Sara Suleri Goodyear is Professor of English at Yale University and a founding editor of the Yale Journal of Criticism. She is the author of The Rhetoric of English India [U. Chicago, 1992] and Meatless Days [U. Chicago, 1989].
A remarkable writer offers a remarkable look at the violent history of Pakistan's independence with the author's most intimate memories--of her Welsh mother, an English teacher of spare, abstracted eloquence; of her Pakistani father, a prominent and frequently jailed political journalist; of her tenacious grandmother; and of the friends who accompany her own passage to the West. A profoundly moving literary work.
Reviews of Meatless Days:
|Independence (2)||Middle Years (5-7)--and the end (7)||the trying time (winter, 1971)civil war time (Yahya Khan --Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto )||the summer of trials by fire:||General Zia; Islamization (16-17)|
|move into Punjab||her isolation--stop talking to her son; smell death (8); being carried||family problems (9); Dadi oblivious of the proliferation of her grandchildren; quickening of time||Irfan (11-12), mother's going back to Wales, our part (powerlessness,
violence, lack of innocent love) in history (14);
Dadi's being burned in April (10-11; 14)--stopped praying
mother buried, Dadi died in the same week when Bhutto was hanged (17-18); Ifat died (18)
II. the national and the religious--politicization and de-santification of religion
III. Body, the idea of being "meatless" and Writing
A. the death and departure of the family members
B. other experience of loss (quotations given by leading questions offered by Sara Suleri site at Browns U.)Throughout Meatless Days Suleri invokes the idea of lost things -- audiences, people, culture, history, geography, words, and so on:
(Mair Jones--Surraya Suleri) the mother's experience of displacement (9-); 12; her views of race and skin colors 160-161; away into her childhood 161; relocate herself; a Pakistani with a disembodied Englishness 163; learning to live apart; 165 Sara's p. 18
"My audience is lost, and angry to be lost, and both of us must find some token of exchange for this failed conversation." (2)
"Our congregation in Lahore was brief, and then we swiftly returned to a more geographic reality. "We are lost, Sara," Shahid said to me on the phone from England. "Yes, Shahid," I firmly said, "We're lost." (19)
"When I teach topics in third world literature, much time is lost in trying to explain that the third world is locatable only as a discourse of convenience. Trying to find it is like trying to pretend that history or home is real and not located precisely where you are sitting." (19-20)
and NOTES for
"Papa and Pakistan"
- For historical dates, please go to India and Pakistan page.
Jinnah --the leader of Muslim league;
General Ayah, in power from 1958-1969, imposing martial law in 1958;
Yahya Khan in power from 1969 to 1973, when Bhutto won the election.
The war in 1971--civil war, which lead to the establishment of East Pakistan as an independent nation called Bangladesh (March 26).
General Zia -- removed Bhutto from power in 1977, had Bhutto hanged, and imposed martial law
Martial law was lifted in 1985; Zia killed in 1988.
- How is the daughter, Sara, related to her father in her attempts to know his history?
- How is the daughter related to Pakistan's history? Pay special attention to her description of partition on p. 116, and how the daughters' spirits broke in the war of 1971.
IV. the issue of Third World Woman
and NOTES for
"What Mama Knew"
"And then it happens. A face, puzzled and attentive and belonging to my gender, raises its intelligence to question why, since I am teaching third world writing, I haven't given equal space to women writers on my syllabus... Against all my own odds I know what I must say. Because, I'll answer slowly, there are no women in the third world" (20). So ends the first chapter of Meatless Days. Why are there no women in the third world? How is the mother treated in the chapter "What Mamma Knew"?
no women--because 1. no such concept as woman, impossible to define, 2. her leaving Pakistan; 3. the third world only appear in discourse of convenience; 4. few women writing
- the role of the father; and mother's response e.g. p. 15-16 Father's Islamic craze; does not attend Dadi's funeral 17;
- no women--missing women
Pakistani women--khala love (9) as distraction--being abstracted and absorbed (Dadi-p. 6, Mother -p. 10)--aware of something (p. 10)--aware of their part of violence in history=sense of loss--V. Being "meatless" and Writing
Mother's communication with her daughters 16 Mother associated with Jane Austin and Mrs. Ramsay 151-53 the mother with "impossible edges"; with stories that fall short; as a writer that cares about the characters
vs. Sara --as one that wants to change plot, mix people (154)
the mother's lesson: unplot yourself, let be p. 156; "Take disappointment" 169 mother outside of her body 156; will not grip 159; be herself in every available manner, p. 168, while we are "a moment in her successive transformation." father-mother p. 157, mother gravely listening; the "greatest thing" in her life 158 father-mother's different uses of language--front page vs. scarf 168 both sweet and cold 166 Sara--the writer can not lay hands on "the body of her water" 159; image of flesh/meat: the goat (5), Dadi's 14; Ifat and Mamma's bodies 19 ideas about writing and identity: reading titles and mother's face 151; "how can syntax hold around a name?" (155)
Please read last chapter
p. 173 "For whom are you writing, David asked me..." --the idea of "hollow" names, p.177-178 last paragraph "Living in language is tentamount to living with oother people. Both are postures . . " --the idea of bailing out signicance and peeling it; turning habitation into habit, & p. 186 last paragraph --the idea of breaking bodies, hiding the Adam's rib and having a re-birth
' Suleri [says] that any further fiction that she may write inevitably will be about Pakistan via the West or vice versa. In any case, Suleri says her work sits "between genres," at once neither fiction nor non-fiction. "There's a lot of fiction in it. Some of the characters I invented, some of the incidents I invented. Minor things, when it was necessary," she says. Lest the reader assume entire key passages were fabricated, Suleri admits she changed mostly temporal elements such as chronology. For example, she is not sure that when her mother was teaching Emma that she was involved in the theater: "I compressed time, brought it closer together" so that the scene would work, she says (interview, December 1990; Yishane Lee Sara Suleri, Salman Rushdie, and Post-Colonialism).
Sara Suleri: "Woman Skin Deep" and Meatless Days. (Course notes by Kate Liu, Fu Jen Literary Criticism databank