FaizFaiFor some reason, whenever I think of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, I think of poets like Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz, which is not fair because Faiz was neither a South American poet nor were Neruda or Paz poets of exile like Faiz. God knows what led me to forge this image of Faiz in my mind because in 1984, when he passed away, I was still a child, and I might have seen the pictures of this celebrated poet in Urdu literary journals that were still alive and kicking in India at that time.

When I think hard about that image now, it dawns on me that I might have gathered this impression of Faiz because I remembered him as a cultural ambassador from the Indian sub-continent – Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had appointed Faiz to the National Council of the Arts after his incarceration had ended. Later on, he had also won the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963 for his poems that had been translated into Russian.

Elita Karim interviews the British Pakistani writer, journalist, and filmmaker Tariq Ali in Dhaka

Tariq_AliAli is scheduled to start off the Hay Festival today, along with Syed Manzoorul Islam and Ahdaf Soueif at the Bangla Academy. “I would rather call it the Dhaka Literature Festival,” says Tariq Ali. “I don’t attend the Hay festivals in Britain. The only reason why I am here is because the festival is happening in Dhaka. And I am here after a long time.”

The last time Ali was in Dhaka, he spoke to students under a mango tree, prodding them to go for independence and not autonomy. “There were gasps everywhere! It was probably in 1969 or 1970,” he says. “I remember asking them if I should speak in Urdu or English. Everyone chanted together — ‘ENGLISH!’”

Fahmida Riaz on the wordless apartheid practiced against progressive literature in Pakistan in The Dawn

In Pakistani literature, an undeclared, wordless apartheid has been practiced against progressive literature, or what is known the world over as engaged literature. Consequently, in most books of literary criticism, references to engaged literature are conspicuous by their absence, unless a work is open to some other interpretation such as lyricism, imagism, surrealism or even structuralism, a comparatively new entrant in the jargon of our Urdu literati.