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In a Pakistan beset by conflict, the arts see nascent revival

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The venerable British literary magazine Granta devoted its autumn issue to a new crop of Pakistani writers, including former Air Force officer Mohammed Hanif, whose 2008 novel, "A Case of Exploding Mangoes," weaves a dark comedic narrative around the death of former dictator Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, and Mohsin Hamid's "The Reluctant Fundamentalist," the fictional story of a disaffected Pakistani-American's journey toward extremism. That tale has invited comparisons to the life of Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber.

"I find the arts scene ... very exciting right now.… Instability does make for fertile artistic ground in Pakistan," says Mr. Hamid, an internationally bestselling author. "The arts are likely to show how diverse Pakistan is, and in that sense, they are likely to give a richer, more complicated view of what Pakistan is. Pakistan is 170 million different people."

This nascent cultural renaissance extends to the visual arts and music. Last year, painter Salima Hashmi led one of the first major delegations of Pakistani artists abroad at the Asia Society Museum in New York. Ms. Hashmi, the daughter of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a legendary Urdu poet, is dean of the School of Visual Arts and Design at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore.

She says that art has grown in Pakistan as a response to the daily indignities suffered by the country during its checkered history, during which it has been restricted by Islamic laws as well as the whims of dictators.

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