Nostalgia and Lament
Baran Farooqi
THE COLLECTOR’S CHUGHTAI: HER CHOICEST STORIES by Ismat Chughtai. Translated from the original Urdu by Tahira Naqvi Women Unlimited, 2021, 362 pp., 675.00
October 2021, volume 45, No 10

The Collectors’ Chughtai is a collection of twenty-nine short stories by Ismat Apa, or Ismat, as she is popularly referred to in the Urdu literary circles. Tahira Naqvi, who has translated other works by Chughtai, is the translator for this volume. Women Unlimited have once again done a favour to readers of translated Urdu afsanas and admirers of Ismat. Chughtai’s works regularly feature in graduate and postgraduate courses of literature or culture studies the world over. This is interesting since her works were first translated from Urdu to English not earlier than 1990, a year before her death. Although she was already well known among lovers of Urdu and Indian literature, this is no mean accomplishment, even if part of her fame is owed to her being sued for obscenity. Being a woman writer of Urdu afsana, she was bound to raise eyebrows amongst readers. As Naqvi says in the Introduction, initially readers presumed that it was her brother, Azim Beg Chughtai who was writing under a fresh name, but of course they were puzzled as to why he needed to do so.

Naqvi is one of the two prominent translators of Ismat. The other is M Asaduddin, who, apart from translating her short stories, has also translated her slightly incomplete autobiography, Kaghazi Hai Pairahan, or A Life in Words. Naqvi has translated four of Ismat’s novellas (published by Women Unlimited as The Chughtai Quartet), her short stories and her semi-autobiographical novel, Tedhi Lakeer, or The Crooked Line.

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