The British Council Pakistan hosted a sophisticated launch for Austenistan, a new fiction anthology published by Bloomsbury (who also publishes J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter) that is fast becoming an international bestseller. Only three weeks after its launch, Austenistan was sold out across Pakistan. The ‘Ardently Austen’ occasion marked literary icon, Jane Austen’s 242nd birthday along with her bicentennial death anniversary. Veteran British actor, Adrian Lukis, who famously played the attractive cad, Mr. Wickham in the acclaimed 1995 BBC version of Pride & Prejudice (in which Colin Firth played Mr. Darcy), flew in especially for the occasion. After a respectful minute silence in memory of the APS victims, the evening began with a charming and fascinating rendition of a ‘mini-play’ of Pride & Prejudice brilliantly performed by Lukis, Samiya Mumtaz and Zara Peerzada.
Austenistan features seven extremely interesting and entertaining short stories inspired by Jane Austen but set in contemporary Pakistan. Edited by Laaleen Sukhera, the book contains stories written by Mahlia S. Lone, Saniyya Gauhar, Nida Elley, Gayathri Warnasuriya, Sonya Rehman and Mishayl Naek and a foreword written by Caroline Jane Knight, a fifth generation descendent of Jane Austen. The stories revolve around distinctive female heroines of varying ages in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and London, brimming with humour, hope and heartache.
A panel discussion with six of Austenistan’s authors was moderated by veteran author, Moni Mohsin and included Faiza Sultan Khan of Bloomsbury and young book cover designer Eman Khan. The eloquent debut writers engaged in a lively discussion that gripped the audience.
The elegant setup at the British Council Library, Lahore, included a romantic backdrop, Regency era music, outdoor seating against the original Victorian building, and a stimulating indoor display in the new library. Literati of all ages thronged the writers for book signings and conversation and the evening ended on a celebratory note.
The book’s debut across South Asia will be followed by releases from Bloomsbury UK and USA in 2018, followed by multiple language editions and is poised to catapult Pakistani culture and popular fiction into the global arena.
Austenistan has already received coverage in The Economist, The Times (UK), Vanity Fair (Italy), News Talk (Ireland), BBC World Service and The Khaleej Times (UAE), and is forthcoming on NPR (USA). It has thus far received positive reviews in the international press and praise from respected authors/writers, including Dr. Amanda Foreman, Rebecca Smith, MoniMohsin, and Ashok Ferry, and has proved buzz worthy among trendy young bloggers.
Faiza Sultan Khan, Consulting Publisher at Bloomsbury in London/Delhi said, “Austenistan has been the subject of major pieces in the international press and the reviews have hence far been wildly enthusiastic. The combination of the exoticism of Pakistan with the familiarity of Austen and Austen-style romance has clearly touched a nerve.”
Laaleen Sukhera, Editor of Austenistan in Lahore said, “After decades of Pakistan headlining in global media for all the wrong reasons, we are thrilled to inspire the world’s interest in Pakistani culture and popular fiction for all the right reasons!”
Nida is a college teacher, a writing coach, and a writer based in Austin, Texas. She grew up between Scarsdale, New York, and Lahore, Pakistan. She has worked in the fields of academia, non-profit film and event management and been published in various journals and publications including Psychology Today and blogs at A Storyed Sensibility. She previously taught Composition, Creative Writing, and Literature to college students in Lahore and currently teaches at St Edward’s University in Texas. She received her Bachelors degree in Journalism & Mass Media from Rutgers University, New Jersey, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, New York.
Saniyya is a barrister by profession and was an editor of the Pakistan based business magazine, Blue Chip, for four years. A graduate of Sussex University, she received a First Class Honours in Contemporary History and later went on to do the Common Professional Examination [CPE], and was called to the Bar in 2000. She has worked in corporate law and litigation in both London and Pakistan. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in Islamabad, Pakistan, has had articles published in magazines and prominent Pakistani daily newspapers, and has edited and co-authored papers for prestigious international academic journals.
Mahlia S Lone
Mahlia is a seasoned textile journalist who contributes to WWD [Women’s Wear Daily] and other publications, and is currently the editor of a leading lifestyle magazine in Lahore, Pakistan. Mahlia was valedictorian of her graduating class at the Lahore American School and attended university at Kinnaird College in Lahore, William Smith College in New York, and Clark University in Massachusetts. She started her journalistic career as the Assistant Editor of the Op/Ed pages at The Nation, and as the Features Editor of The Friday Times.
Mishayl is a freelance writer and monetary economist who received her BA in Economics from Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, where she received the Jeanne Quistgaard Memorial Prize, and M.Sc. in International Development from the University of Bath. She has worked at the State Bank of Pakistan in the Development Finance Group and Monetary Department, where she co-authored various policies, reports and studies including a study on monetary policy for SAARC. She lives in Karachi, Pakistan, and has been published in various print and digital publications including the Express Tribune, Good Food, Grazia Pakistan, Libas International, and Women’s Own. She runs the Yummy Mummy Network group on Facebook to address childcare issues, activities and resources for metropolitan Pakistani mothers.
Sonya is a journalist based in Lahore, Pakistan, with an expansive body of published work comprising over 400 articles in TIME, The Wall Street Journal’s Scene Asia, Rolling Stone [Middle East], BBC [The Strand], Asia Society, Esquire [Middle East], The Hindu, The Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, The Diplomat Magazine, Forbes, The Friday Times, DAWN and The News International. She was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to pursue her Masters degree in Print Journalism at Columbia University, New York, and received the Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Fellowship.She teaches English and journalism, runs a postcard start-up, From Lahore With Love, and was selected as a speaker at an independently organized TED event. She has anchored and scripted for television at HUM TV, hosted a radio show for City FM89 and conducted journalism and creative writing workshops in Lahore.
Gayathri is a Sri Lankan Molecular Biologist with a background in Cancer Research and work experience in HIV/Public Health. She has a PhD in Molecular Biology and Toxicology from the University of Dundee and is an alumnus of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine [MSc Molecular Biology of Infectious Diseases] and Imperial College London [BSc Biochemistry]. Born and brought up in Colombo, Sri Lanka, she has been a nomad since the age of fifteen and has lived in Saudi Arabia, the UK, Nigeria, Guyana, Barbados, and Pakistan. She currently lives in Amman, Jordan, and is completing an MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine while working on science and innovation partnerships.