Precarious Beings And Impossible Dreams
Maryam Mirza
WHAT WILL YOU GIVE FOR THIS BEAUTY? by Ali Akbar Natiq Penguin Books, 2017, 217 pp., 299
October 2017, volume 41, No XLI

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. Although never didactic, Natiq’s stories are expressly concerned with the plight of the downtrodden and the many forms that human cruelty can assume.

Much like Manto’s fiction, the stories in this collection are characterized by a sparse, precise language and the deft use of irony, and are peopled by a diverse array of characters: out-of-luck acrobats and bad-tempered barbers, malevolent maulvis and self-serving landlords, distraught pimps and prostitutes hoping for a better life for their children, in addition to a dog that seems to have a mind of its own.

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