Book Launch: The Empty Room by Sadia Abbas at T2F

Join Faraar Gallery on 9th January, 2019 from 7:30 PM to 9 PM at The Second Floor for the Book Launch of The Empty Room by Sadia Abbas.

In 1970s Karachi, where violence and political and social uncertainty are on the rise, a beautiful and talented painter, Tahira, tries to hold her life together as it shatters around her. Her marriage is quickly revealed to be a trap from which there appears no escape. Accustomed to the company of her brother Waseem and friends, Andaleep and Safdar, who are activists, writers and thinkers, Tahira struggles to adapt to her new world of stifling conformity and fight for her identity as a woman and an artist.

Tragedy strikes when her brother and friends are caught up in the cynically repressive regime. Faced with loss and injustice, she embarks upon a series of paintings entitled ‘The Empty Room’, filling the blank canvases with vivid colour and light.

Elegant, poetic, and powerful, The Empty Room is an important addition to contemporary Pakistani literature, a moving portrait of life in Karachi at a pivotal moment in the nation’s history, and a powerful meditation on art and the dilemmas faced by women who must find their own creative path in hostile conditions.


“Regret is only one kind of torment in a world generous with pain,” writes Sadia Abbas. In her debut novel, regret and pain appear in light, luminous hues as the story of a new nation, struggling to retain its democratic resolve, is enmeshed with the story of a rocky marriage. The courage, wit and capacity for love displayed by the characters are sure to linger long after the last chapter has been read.

Annie Zaidi, author of Gulab and Love Stories # 1 to 14

A gripping and wonderfully observed account of domestic life and its many perils in Pakistan’s early decades. The portrait of a marriage set in the minefield of an extended family, this novel offers us an extraordinarily nuanced view of a woman’s life.

Faisal Devji, author of The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and the Temptation of Violence

The Empty Room, writer, scholar and critic Sadia Abbas’s evocative, illuminating debut novel, unveils a vivid portrait of a woman painter and activist creating a life in 1970s Karachi. Exploring the private and public, the personal and political, Abbas’s poetic and psychologically probing story reveals not just her profound grasp of a key moment in Pakistani history, but an artist’s capacity to create a world.

John Keene, author of Counter narratives

The Empty Room is a novel about many compelling subjects: friendship, marriage, art, and politics among them. The novel brilliantly portrays the challenges of a young woman adapting to a problematic marriage and living in a newly formed country itself full of tension. Life long best friends Tahira and Andaleep are passionate women committed to exploring and understanding the strands of their lives that draw them close and come between them. The depiction of their intellectual development and how it informs their choices is very real, and inspiring. Other relationships in the book are equally well drawn. I was holding my breath in many scenes; there is a great deal at stake for every character in this novel. I particularly loved reading about Tahira’s fraught relationship to her talent and painting. Sadia Abbas is a welcome voice in fiction. I know I’ll return to this novel again and again.

Alice Elliott Dark, author of Think of England and In the Gloaming

About the Writer:
Sadia Abbas
grew up in Karachi and Singapore and now spends a great deal of time in a village on the island of Lesvos. She received her Ph.D. from Brown University and is associate professor in the English department at Rutgers-Newark. She specializes in postcolonial literature and theory, the culture and politics of Islam in modernity, early modern English literature, especially the literature of religious strife, and the history of twentieth-century criticism.
She is the author of at At Freedom’s Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament (co-winner of the MLA first book prize) and numerous essays on subjects ranging from Renaissance poetics to the Greek crisis to contemporary theorizations of Muslim female agency. She is currently working on a book on Greece and the idea of Europe, a second novel and co-producing a book on Shahzia Sikander’s work with Jan Howard for the RISD museum. The Empty Room is her first novel.

Guest speakers: Saima Zaidi & Raza Rumi

Date: Wednesday, 9th January 2019
Timings: 07:30 PM – 09:00 PM
Place: Faraar Gallery, T2F
Entry: Free (optional donations are welcome)

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