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Kamila Shamsie and Ankhi Mukherjee

Oct 28, 2021

In Medias Res

Kamila Shamsie and Ankhi Mukherjee

New Books Network 2021

Acclaimed novelist Kamila Shamsie joins esteemed Oxford scholar Ankhi Mukherjee for a wide-ranging discussion of literature and politics. Ankhi raises the unique challenges facing postcolonial and specifically Muslim writers in the wake of 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, including the pressure to become commentators in times of crisis (our episode was recorded in August as American troops withdrew from Afghanistan). Kamila reserves the right of mental freedom in the face of such expectations. Early in her career, she turned down the opportunity to become a “professional Muslim” and never looked back. Yet, as Ankhi points out, Kamila’s novels from Burnt Shadows to Home Fire, balance writing to the moment with writing for posterity. We discuss how Kamila’s work aligns mythic structures with historical detail and how Sophocles’ Antigone became the “marrow in the bones” of Home Fire. As if that were not enough to whet the appetite, we also discover what’s cooking in Kamila’s kitchen!

Mentioned in the Episode

  • Newsnight
  • John Hersey
  • Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq
  • Colum McCann
  • Hisham Matar
  • Antigone
  • Jacques Lacan
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Martha Nussbaum
  • George Steiner

Aarthi Vadde is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. Email: aarthi.vadde@duke.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu.

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Aarthi Vadde and John Plotz

Aarthi Vadde is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. Email: aarthi.vadde@duke.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu.


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