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Distributed for Zubaan Books

The Empty Room

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 to 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.

320 pages | 5 x 8


View all books from Seagull Books


"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 'Counternarratives'

"A novel about many compelling subjects—friendship, marriage, art, and politics among them—The Empty Room brilliantly portrays the challenges of a young woman adapting to a problematic marriage and living in a newly formed country, itself full of tension. . . . 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'

"'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 1-14

"The personal and the political come together in this tale of a nation and a young, newly-married woman, as they push against horizons, stretch boundaries and make painful self-discoveries."

Rakshanda Jalil, writer and translator

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