Zulfikar Ghose

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Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Zulfikar Ghose 1935-

Pakistani novelist, poet, essayist, short story writer, literary critic, and autobiographer.

The following entry provides an overview of Ghose's career through 1996. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volume 42.

Often experimental in form and theme, Ghose's works are infused with realism, magic-realism, metaphor, symbolism, and allegory to create a metaphysical reality. He frequently employs mimetic strategies within his writing to force the reader to re-examine the purpose of the text. Ghose implicitly challenges the reader to acknowledge that storyline and language are secondary to a piece of writing and are merely tools the author manipulates to convey his message. His work often expresses the viewpoint of a culturally alienated individual and relates not only to his own sense of displacement from his homeland, but suggests a wider response to life in a post-colonial society.

Biographical Information

Ghose was born in 1935 in Sialkot. At the time of his birth, Sialkot was a part of India, but after the partition of India in 1947, the city became part of Pakistan. Although his family is Muslim, in 1942 they moved to Bombay, a primarily Hindu city. At the time of the partition and India's subsequent independence from Britain, Muslim-Hindu relations became violently unstable. In 1952 Ghose and his family moved to England. He attended secondary school in Chelsea and in 1955 enrolled in the University of Keele. At Keele he was introduced to fellow poets B. S. Johnson and John Fuller and also to “The Group”—a collective of poets that included Peter Porter, Anthony Smith, George MacBeth, and Peter Redgrove. Ghose received his B.A. in 1959 and began working as a sports journalist, part-time literary critic, and teacher, all the while submitting poems to periodicals. In 1964 he published his first collection of poetry, The Loss of India, as well as a collection of short stories written with B. S. Johnson, Statement against Corpses. He wrote his autobiography, Confessions of a Native-Alien (1965) at the age of thirty; his first novel, The Contradictions (1966), was released a year later. In 1969 Ghose accepted a professorship at the University of Texas, Austin, a position he still holds today.

Major Works

In much of his poetry Ghose examines the theme of the outsider seeking his place in the world. The Loss of India focuses on the bittersweet nostalgia Ghose feels for his homeland despite his fondness for life in the West. The poems in this collection are autobiographical in theme and contain many references to nature. The poems in Jets from Orange (1967) similarly evoke impressions of movement and rootlessness, but focus more on change and industry rather than nature. In The Violent West (1972), Ghose records his observations of his new homeland, Texas, and is increasingly introspective regarding his displacement from the East. The poems in this collection are more experimental in form and style than those in his previous collections. A Memory of Asia: New and Selected Poems (1984) and Selected Poems (1991) provide an overview of Ghose's poetry.

The theme of cultural dislocation is dominant in Ghose's first novel, The Contradictions, in which an English woman is unable to find her place, either in her homeland or in the unfamiliar society of India, where her husband is stationed. In his next novel, The Murder of Aziz Khan (1967), Ghose broadens his range of characters and concerns to relate a story of a Pakistani farmer's unsuccessful attempt to resist three unscrupulous brothers from usurping his land. Ghose's fascination with the enduring human spirit is also evident in his acclaimed Brazilian Trilogy, which spans four centuries of Brazilian history. The first volume, The Incredible Brazilian: The Native (1972), recounts the adventures of Gregório, the son of a rich plantation owner, and provides a vivid portrait of seventeenth-century Brazil. Gregório appears again in The Beautiful Empire (1975), which follows his life...

(The entire section is 1,268 words.)