Multan Book Club: A breath of fresh literary air

By Saadia Farooq Photo Multan Book Club Facebook Page.

A few months ago I joined a group of people in a local restaurant of Multan, where, according to the Facebook page of Multan Book Club, the monthly Book Club meeting was expected to be held. Like most college students, I was expecting fun, fiction, love books to be read out. If not, Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer, popular literature like the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Mayer and Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Well, I was taken off-guard by the dose of classic literature: the meeting covered the most heavy and deep book, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

Multan Book Club is one place where great literature is valued and celebrated to its fullest. A place where many locals like me teach and learn from others at the same time. I learnt the art of agreeing to disagree with the content of books - and I was not called a sinner.

Almost 3 years ago, a bunch of book lovers gathered in a local restaurant to establish a legacy of book reading and absorbing perspectives of those in contrast with our own. Fatima Javed recalls:

"After much argument and quarrel with the family, making them understand that it’s not an atheist agenda or Jewish conspiracy but a mere book club, I started off my journey with Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance in hand, to the most beautiful and thought provoking source of learning. With some very close-to-soul friends that we turned into afterwards, we made it happen with only 2-3 people on every other meeting. Idea by a Literature Professor and struggle by an Art and Design Professor (two friends) built it up for the first time in Multan. It’s one of its kind, a very humble and welcoming place for all those who love sharing thoughts and love for book reading."

Fatima further says:

"It took countless efforts by a man who sat alone in constant hope and undeterred to find another companion to continue this great initiative."

Multan Book Club has a long custom of getting readers out of their comfort zones. The Franz Kafka quote displayed on their Facebook page as their mission is the sheer reflection of what I have experienced every single time while attending the Book Club:

"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." - Franz Kafka

Multan Book Club reads one book a month. Where the only fee of participation is well-read participation. Anyone who has read the book can join in. Every month a book discussion is split into 4 divides:

  • In the first part readers share their favorite quotes.
  • In second and third part, readers share their favorite/hated/confusing situations and characters, respectively,   from the book.
  • In last part of the discussion, the forum is open for overall discussions. At this point everyone agrees to disagree with each other’s opinions and the book is dissected to each word and punctuation.

In the first 3 phases no one interrupts each other’s opinions as per the bylaws of the Book Club where as in last phase every discussion can lead to a never ending war of minds and analysis.

The last month, the Book Club discussed The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. A surprising number of readers and observers showed up from all school of thoughts with their perspectives on Oscar Wilde’s short masterpiece.

As Rafia, one of the attendee’s shared: “I was pleasantly surprised on attending a session of Multan Book Club. The quality of interaction, vivacity of discussions and the great agree-to-disagree debate on the book delighted me to the core. The forum is a much-needed breath of fresh air in the literarily-stale environment of Multan!”

The Book Club Culture has spread to the other cities of the Pakistan as well. Book warms have found a nice habitat to nourish their brains.

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