By Shahan Mufti, author of The Faithful Scribe (Other Press, September 2013).
As a writer of narrative non-fiction, I’m always searching for the most compelling characters to carry the story. In the years that I covered war as journalist from the front lines in Pakistan, a country that I call home, there were always plenty of them to choose from. War always offers extraordinary characters. There are plenty of violent, bloodthirsty villains and then there are those larger than life heroes, capable of compassion and goodness that can only be drawn from the madness of war.
Yet I repeatedly found myself drawn those characters living ordinary lives, navigating the extraordinary landscape of war: the real estate agent who finds that the war attracts speculative buyers, which allows him to make a profit of his nation’s misery; the curator who watches the collection of ancient artifacts bleed out of his museum and witnesses his culture sapped of its history; a gutsy boxer who tries to deliver hope in his fight but crumbles under the weight of his own expectation. War, I found through these characters’ lives, wasn’t always about choosing between life and death. For most people, war is about figuring out a way to survive. Continue reading