Taymour Soomro: ‘I want to challenge reductionist narratives about Pakistan’

The novelist on learning farming from his grandfather, how his background in law informed his work, and why homophobia is a Victorian export

Taymour Soomro was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and read law at Cambridge University and Stanford. After a brief career as a solicitor in London and Milan, and an even briefer stint in fashion, he began to write fiction. At first he wrote short stories – his work has been published in the New Yorker and the Southern Reviewand has now published his first novel, Other Names for Love. The book tells of a young man, Fahad, from an influential Pakistani family who travels with his father to visit the ancestral home in the fictional region of Abad. It comes garlanded with praise, including from the writers Yiyun Li and Garth Greenwell. Soomro is the co-editor, with Deepa Anappara, of a creative writing handbook on fiction, race and culture, which will be published in 2023.

How did your return to Pakistan after many years away provide the blueprint for the book?
About 15 years ago, I wrote a novel so terrible and unpublishable that no one will ever see it. Having failed as a writer, I didn’t really know what to do. I wanted to run and hide and so I ran home to Pakistan and hid there with my family. But I also wanted to be useful and productive. Our farm has been in the family for generations. When I returned, my grandfather was managing it. He had been doing this for 40 years alongside his career first as a civil servant and later as a politician. I was curious about farming, about how it was done, about how it might be done better; though my grandfather was keen for me to restart my legal career, he taught me the logistics of seeds and tractors, harvests, threshing and crop-sharing.

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