In Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie offers a provocative contemporary update of Sophocles’ Antigone. The novel centers on three British siblings of Pakistani descent, older sister Isma (Shamsie’s Ismene) and 19-year old twins Aneeka and Parvaiz (Antigone and Polynices). When Parvaiz joins ISIS and is killed in Syria, his sisters become entangled with the family of British Home Secretary Karamat Lone (Creon), including his son Eamonn (Haemon) and wife Terry (a brilliantly adapted Tiresias).
Like all successful retellings, Home Fire stands on its own merits — no familiarity with Sophocles is needed to appreciate the novel’s elaborate interweaving of family and state. Like the most successful retellings, the novel casts new light on the original. With a particularly deft hand, Shamsie exposes the complex depths of humanity in Sophocles’ characters and displays how germane the story of the Antigone remains in today’s geo-political landscape. The novel was rightly longlisted for the Man Booker Prizefor 2017.
Sewanee Classics Professors Chris McDonough and Stephanie McCarter recently spoke with Kamila Shamsie to discuss Home Fire, Sophocles, and the larger legacy of ancient Greece in Pakistan.
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