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In this event, Sadia Abbas, scholar, critic and novelist, will read from, and discuss, her debut novel. The event will be moderated by Maria Boletsi. Doelenzaal, University Library (Singel.425)

Detail Summary
Date 14 May 2019
Time 20:00

The book

In 1970s Karachi, where violence and political and social uncertainty are on the rise, a 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. 

About the speaker

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.


Maria Boletsi, Endowed Professor of Modern Greek Studies at the University of Amsterdam (Marilena Laskaridis Chair) and assistant professor in Film and Comparative Literature at Leiden University.

Organization: Spui25, with the support of the Faculty of Humanities


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