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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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Rohzin: First Urdu novel to be discussed in Germany

Das Stadt(1)

Rahman Abbas will read from Rohzin in Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Munich, Mainz & Bonn

Rohzin, Rahman Abbas’s fourth novel, was released in 2016 at the Jashn-e-Rekhta Festival, Delhi. Since its launch, the novel has been widely discussed in the Urdu world both in India and Pakistan. In 2017, the Hindu Lit for Life festival hosted a session on Rohzin with critic Shafey Kidwai in discussion with Rahman Abbas. The Seemanchal, TISS and Dehradun Literature festivals also invited the author to read out from the novel. In 2016, Rawal TV, Canada’s Urdu television, broadcast an hour-long debate on the novel in which critics from India and Pakistan participated.

Gopi Chand Narang, the former President of Sahitya Academy, described Rohzin as a turning point in the history of Urdu novels, while eminent Pakistani author Mustansar Hussain Tarar called it a fearless creative narration. In 2017, Rohzin won the Maharashtra State Academy Award (Abbas had won the award for his first novel too, Khuda Ke Saaye Mein Ankh Micholi – Hide and Seek in the Shadow of God).

Rohzin grabbed the attention of German linguist and Urdu translator Almuth Degener who translated it for Draupadi Verlag under the German title Die Stadt, Das Meer, Die Liebe (The City, the Sea and the Love). The translated version was launched in Switzerland in February 2018.

Rahman Abbas has been invited to undertake a literary tour in various German cities from 23 May to 15 June, during which he will participate in reading sessions and meet his German readers. The tour is sponsored by Draupadi Verlag, Akademie Villigst and Indisches Kulturinstitut e.V (The Indian Cultural Institute).

Rahman Abbas

According to the website of the Indian Cultural Institute, Rahman Abbas will be reading from his novel at Pfalzer Hof-Heidelberg, Indian Consulate General, Frankfurt, Mainz, Munich, and at University of Heidelberg. In addition, the author will attend a three-day conference on the topic ‘The Megacities in Literature’ in Schwerte, organized by Academy Villigst. During this conference where Rohzin will be discussed, Rahman Abbas will also share his experience of living in Bombay and how it has affected his writing. In Bonn University, the author will read from the novel and speak on the future of Urdu in India.

Kitaab International has obtained the rights to publish the English translation of Rohzin.


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Book Review: Gold Dust of Begum Sultans

gold-dust

The book under review was originally published as an Urdu novel, Sunehri Rait, in 1989. The acknowledgements indicate that the current version is “not strictly a translation” because the translators “have taken artistic license, adding drama to a narrative which was linear and factually written”, but there is nothing to indicate where the factual ends and license begins. Gold Dust of Begum Sultans was also the title of an exhibition showcasing the lives of the Rohillas who made Rampur their home after being defeated in battle by the Nawab of Awadh. Though the book’s Preface tells us that the story is “about an adjacent riyasat, Mohammadpur”, all signs point to a thinly transformed narrative of the Rohilla Pathans.

A criterion for any successful historical novel, even one which flaunts its artistic license, is how well it combines history and fiction to create an absorbing story line, and the present novel begins on an encouraging note. While the city sleeps, Akbar Ali Khan’s household is humming with activity. Walls are stripped bare of their rare paintings, the floors of Persian carpets. The overwhelming sense of secrecy and stealth suggests that this is no normal occurrence. It is, we learn soon enough, an escape from his nephew Nawab Asad Ali Khan. Unfortunately this initial suspense gives way to a tedious recounting of Akbar Ali Khan’s pedigree before digressing into a long, not particularly interesting enumeration of the Nawab’s sexual escapades. Any potential critique of the exploitation of the women he ravishes gets buried in this never-ending morass, and it requires considerable willpower to overcome one’s gut inclination to shut the book at this point and not read any further. Read more