Rohzin in Germany – The Urdu novel that has attracted readers in the West

‘The novel unravels the complexity of human relations’- Martin Gieselmann


Rahman Abbas, Musician Jan Köhler and Dr Almuth Degener

Twice Academy award winning Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas has astonished the world of Urdu literature with his fourth novel Rohzin, which has been in discussions in the mainstream media since its publication on the occasion of Jashn-e-Rekhta, 2016. The novel has been praised by stalwarts of Urdu literature in both India and Pakistan, like, Gopi Chand Narang, Sayyed Muhammad Ashraf, Shafey Kidwai, Nizam Siddiqui, Mustansar Hussain Tarar, Baland Iqbal, Salahuddin Darwesh, Neelam Bashir and Muhammad Hameed Shahid.

Rohzin is one of those rare Indian novels that have been translated into a European language soon after publication and received praise from academics, professors, artists and students abroad. German linguist and translator Almuth Degener translated Rohzin in German and Draupadi Verlag published it in February 2018. The German title Die Stadt, Das Meer, Die Liebe (The City, They Sea, The Love) was first launched and discussed in Switzerland in a three day literary event, ‘The Day of Indian Literature’ organized by Literaturehaus, Zurich.

Recently, Rahman Abbas was invited to undertake a literary tour from 23 March to 15 June to attend the readings of his novel at South Asian Institute (Heidelberg University), Bonn University, Ev. Akademie (Villigst), Indian Consulate (Frankfurt), Café Mouseclick, Tisch Hochst, Pakban (Frankfurt), Lokalezeitung, Gonsenheim (Mainz), Pfalzer Hof Schonau (Bei, Heidelberg), Bickelmann Family (Heidelberg). Most of the events were organized with the cooperation of Draupadi Verlag and Literature Forum Indian, and South Asian Institution (Heidelberg).


Reading at Indian Consulate General (Frankfurt)

Indian Literature Forum organized a three-day conference in Villigst on the topic ‘Megacities in South Asian literature’ in which authors and experts on South Asian literature participated. In the conference, Rohzin was discussed along with other major novels written in the sub-continent and garnered praise for bringing the different colours and shades of Mumbai in front of the readers. Rahman Abbas conducted a workshop with students of Indology and discussed the current sociopolitical situation of India and literature. At the Indian Consulate (Frankfurt), Consulate General Ms. Pratibha Parkar welcomed the guests; well-known translator and Indologist Ms Heidemarie Pandey introduced Rahman Abbas and said that he is one of those young authors making contemporary Indian literature known abroad.

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Indologist Mrs Heidemarie Pandey, Dr Almuth Degener and Rahman Abbas

In Heidelberg University, Dr Hans Harder, the head of the South Asian Institution, read out from the German text and spoke in detail about the craft and theme of the novel. Dr Hans described Rohzin as a Bombay novel, a love story, a coming of age novel and a novel about apocalyptic rain. In addition, Executive Secretary of SAI, Martin Gieselmann said in an interview that Rohzin is a comprehensive novel which reveals more about human relationships; to understand the leitmotif of the book multiple readings of the text are necessary.


Dr Hans Hader, head of South Asian Studies (Heidelberg University) reading from the novel

In Bonn University, the South Asian Studies Head, Prof. Dr Carmen Brandt introduced Rahman Abbas and spoke about his journey as an author and invited him to speak on the topic ‘No Future – Urdu in Contemporary India’. Rahman said in his speech that Urdu and Hindi are one language but politics of hate has inflicted damages on the Urdu script. Urdu is the language of love and one of the most liberal and secular languages. Urdu won’t get rights equal to Hindi and hatred would continue as a political weapon in India.

German Radio’s Hindi service in Bonn interviewed Rahman Abbas and Almuth Degener for its ‘Facebook live’ stream in which Rahman talked about the negative influence of Hindutva politics on Indian society and how Indian intellectuals and journalists have been murdered by right wing organizations. The Bickelmann family had organized a reading from Rozhin for those scholars, authors and bureaucrats who had lived in Mumbai. During the meet, Art Historian Ursula Bickelmann said that Rohzin is like an Indian Raga; it flows throughout the novel. The Pakistani community also participated in the reading organized by Pakban at Café Mouseclick, Tisch Hochst (Frankfurt) and the organizer Amir Mansoor praised the German translation of Rohzin, stating that after ages, an Urdu novel has attracted readers in the West.


Rahman Abbas and Dr Alumth Degener with Head of German Radio (Hindi Service) Mahesh Jha 

During the tour, Rahman spent time with German authors, poets, journalist, musicians and readers and exchanged his views on Indian literature.

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