile with emotions. On one hand, it is contaminated by violence but on the other hand, it provides shelter and living. Every person desires the city according to his needs. Both ‘places and people’ plays an important role in life, generating feeling and memories, the city is a part of themselves which they cannot simply cut off and separate from.
Akber is the only character in the novel that is at the extreme end of the post-traumatic stress spectrum. His witnessing of the bomb blast changes his perception towards the city. When he sees death and agony of human beings through his eyes he considers that ‘the city is dying, this world was ending’, and everything for him ‘was indicating death’. However even his story ends on a positive note. The transformation of trauma from Akber to his family enables his brother to re-think his own life and hence he discovers that; ‘God has created ways to repent; told us how to make up for our wrong doings’. (Tanweer 158). Hence, it can be concluded that trauma brings him to the divine reality of the world. His exposure to trauma brings him close to the divine and establishes spiritual connection with God.
Akber establishes a strong relation with god and cut himself with material world. He furiously shouted at his relatives to ‘rectify your end! There is no time left now’. But the shock of that tragedy gradually fades’ with the help of family support; they manage a store for him so that his mind’s turmoil fades.
In "Things and Reasons", a nameless journalist learns that his childhood friend Sadeq, a pistol-packing repo man, has been wounded in the bombing. Reeling from the news, he ends up in a Raj-era bazaar that he used to frequent with his street-performer father, a friend of the comrade's. There, the journalist overhears a man called the Bird of Death trying to raise money for his brother, who was mutilated by a mysterious animal. He tells the man that he wants to interview the brother and is escorted – at gunpoint – on a journey through a labyrinth of shanties, a place that "didn't actually exist on state record", where he gains uncanny insight into his father.
Throughout this weird, compelling chapter, the main character struggles to reconcile a bygone Karachi populated by flawed but earnest men such as the comrade. He laments what Karachi might lose as a consequence of violence and the passage of time, and wonders if it is possible to capture the complexities of the city in prose. "True stories are fragments," he says. "Anything longer is a lie, a fabrication" (Goodreads). This powerful novella proves that such worries are unfounded. Its beautiful fragments merge to form an elaborate, haunting portrait of urban Pakistan, one that is rich with acute sociological detail. According to Nietzsche; when a person emerges from episodes of illness, isolation or humiliation, he is ‘as though born again, he has a new skin,' with a ‘finer taste for joyfulness.' In the The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran makes a similar point when he writes that, ‘the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.'
Last but not the least writing helps the writer deal with his trauma as Tanweer said ‘and you started to write out of desperation because you felt this might help you make sense of your life.’ In the process of writing, sometimes the word doesn’t support, ‘you instead of writing what you felt, you wrote about lessons about disciplining yourself’. That is the beauty of writing; through it one tries to reconcile one’s scattered life. The art of writing a story creates a sense of wonder and provide with reason; consequently one learns the dynamics of this mad world. Bilal Tanweer called his city a mad world in which people face trauma every day and in the midst of chaos the smashed screen is taken as a ‘stunning violent, shockingly beautiful object- a crass memento’ for the city, in which part of a city dies every day and ‘birds springs out of’ the open skulls announce the deaths and the ‘air is thick with the chorus of these birds’. Still people love their city and write the agonies of people and the city in order to make sense of the violence as in ‘things and reasons’ the writer illustrates that his father wrote stories to connect the entire humanity, for him, ‘we all are just broken parts’ but there is something which connect people. ‘He told stories to find ways into the world, to communicate with it. I wrote to avoid the world’ (Tanweer 196)
The present study of Bilal Tanweer’s fictional writing confirms that he has addressed various dimensions of South Asian society associated with trauma. His characters undergo several traumas and reconstructions. The nine fragments dealing with the daily life traumas leading to the encounter with the destructive attack. Although each character’s trauma is different (death, sex, domesticity and broken relation) from others, they all are related to the theme of survival. Hence, each character smells the essence of survival. As one of the characters of the novel said, ‘it was the most alive smell you’d ever smelled- the smell of survival…’ (Tanweer 45). This thesis explored the various attitudes of the inhabitants by closely examining Tanweer’s characters. The thematic canvas of Bilal Tanweer is filled with various subjects and explores the themes of trauma, survival and resilience. Modernity is marked by the ‘sign of the wound’ and ‘the modern subject has become inseparable from the categories of shock and trauma’ (qtd. in Luckhurst n.pag.) believed Seltzer. Due to immense influence of violence in modern world it has become the crucial subject for the researchers to critically analyze on.
The characters in the novels clearly experienced an overwhelming event. They reacted to the catastrophe with some delay and their acting-out mostly included repetitive behavior and nightmares. In addition, the failure of language is one of the more apparent intrusive phenomena when analyzing literary work. The growing sense of unsafety and threat forms the subject of this traumatic narrative. By situating such stories the writers want to give voice to the pain and suffering of the survivors.
Regardless of who constructs the narrative, giving an account of a traumatic event presents an array of problems. As Cathy Caruth asserts, a victim who is able to compose 49 such a narrative for himself may still be unwilling to relate it to others, as if it were “a betrayal of the one who died, with the one who is alive and listens” (Caruth 27).
The discussion of the work of Bilal Tanweer’s The Scatter here is too great demonstrates, a significant consequence of the form of self-narration is that our stories allow us to create our own meaningful versions of truth. Consequently, to cope with the trauma, there is a need for the invention of new traditions that will return attention and power to the subjective human self, and this thesis suggests that this is the task of the storyteller.
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Gilamartin, Sarah. "Review: Tapestry of Stories Depicts Destruction Wrought by Terrorism."Fragments of Truth Collide in Maelstrom of Modern Karachi: The Scatter Here Is Too Great, by Bilal Tanweer. The Irish times, 25 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
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