February 25, 2009
by Melville House
We’ve had chick-lit, hick-lit, Brit-lit and prick-lit; misery memoirs, mummy memoirs, country memoirs and hunting memoirs. The French have their own brand new area, supermarket-lit: The Tribulations of a Checkout Girl has been a big hit across the Channel. The financial crash has spawned another field again, with titles ranging from “I Saw It All Coming” by Cassandra et al to the no-holds-barred “How Madoff Made Off With All Your Money” by any number of wits. It seems that Western publishers never tire of discovering new genres of writing, however tenuous their claims on our attention. How pleased they will be to read this BBC story and learn about Guantanamo-lit.
Inmates of the prison camp started to publish memoirs about their experiences as early as 2005. The first books were written in Pashto and became bestsellers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Among the best known is Da Guantanamo Anzoor (Guantanamo’s Picture) by Mullah Zaeef, a former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan who was imprisoned at the camp for nearly three years. His book, like so many others, details the abuse he suffered daily at the hands of his American guards. It has been pirated by several sources, including Pakistani intelligence agencies, who published it in Urdu –- although they omitted all reference to their own misconduct. Another successful title is Da Guantanamo Mati Zawlanay (The Broken Shackles of Guantanamo), written by Badar Zaman Badar and Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, two brothers who spent years in the prison. They, like Zaeef, explain how they were “sold” by the Pakistani authorities to the US as well as describing the torture that they underwent. Dost was allegedly arrested by Pakistani police on his release from Guantanamo and has not been seen by his family for years.
Zaeef’s book is due to be published in English soon but the others have yet to sign deals. How long before a Random House editor is on a plane to Pakistan, I wonder?