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On Friday, Granta brings Pakistan to L.A.

October 29, 2010 |  4:59 pm

The latest issue of Granta magazine, on sale now, focuses on Pakistan. Not just a country devastated by floods, but a relatively young nation facing an array of modern pressures. "Filled with almost 200 million people speaking nearly sixty languages, brought into nationhood under the auspices of a single religion, but wracked with deep separatist fissures and the destabilizing forces of ongoing conflicts in Iran, Afghanistan and Kashmir," Granta writes, "Pakistan is one of the most dynamic places in the world today."

Friday night at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, Granta editor John Freeman and writer Kamran Pasha will wrestle with the topic "How to talk about Pakistan." Pasha, a former journalist, is the author of "Shadow of the Swords: An Epic Novel of the Crusades."

John Freeman, an American who splits his time between New York and London, where Granta is based, was in Lahore, Pakistan this month. On the magazine's blog, he writes of his short visit, which included going to two bookstores:

The Last Word, which is inside the defunct Pakistani cricket stadium and above a funky mango lassie/ice-cream/coffee shop that could be in Berkeley, California. [Granta's Pakistan] issue was on the front counter, and Nobel John, his actual name, told me it's been selling very well. They are nearly out. They had also scotch-tapped the poster to their window so you see it as you walk into the cafe.

Then across town to Readings, which is a big used-and-new-shop, which will get their copies tomorrow (they came from the UK). Abid Rao, whom I talked to, was very pleased it was nearly there. They had all the Pakistani and Indian editions of our authors in the shop, from Mohsin (who actually has a Pakistan based publisher), to Nadeem and Kamila and Mohammed and others. Basharat Peer. I browsed for a while. Very big selection of all books in English. A lot of Latin American writers. Made me wonder if Pakistani writers can relate to what they were writing against. I didn’t find any Intizar Hussain. Meanwhile the driver waited outside, standing by the backdoor of the car.

Which means that Freeman will be able to talk about his fleeting impressions of the country, as well as the fiction, reportage, poetry and memoir that are in Granta's Pakistan issue. Tonight's event begins at 6 p.m.; tickets are $9, with discounts for students. Pacific Asia Museum members get in free.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Students play cricket in front of the Badshahi Masjid mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, on Oct. 5. Credit: Arif Ali/ Agence France-Presse / Getty Images