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Book Review: Rohzin by Rahman Abbas

Reviewed by Nabina Das

(This review was first published in India Book Review. Re-published here with the author’s permission.)

Rohzin

 

Title: Rohzin
Author: Rahman Abbas
Publisher: Arshia Publications & Mumba Books India
Pages: 354

 

A book of eight chapters, Rohzin or The Melancholy of the Soul, by Rahman Abbas is a veritable feast for the mind. In Urdu ‘rohzin” is a word that the author coins to signify the souls of people hurt by witnessing the betrayal of their parents with their partners. What ensues is a story of love, lust, belonging, rejection and identity spread lush across the city of Bombay. The core setting, as described in the novel, is a space in the throes of monsoon, perhaps the most defining of seasons in this city by the Arabian Sea.

Rohzin, the author’s fourth novel, has been translated into English by Sabika Abbas Naqvi, and is soon to be published. Its German translation by linguist Almuth Degener has been published in January 2018 by Draupadi Verlag and Literaturhaus (Zurich, Switzerland) has organized its release function on 23 February 2018.

One might recall that Marquez — who is quoted at the novel’s outset — has said in his “The Art of Fiction No. 69” interview with The Paris Review:

‘It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.’

Speaking of imagination and reality readily transmigrating into each other’s realms, Rahman Abbas’ craft could perhaps be called Marquez-esque, but that would be too easy a deliberation. Even then, the vision of Konkan that he evokes is of ‘wildest imagination’. This is juxtaposed with scenes of reality and fantasy jostling together in the deep urban underbelly of Bombay.

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An Open Letter to the PM of Pakistan

From: Rahman Abbas

Mumbai, India

20/1/2017

 

To,

Mr. Prime Minister of Pakistan

Mian Nawaz Sharif

SUBJECT:  Appeal to ensure the safety and release of missing poet and bloggers.

Dear Sir,

I’m an Indian Urdu novelist and a person who has spoken against fanatic elements of my own country who indulge in activities against the principles of democracy and secularism. I have also protested against groups of fundamentalists accused of killing writers and critics of rotten religious practices in our country. Additionally, I am one among the Indian writers who returned their respective awards as a symbolic protest against fundamentalism and intolerance.

With this brief introduction about my concern for principles of secularism and the creative fraternity, I am drawing your attention towards the missing poet and bloggers in your country. Since Pakistan is a wonderful country that cherishes democracy, a country where human dignity and freedom of thought is revered and valued, it is saddening that poets and writers have been made to disappear. Sir, I needn’t say that it is a serious threat to what you stand for i.e. freedom of thought and freedom of dissent. I have witnessed that you take a stand for rights of minorities in your country and value contribution of writers and poets.

Sir, it is true that one can disagree with someone’s views on social changes and reforms, but in that case, we have laws and legal processes to punish people who hurt the emotions of others or use offensive language. But there is no situation in which silencing of thinkers and disappearance of a person would be acceptable as it is against the basic principles of Islam and democracy. Sir, you must be aware of the “mysteriously” missing poet and academicians Salman Haider, Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, Ahmed Raza Naseer and Samar Abbas, and must have also felt the pain of the families of these young minds.

Sir, on Thursday 19th January, the Interior Minister of Pakistan Chaudhury Nisar Ali Khan had also taken note of the matter and stated that there was an ongoing negative propaganda on social media against the bloggers. The Interior Minister has also stated on 10th January that he was in contact with intelligence agencies and was hopeful of finding Salman Haider. However, the disappointment is increasing with every passing day. Hence your intervention is needed in the safe and sound recovery of all human rights and social activists.

Sir, I’m appealing to you to look into this critical matter with personal interest and ensure the safety of people who want Pakistan to be a true democratic and secular nation.

 

14910525_1318428548170182_6247381451463410303_nYours sincerely,

Rahman Abbas

rahmanabbas@gmail.com


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Win for Free Speech in India: Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas’ Novel Cleared of Obscenity Charges

Award-winning Urdu writer Rahman Abbas

Award-winning Urdu writer Rahman Abbas

On 19 August 2016, a lower court in Mumbai delivered a judgment on a ten-year-old case against the Urdu novel Nakhlistan ki Talash (In Search of an Oasis). The novel and its author, Rahman Abbas, were acquitted of obscenity charges made under the colonial-era Section 292 (sale of obscene books) of the Indian Penal Code. Abbas feels free today, and vindicated, and so do all readers and writers. But he spent ten years searching for an oasis without regressive, outdated laws, where writers and readers can do what they must without supervision by the thought police.

The book, a romance set in Mumbai after the 1992-93 riots, takes on two themes Rahman Abbas has returned to time and again: love and politics. In 2005, a nineteen year old Mumbai student lodged a complaint against the novel, objecting that two paragraphs in it were “objectionable and obscene”. The publisher, distributor and author were charged. The police went to the author’s home to arrest him. He spent a night in jail; the allegation cost him his job as a school teacher. It also brought him vilification from fundamentalists and sections of the Urdu media for questioning “religion” and “the existence of God”.

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India: Writers Step Up Protest, 6 More Return Sahitya Akademi Awards

Gujarat-based writer Ganesh Devy, ‘Yuva Puraskar’-winning author Aman Sethi and four other eminent writers from Punjab returned their Sahitya Akademi awards on Sunday. Kannada writer Aravind Malagatti resigned from the body’s general council, joining the growing protest by writers over “rising intolerance” and “communal” atmosphere.

The 1983-born Aman Sethi’s ‘A Free Man’, a book of narrative reportage, had bagged the Akademi’s award for young writers under the age of 35 in 2012. The Mumbai-based writer said that he is returning his award as he was “shocked” at the literary body’s refusal to take “a firm stance” on the killing of rationalist writer MM Kalburgi. Continue reading