Plot: The Scatter Here is Too Great is a compilation of narratives of an old communist poet; a wealthy middle-aged businessman, yearning for his estranged child; a young man with a dead-end job snatching cars from bank loan defaulters; a young girl suffering from heartbreak; an ambulance driver suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; a student on a romantic rendezvous; a wayward young man whose bank installments have not been paid and a journalist – all living in Karachi and experiencing one catalyst: a bomb blast at a bus station!
Review: Literature in Pakistan seems to have moved on from its slump period, as recently we see a spate of new and young writers venturing to pen down their newer and untold stories. Bilal Tanweer, author of The Scatter Here is Too Great is a debuting writer, joining the new breed of Pakistani fiction writers who aim to do just that.
The main protagonist of this book is not the myriad of characters mentioned in the plot – but actually the city of Karachi – with its good & bad, ups and downs! As the author, Bilal Tanweer, explained in an interview: “Karachi is such a huge city that it is impossible to think of the complete picture. My narratives are as limited as they can possibly get. Each story is [Karachi] from the point of view of a particular character.”
In telling the ‘scatter’ of stories Tanweer has managed to keep the book completely non-political and away from the clichéd drama of terrorism many Pakistani authors love to delve upon. It is strictly a story about Karachi and how these people who live here ‘experienced’ the blast – and it does not stray to answer how or why the blast happened.
Independently, out of the nine short stories told by Tanweer, most varied between confusing or forgettable, and the two that somehow created a bit of connect, were the story of a heart-broken girl who tells her kid brother tales which hide her grief within and the wayward student out on a romantic escapade in his mother’s battered car.
As a read, the book is neither a novel nor as collection of short stories, as some of the stories are interlinked, while the others stand in isolation (at least to me!). This writing format may have worked for other authors, found myself confused about the on goings – and after a while was muddled up between the stories and the characters.
Reading the book, which is thankfully just near 200 pages, one does feel that Bilal Tanweer still has a long way to go as a writer, because he has not really be able to communicate his idea on paper cohesively to an average Joe like myself – even when I am a resident of Karachi and recognize a lot of nuances of my hometown that outsiders might not automatically understand.
Yes the real stories of Karachi need to be told … and hats off for trying as Karachi needs it … but my brain was left in a bit of a scatter after finishing the book, which was disappointing to say the least. Hope he listens because we are waiting for more.
WRITING STYLE: 2/5
Note: A copy of this book was provided by Random House India in exchange for an honest review. Thank You
After thought: The writer has been touted as the ‘up and coming voice of Pakistan’ and the book has been receiving raving reviews with fantastic social media buzz in respectable circles – and reading the book honestly makes me wonder if the critics are doing anyone any favors by avoiding honest feedback? Humble request – please don’t to this to the authors and their fans/readers.