As I googled Muhammad Khalid Akhtar to research his life and times, ¬¬the search engine showed up results for Che Guevara instead. Akhtar would probably have chuckled and found enough fodder there for yet another goofy story.
In his translated collection of short stories What Will You Give for This Beauty?, the Urdu poet, novelist and short story writer, Ali Akbar Natiq presents us with twelve stunning tales of lives shot through with heartrending cruelty, deprivation and injustice, but not without moments of genuine resistance and hope.
Nadeed (1989) by Joginder Paul is an unusual novel in Urdu in the sense that it has no defined plot or storyline but is held together by a metaphor and abstract, metaphysical reflections on this metaphor. The tradition of the novel in Urdu has not been known to be very robust (though short story is) to admit of radical innovation and experimentation.
A handsome, new translation of Ismat Chughtai’s memoir, Kaghazi Hai Pairahan (KHP from henceforth), by OUP is cause for celebration in itself. To readers of Indian literature, Chughtai needs no introduction, given how lionized she is in multiple canons.
When Master Abdul Ghani praised Manto for his story ‘Hatak’ and cleared his debt as a mark of respect for the man who had written the story, Krishan Chandar notes that Manto became sad and furious. Manto, he writes, was displeased and depressed and cried out, ‘Saala! He believes that Hatak is my good story, Hatak? Hatak is one of my worst stories.’
Around the time of the centenary of Manto’s birth, a major seminar to commemorate the author’s writings was held at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. At this event, scholars and writers from across South Asia paid tribute to the enfant terrible of Urdu letters, including Intizar Husain from Lahore.
Qurratulain Hyder, fondly known as Annie Apa, seems to be so present in her different characters in the novel Chandni Begum that meeting them in the novel brings back fond memories of her. Particularly in this novel in its English avatar, that emanates the Lucknavi ambience she understood so well.
‘Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?’ —John Updike. The fear of death is the most confounding of all fears. And also the most compelling. For, death is a certainty, a foretold conclusion of a life, any life. That which is born must die yet the feelings and emotions death evokes surpass the beauty and mystery and grief of life.
This is a collection of five long stories, rendered into English by the author himself, who first published it in Urdu in 2001 from Karachi, and, from Allahabad in 2003, with title, Savaar aur Doosray Afsanay (lit. The Rider and Other Stories). It is set in the 18th-19th centuries north India, specifically the region stretching from Delhi to Bihar.
When Jameel Akhtar took on the Herculean task of interviewing Qurratulain Hyder at length, her initial reaction was, ‘I don’t give interviews. I’m fed up with people. All those stupid boring questions, the same old stuff repeated over and over again, talking rot—No! No!’
For avid readers of Urdu who may not be its scholars, Urdu prose, especially,
genres such as short stories and novels mostly trigger the names of Prem Chand, Qurratulain Haider, Saadat Hasan Manto, Ismat Chughtai, Rajender Singh Bedi, Krishan Chandar and the like.
The All India Progressive Writers’ Movement (AIPWM) has engendered much interest among scholars and academics. Most histories and critical estimations of Urdu literature dwell on the radicalization it brought about.
Tum Kabir (2017) is the seventh col-lection of poems of Fatima Riaz—a celebrated Progressive Urdu writer of Pakistan who challenged both the traditional form and idioms that have dominated Urdu poetry since its inception.
In his important essay, ‘The Task of the Translator’, German philosopher Walter Benjamin argues that the aim of translation is not to convey the literal meaning of the original, but rather to show how two languages are related to one another through their connection to a greater, imaginary language.
A biography of Faiz in English has long been overdue. There has been a biography in Urdu by the distinguished Russian Writer/Urdu scholar Ludmila Vasilyeva, friend and translator of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Faiz: Hayat Aur Takhleeqat,
This is an endearing biography of Raghupati Sahay or ‘Firaq Gorakhpuri’ one of the great Urdu poets of the last century. Written by a close relative it is an admiring but not uncritical portrait of the poet and largely based on conversations with and personal diaries and letters of the poet’s other close relatives.
David J. Matthews’s translation of the Urdu and Persian verses by Iqbal opens up a world of ideas and events that Iqbal has witnessed/thought about in his works. The text of each poem included in this book is followed by a brief commentary to showcase the historical and the literary context.
Majmua-e-Jeelani Bano (2017) is a compilation of short stories and letters of Jeelani Bano, one of the important literary voices of Urdu literature of the twentieth century. A recipient of Padma Shri, the highest civilian award, Bano has about 22 books to her credit and has dabbled in varied genres from short story to novel, stories for children and writing for television.
With the title, Nasir Abbas Nayyar throws a gauntlet in front of readers—it is not appropriate to think of him, Miraji, as a person, an individual, a shakhs. Nayyar qualifies this statement with the subtitle: readings of Miraji’s poetry and prose.
Is newspaper column an art or science? Probably a column doesn’t fall in either of these two categories that have been traditionally in vogue to define diverse, though not antagonist, serious productions of the human mind.
Naiyer Masud’s short stories bring to mind the writings of mavericks like Haruki Murakami, Jose Saramago, Franz Kafka, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Walser, Jorge Luis Borges and many more. However, he carves out a separate place for himself within the literary oeuvre.
Mark Twain is believed to have said, ‘Humanity has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug, push it a little, weaken it a little, century by century, but only humour can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.’
Julien Columeau has been critically praised for the elasticity he brings to his adopted language through his narrative style and content. Though his stories are first written in French, his natural language, he finds it similar to a Baroque painter’s exercise to transfer them to Urdu and in this translation, he recreates and rewrites his stories.
A book of eight chapters, Rohzin or The Melancholy of the Soul, by Rahman Abbas is a veritable feast for the mind. In Urdu ‘rohzin’ is a word that the author coins to signify the souls of people hurt by witnessing the betrayal of their parents with their partners.
As a child I used to be fascinated by the street magicians (madåri) in my hometown of Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh. At the sound of their dugdugi drum I was pulled like all the neighbourhood children to watch the show. The magician would sit down, put his hand into his bag of tricks and say, ‘I have something amazing to show you…’