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Jane Austen News – Issue 139

The Jane Austen News takes us to Pakistan this week

What’s the Jane Austen News this week? 


Pride and Prejudice Retold in Pakistan

US-based Pakistani author, Soniah Kamal, will soon be publishing her new book, Unmarriagable, which is (as you might have guessed from the heading) Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice retold in modern-day Pakistan.

The book is due to be released in January 2019, but it was in the pipeline for Kamal long before this time – she’s wanted to write a Pakistani version of the novel since she was 16 as she loves, “this story of five sisters, their ineffectual father and desperate mother who just wants her daughters to ‘settle down’ (so Pakistani)”, and because she “really longed to read fiction that reflected my world and so without realizing it, I was following Toni Morrison’s advice to write what you want to read.”

The story centres around the Binat family. Lizzy is recast as Alys, while Mr Darcy becomes Valentine Darsee. Kamal has kept much of the original Pride and Prejudice storyline, which many die-hard Austen fans will be pleased to hear.

The challenge of doing a retelling (versus an ‘inspired by’) in order to satisfy Jane Austen fans is that you have to hit all the beats in the plot as well as stay true to the essence of each of the characters. But then for readers who are not coming for Austen, you have to write a story that stands on its own legs. Setting it in Pakistan meant writing for those familiar with the culture and those new to it. Writing Unmarriageable was a real juggling act.

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Claire Tomalin and Carol Shields on Jane Austen’s Life

Jane Austen – A Life by Claire Tomalin Reviewed By Arti of Ripple Effects As a biographer, Tomalin’s account of Jane Austen’s life is meticulous and exhaustive. Her analysis is critical and sharp, her writing style bold, precise and cutting. The following excerpts are prime examples. When speculating about the possible consequence of Mrs. Austen sending her infants away to be raised, Tomalin makes the following inference: “The most striking aspect of Jane’s adult letters is their defensiveness. They lack tenderness towards herself as much as towards others. You are aware of the inner creature, deeply responsive and alive, but mostly you are faced with the hard shell; and sometimes a claw is put out, and a sharp nip is given to whatever offends. They are the letters of someone who does not open her heart; and in the adult who avoids intimacy you sense the child who was uncertain where to expect love or to look for security, and armoured herself against rejection.” Or this to say about mother and daughter: “Mrs. Austen had a sharp tongue for neighbours, appreciated by her daughter and passed on to her.” Or, with the episode of Jane accepting and later recanting Harris Bigg-Wither’s marriage proposal, Tomalin’s view is clear: “We would naturally rather have Mansfield Park and Emma than the Bigg-Wither baby Jane Austen might have given the world, and who would almost certainly have prevented her from writing any further books.” If you can appreciate such kind of abrasive commentaries, you (more…)
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Art Imitating Life

  Written By Arti of Ripple Effects Does art imitate life or does life imitate art or…neither? After reading Claire Tomalin and Carol Shields on the life of Jane Austen, I am inclined to draw that conclusion. The often sanguine outlook of Austen’s works is deceptive. The seemingly jovial ending may lead some to assume they are reading the simplistic stories of a woman wrapped in romantic bliss all her life. Reality is, that Austen could persevere, write and be published was already an incredible achievement considering the confining social environment she was in. Instead of embracing the normative female role in comfort, she chose to tread the road less traveled to become a writer despite the gloomy prospect of poor spinsterhood, enduring rejection even from her own mother. She wrote in secret and struggled in isolation. For a long period she battled depression. Upon her death, her beloved sister Cassandra could not attend her funeral because the presence of females at such events were not sanctioned, apparently for fear of any outbursts of emotion. It is Austen’s imagination that empowers her to break free of her reality and to rise above her constraints. She has created her art from the palette of imagination, as Tomalin has lucidly observed: “Hampshire is missing from the novels, and none of the Austens’ neighbours, exotic, wicked or merely amusing, makes recognizable appearance. The world of her imagination was separate and distinct from the world she inhabited.” Austen’s contemporary, the renowned Gothic writer Ann (more…)
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