Culture and works of literature
Literature and culture are fused in a harmonious blend of fact and fiction. Neither of the two can survive without each other. They can and have evolved on their own but both need some part of the other to remain linked with readers and authors.
Literature manifests the idea of authors expressing their thoughts and ideas, expressions, and emotions. Such content—either fact or fiction; poetry or prose—is highlighted through the literary works. In essence, literature brings to fore the authors’ cognitive and creative prowess.
It is the culture that links such rational and imaginative pursuits with the readers. Culture, whether about society, community, city, province, or a country, either gives birth to specific literature or blends in with the prevailing culture for value addition.
We observe variations of thoughts and ideas when reading literary works of Pakistani authors. Saadat Hasan Manto, for instance, used his characters to discuss the functioning of the society he was living in. If we look at Saadat Hasan Manto’s short story, “Naya Qanoon” (New Constitution), we are introduced to his character, Mangoo. He is a tonga driver. Being uneducated, he does not know much about the new constitution that is to be implemented.
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However, being a tonga driver, he overhears what his passengers discuss regarding the new constitution. Mangoo believes that this new rule will bring a positive change to society. He even washes his horse cart and waits for the auspicious day. He feels disheartened to see that nothing has changed.
Manto was referring to the implementation of the Government of India Act 1935. This rule gave autonomy to the Indians. Critics are pretty much sure that the average, uneducated Muslim living in 1935 would have reacted to the Government of India Act much in the same way as Mangoo did. Late Ashfaq Ahmed presented ideas that were close to the heart and helped in the readers’ personality development. His collection of works titled “Zavia” presents a notable contribution in this regard.
Readers of Urdu literature would have certainly read Mumtaz Mufti’s novel, Ali Pur Ka Aeeli. It is a biography presented uniquely. The book shares Mufti’s relationship with his father. Ali Pur ka Aeeli presents such questions and expressions that were a norm when Mumtaz Mufti lived and authored the book. Culture perhaps reflects the social consciousness of a society.
This is embedded into the literature produced by the authors of a specific community. Interestingly, fiction novels either present a current view of the social norms and traditions or show a reflection of what society will become in the future. Ibn-e-Safi’s novels based on themes of science fiction and adventure presented a society where unusual events were a norm.
His characters were modern as compared to the times he wrote his books but were desi in appeal. Using imagination and fictional characters have been authors’ tools to create compelling stories.
In western literature, The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (1925), The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (1937), The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (1950); The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (1954) among others are key examples of how authors used imagination to create stories, plots, characters and worlds that were non-existent but did stir the reader’s thoughts once they surfaced.
Authors and writers from the East and the West will continue to produce literary works—based on or adopted by—the cultural dimensions of society.