Author Kanza Javed on her debut novel, Ashes, Wine And Dust Advertisement

Author Kanza Javed on her debut novel, Ashes, Wine And Dust

Childhood heartbreak fuels the young author 's age-defying debut novel

By Vatsala Chhibber  January 22nd, 2016

At just 16, Pakistani author Kanza Javed was confronting death and its devastating after-effects. “The idea of Ashes, Wine And Dust [Tara-India Research Press] came to me after I lost my grandmother and realised how pervasive and still sadness is. I had to write down everything I witnessed and felt,” says the 24-year-old. Javed spent the next few years developing the interior life of her protagonist, a young Pakistani girl grappling with grown-up themes of displacement, isolation and identity. At 21, she was shortlisted for the prestigious Tibor Jones South Asia Prize (2013), awarded to promising work-in-progress manuscripts.

Javed’s quotable novel (“Sometimes loving a man is like loving a cat. You can never be loved back.”) traces three phases in the life of its wilful protagonist — ‘Ashes’ examines death from a child’s perspective, ‘Wine’ tackles the duality of an immigrant existence and ‘Dust’ signals a return to her native city. “There are two Lahores I have written about. The first was a cultural hub, alluring and beautiful. Now it’s inflicted with a lot of external forces and has changed its spirit.”

The novel had an unusual launch in India last October — via Skype (she was denied a visa) — but she’s all set for her visit to the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. While the lit graduate and professor mentors fresh voices back home, she knows it’ll be a while before they find a larger audience. “I come across several young and talented writers in Pakistan, but the dearth of publishing houses here is a big problem.”

The author will be speaking at ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival on January 23 and 25.