x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The 9/11 novel that started as a scribble

A New York Pakistani's thoughts about September 11 became his debut novel, which was launched in the Middle East last weekend at the Art Dubai festival.

As a Pakistani living in New York after the September 11 attacks, HM Naqvi could fully express his anxieties only by writing. In 2003, after losing a friend in the attacks and troubled by his own experiences in the city, he sat in the renowned CBGB bar and scribbled his worries on a cocktail napkin. Those initial thoughts eventually became his debut novel, Home Boy, which was launched in the Middle East last weekend at the Art Dubai festival.

The critically acclaimed book, a tale of three young Pakistanis living in New York after the 2001 attacks, was released in New York last September, then in India in February and in Pakistan last week. "It was an unsettled time in America, and in New York," said the 36-year-old author, who now lives in Karachi. "When I transcribed those sentiments on paper, I felt I had more to say. It grew and evolved from three or four lines of scribble to a novel."

Naqvi quit his job as a banker to concentrate on writing, and his finances dried up in 2007 the year his book was picked up by publishers. "I didn't have the money even to pay for my cigarettes," he said. To improve his writing, he attended English classes on the sly at a university in Boston, slipping into lectures wearing a baseball cap to keep his profile low. He is disappointed, however, by the negative ways that critics often depict his country. "Pakistan is wonderfully complicated and varied but it is often reduced in discourse to two or three issues which is not unfair, but it is inaccurate."