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The Bookstore That Brought Together Urdu’s Literary Greats

(From The Wire. Link to the interview given below)

For 88-year old Shahid Ali Khan, Urdu literature has been a lifelong passion. His journey with Maktaba Jamia, a publishing house and bookstore, took him from Delhi to Mumbai in 1957, where he befriended renowned Urdu writers and poets like Sahir Ludhianvi, Jan Nisar Akhtar, Meena Kumari and Jagan Nath Azad.

Now running his own small publishing house called ‘Nai Kitab’, which is tucked away in a quiet lane in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, Khan takes us down memory lane and talks about his contributions to Urdu.

Watch the video at The Wire link here

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How a Pakistani novelist and translator learned to love dictionaries

(From Zocalo Public Square. Link to the complete article given below)

An image from a winter morning in Hyderabad, Pakistan, when I was four, forms my earliest memory of literacy.

Bundled up in layers of sweaters, I am reciting from an Urdu newspaper as I sit astride my neighbor’s pet goat. I am certain that the sequence of words or their relationships to each other made no sense to me. But my prowess in reading individual words made the exercise as meaningful and empowering as the ability to ride the goat.

That pride, perhaps, explained my ecumenical approach to reading texts in my native language. Possessed by the joy of recognizing words, I did not pass judgment as to the nature of the content, but devoured everything, from my grandfather’s homeopathy manuals to legal documents and exercise guides for warding off old age. A devoted reader does not discriminate between one arrangement of words and another, or between words and numbers. For someone in my situation, Anna Karenina and the railway timetable were one.

As I grew up and moved to Karachi and then Toronto, however, the order and meaning of words took on agonizing importance. I made language my career, becoming a novelist and translator of Urdu classics.

Expanding on the latter role, I eventually developed programs to reintroduce Urdu literature into schools in Pakistan and teach children the vocabulary necessary to understand them. Along the way, I would compile the Urdu language’s first online thesaurus. Oddly enough, it was not the early experience reading astride a goat that shaped my approach in working with children, but a more unfortunate early memory that served as a cautionary tale.

Read more at this Zocalo Public Square link


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

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

Gonsenheim

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).

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Reading at Indian Consulate General (Frankfurt)

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Mumtaz Ahmad’s riveting selection of ‘Afsanay’ serve to enrich Urdu Literature

Mumtaz Ahmad Sheikh has a passion to serve the literary community the world as far as Urdu literature is concerned. He has ventured to capture selected Afsana (short story) writings from 1901 to 2017 in his quarterly magazine, ‘Lowh’ (June – December 2017) as a gift from Old Ravians (old students of Government College, Lahore) to the present students of Urdu literature. Starting with traditional Hamd-o-Naat and Salaam sessions, he gives the selected stories for six eras; first era from Akhtar Aureenvi to Niaz Fatehpuri, second era from Ahmad Ali to Rasheed Jahan, third era from Akhtar Ansari Dehelvi to Mumtaz Mufti, fourth era from Agha Babar to Hajira Masroor, fifth era from Agha Gul to Younis Javed and the sixth from Asif Farkhi to Nuzhat Abbasi. It was Mumtaz Sheikh’s dream since forty years to start a literary magazine, and the closure of Naqoosh, Auraq, Funoon and Symbol encouraged him to start this venture – an effort he has carried out selflessly.

Selecting the short stories in alphabetical order, he has only picked those of six eras of the twentieth century to-date. He does not include critical appraisals or criticism to avoid any uncalled for debate among the rival groups prevalent in literary factions (Page 16). The pattern of writing short stories, themes, and change in techniques are some of the areas that can be appreciated in his present selection. Mumtaz had to undergo a lot of trouble especially when it came to collecting short stories of the pre-independence era (before 1947). This reviewer had no option but to take a sample from each era and see the changes in themes, writing styles etc. if any.

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Ather Farouqui

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

To be honest, I haven’t enjoyed writing for a long time now for reasons beyond my control. I enjoy reading mainly contemporary texts in English. I also read a lot of Urdu poetry, mainly classical poets and poets of modern sensibility, including the modernist poets of the Progressive Writers Movement.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

 My latest translation is of The Life and Poetry of  Bahdaur Shah Zafar written by Aslam Parvez. My endeavour was to make a wonderful book that has for long been confined to a narrow Urdu readership available to the wider English-speaking world.  Continue reading


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The significant other

By Tabish Khair

nameless3

A collection of Urdu stories that question implicit generalisations about writings from small towns

An anthology of Urdu short stories translated into English is rare enough these days. An anthology of 20th century Urdu short stories written by writers mostly based in Bihar and translated into English is almost unheard of. That is why Nameless Lanes, translated and edited by Syed Sarwar Hussain, deserves attention.

Nameless Lanes contains 18 stories by Urdu writers based for much or all of their life in places like Patna, Kako, Gaya and Bhagalpur. Of these, I knew one well and had heard of two. All the others are new even to me, a writer from Bihar. It redounds to Syed Sarwar Hussain’s and his Singapore-based publisher’s credit that such an anthology has been published at all, along with the required introductions to the authors and their works.

Like all anthologies, this is a mixed bag of stories, some of which appeal more than others. They also range from stories that are closer to the traditional dastaan form in sensibility and stories that are entirely modernist in ethos, as well as many in between. Read more

Source: The Hindu


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Urdu festival Jashn-e-Rekhta begins in Delhi

By Supriya Sharma

In the season of spring and literary festivals, this perhaps is the sweetest offering and the biggest of its kind. The third edition of Urdu festival Jashn-e-Rekhta (JeR) opened this Friday and over the weekend, scholars, writers, poets, singers, artists and admirers of the language will gather at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in Delhi to celebrate Urdu in all its forms. The roster of the two-and-a-half-day festival includes panel discussions, dastangoi (storytelling) sessions, mushairas, qawwalis, ghazals, baitbaazi, street plays – to be held simultaneously across four venues – as well as a book exhibition, a calligraphy workshop, the Urdu Bazaar (presenting the antiquities and handicrafts of Old Delhi), a food festival, and more.

“This year, we’re trying to revive baitbaazi, which is like antakshari but with Urdu poetry, by showcasing it at the bigger venue, the stage lawn,” explains Sanjiv Saraf, festival director and founder of the Rekhta Foundation. “We’re also having a number of mushairas this year: a grand mushaira, one for women poets, one for the youth and another focusing on humour and satire.”

The festival will host over a 100 eminent speakers from the world of cinema, arts and culture, including lyricist-poet Gulzar, screenwriter and playwright Javed Siddiqui, adman and lyricist Prasoon Joshi, Urdu poet Wasim Barelvi, actor-director Saurabh Shukla, actor Nadira Babbar, journalist Saeed Naqvi, food critic and historian Pushpesh Pant, actor Sharmila Tagore, advocate-littérateur Saif Mahmood, poet-politician Kumar Vishwas and actor-radio host Annu Kapoor. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times


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Call for Papers: Conference on the Popular Culture of Urdu to be held in New Delhi

Tasveer-e Urdu and the Centre for Indian Languages (SLLCS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), plan to hold a two-day conference on the popular culture of Urdu language on 8-9 September 2017 in New Delhi. The organisers seek proposals of presentations that can lead to engaging discussions on the theme, outlined in the concept note shared below.

For submissions, a short abstract (not more than one page) should be sent in Urdu or English, with a short bio of the presenter’s past work, latest by 10 April 2017 to conference@tasveereurdu.in.

Once the submitted abstract/concept is selected for participation, the selected submissions will have to send the full paper (5000 to 8000 words, in Urdu or English) by August 10, 2017.

For more details visit: www.tasveereurdu.in

Concept Note:

While Urdu is typically celebrated as a language of romance and classical poetry by Ghalib, Mir, and Faiz etc., its lesser-acknowledged popular culture of movie songs, detective fiction, ghazal gayeki, poetry inscribed behind vehicles, mushairas, and qawwalis, has probably kept the language alive and kicking among the masses even as its more virtuous practitioners lament that Urdu is dying in India. So what are these popular forms that continue to thrive in the underbelly of classical Urdu and how different they are from its elite cultural life? More importantly, where does one draw a line between popular and classical in Urdu? Although some examples mentioned above are part of what we call ‘popular culture’, these were never really disconnected from what can be called ‘classical’. Urdu is not a monolithic entity in time and space – it has been changing over centuries in its vocabulary, usage, demographics and poetics. There have been multiple dilutions within Urdu that have redefined the notions of ‘Classical’ and ‘Popular’, not to mention the local or regional differences in Urdu’s use.

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Rekindle Your Love For Books

If the idea of surrounding yourself with books gives you a throwback feel and comfort, then the ongoing New Delhi World Book Fair is where you should be. People trotted around with a baggage of books purchased from the fair, including several titles by evergreen authors. Many of them expressed their happiness at the arrangements made at the festival. “We had less cash with us but it was a relief to see that almost all the stalls are accepting cards. There is also a mobile ATM van and I think sufficient arrangements have been made for a hassle-free fair,” said Ankush Bhatia, a visitor.

The theme of this year is Manushi, focussing on writings on and by women, from ancient times till the present. The Pavilion had an impressive ambience, decked with hoardings and posters of women scholars and writers. “We have a large collection of works by women. Some of them are in Hindi and Urdu, while others are in English. And it came to us as a pleasant surprise that the buyers for these books are not only women but also the men. They all seem interested,” said Sandeep Ahuja from Surachna Publications. Over 600 books on and by women in different genres and in all major Indian languages were on display. Sandeep also told us that panels and posters of major women authors, saint-poets, philosophers, and social reformers belonging to the ancient medieval India as well as modern India will also be displayed.

“Out of all the languages, there has been an increase in sales for Urdu language books. Young students are finding the poetry and the Urdu literature very fascinating. Though compared to other language books, the sales are not very high but there has been an increase for sure,” said Alam Khan from Al-Sayeed Publications. Read more

Source: The Pioneer 


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Santokh Singh Dhir’s delightful short stories are tinged with music and humour

By Moazzam Sheikh

Santokh Singh Dhir’s Merian Saras Kahaniyan is a delightful little book. Through the phrase ‘a delightful little book’, I mean to suggest that the book’s strongest point is its language, which is tinged with music and humour. The rustic and rooted Punjabi of the book belongs to a part of Punjab that the author knows well, where the toll of standardisation or tyranny of Hindi/Urdu has been kept at bay.

At the beginning of the book, Dhir tells the reader that the selected stories in the book are one-third of his total output. It would have helped if the indefatigable Maqsood Saqib, the publisher, had also provided an introduction of Dhir, to place him within the context of modern Punjabi literature, along with a list of his entire corpus.

By and large, all the stories delight the reader not just in encountering Dhir’s thoughts and insights but also when his various characters engage in conversations. To both the initiated and otherwise, comprehending what is written on the paper could be a challenge. But that’s exactly what is pleasurable about his work. Read more

Source: The News on Sunday