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