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. I know this because I saw his photograph on the back inner cover—smirking toothlessly, cigarette in hand—and the twinkle in his eyes screamed mischief. All of the stories, and the one eponymous novella in the compendium Love in Chakiwara and Other Misadventures are shot through with the same searing glance, and a pen dipped in the poison that is satire. To understand why the legendary Faiz Ahmad Faiz called it ‘the greatest novel in the Urdu language’, one must go directly and drink from the fount. Bilal Tanweer has done the non-Urdu speaking world a great favour by translating the works of Akhtar into the English language. Tanweer’s own economy of prose was demonstrated in his brilliant fictional work The Scatter Here Is Too Great. A tightly narrated set of interconnected stories brought Karachi alive. Both these skill sets—a deep love and understanding of the city, and control over language—stand Tanweer in good stead in translating Akhtar’s stories, maintaining the cutting quality of writing so crucial to humour. Akhtar’s stories are set in Chakiwara, a small division of Lyari Town neighbourhood of Karachi.
October 2017, volume 41, No XLI