Tag Archives: Urdu

The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Rakhshanda Jalil

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

Let me tweak Descartes and say, ‘I write; therefore I am.’ I think by now it is almost a compulsion; it defines who I am.

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

I always have more than one in various stages. So, there is a biography of the Urdu poet Shahryar which is almost two-thirds done; a translation of a novel by Krishan Chandar called Ghaddar which my publishers are hoping to pitch as a partition novel next year (2017 marks the 70th year of the annus horribilis that was 1947); an edited volume of critical writings on Ismat Chughtai which is nearly done; and a translated volume of short stories and poems by Gulzar on the partition, again due in 2017 to mark the 70th anniversary. And lurking somewhere in the future is a travelogue – on Ghalib’s journey from Delhi to Calcutta and back in the early 19th century.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

KLF LogoI worked for years as an editor in various publishing houses. I have also written journalistic pieces for various newspapers. My training for the Ph D taught me diligence and painstaking research. And then I have also been a translator for decades now. So all of these ‘roles’ have defined my writing style. As an editor, I produce a clean copy and have learnt over the years to do a self edit of everything I write. As a translator, I trained myself to do a close reading of texts and also learnt to value words and tease out their exact meanings. As a columnist, I learnt to write quickly and meet deadlines and be considered a reliable and swift writer. As a researcher, I learnt there are no short cuts to producing good writing. So everything comes together in a happy mix! Read more

Writing is like making love: An interview with Mustansar Hussain Tarar

by Muhammad Asim Butt & Mushtaq Bilal

Mustansar Hussain Tarar

Mustansar Hussain Tarar

Lined with trees on both sides, a narrow alley leads one to the cloistered quarters of the house where Mustansar Hussain Tarar writes. He spends most of his day in this room. Almost all of his novels, travelogues, plays, and columns were written in this room. Despite being in the vicinity of Firdous Market, this particular neighborhood in Gulberg III has an air of tranquility about it. There are two parks in front of Tarar’s house. A few years ago, when I went to meet him for the first time, he had said, while giving directions, “There is a park right in front of the house, with a slide for kids. If you look in the direction in which kids slide down, you’ll be able to see my house.” The slide is no longer there.

The room opens into a small, narrow hall full of antiques worth thousands of dollars. Tarar has been collecting antiques for decades.

There is a kind of deliberation to the way Tarar’s writing table is arranged. Coffee mug-shaped penholders sit in a neat queue by the wall on his writing table, with pens, pencils, paper cutters, sharpeners, a letter opener, and a stapler stowed separately. There is also a solitary ashtray sitting on the table. On one side of the table, there is the latest issue of Loh (The Slate) along with a couple of files and a few documents. There is another table in the room with a folding tabletop. Tarar told me that the carpenter who made the table had died and that this was probably one of the last tables of its kind. He lifted the tabletop and slid open a wooden tray, which converted it into a writing table.

Right next to this table is a tall cupboard stuffed with books. A few paintings hang on one of the walls. One of them is by Sadequain. A huge portrait of Tarar by Saeed Akhtar hangs on the wall adjacent to his writing table. Saeed Akhtar also made a bust of Tarar’s, which is placed on the table by the sofa. There is another portrait of Tarar’s made by Bashir Mirza, which depicts Tarar as a carefree vagrant. Read more

Writing fiction is what fires me: Interview with Marion Molteno

by Zafar Anjum

MarionMarion Molteno’s writing reflects the breadth of her life experience. She grew up in South Africa where she was active in opposition to the apartheid regime. She lived in Zambia at a time of profound social change, has pioneered educational projects in multi-ethnic communities in the UK, and worked for Save the Children in many of the poorest areas of Asia and Africa. Her latest novel, Uncertain Light, is set in the world of international aid workers, much of it in Central Asia in the years following the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union. If you can walk, you can dance, the story of a young woman’s life on the run across frontiers and cultures, was awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize for the best book in the Africa region, and was selected for the top 20 books in the Women’s Writers Festival in New Zealand. A Shield of Coolest Air, set among Somali asylum seekers, won the David St John Thomas Award for fiction. Somewhere More Simple is set on the Isles of Scilly and explores relationships among outsiders in a small community cut off from the mainland. Her short story collection, A Language in Common, reflects the experiences of South Asian women in Britain in the 1980s, and has been translated into Panjabi, Urdu and Bengali.  She has written and lectured on language, education and development. The books which grew out of her experience with Save the Children have been translated into many languages and used across the world. She studied Urdu with the scholar Ralph Russell, and edits his writing on Urdu literature.

Tell us about Uncertain Light

It starts when an Indian humanitarian worker is taken hostage in Tajikistan during a civil war – and the story follows those closest to him as they try to come to terms with what has happened.

It was inspired by years of working with Save the Children in countries across Asia. But essentially – like many good stories! – it’s about love, and loss, and what it means to be human.

Read the first chapter of the novel Uncertain Light here (pdf):

Uncertain Light

The Indie Book Award – what is it?

It’s an international award for books published by independent publishers. It’s run from the US but gets entries from all over the world. Uncertain Light is a finalist in the general fiction category. They also give awards for specific categories: thrillers, science fiction, children’s fiction, etc.

Publishing these days is dominated by the giant conglomerates, yet there are so many independent publishers producing really good books, so it’s great to have these awards to recognise that. Smaller publishers are often more willing to take risks – give a space to more original writing – and that means they often come up with winners. Read more

India: Urdu writers asked to declare: My book not against the govt, nation

The form, received by several Urdu writers and editors over the past few months, also asks authors to provide signatures of two witnesses: The Indian Express

The National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), which operates under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, has introduced a form which requires authors of books NCPUL acquires annually to declare that the content will not be against the government or the country. The form, received by several Urdu writers and editors over the past few months, also asks authors to provide signatures of two witnesses. Originally circulated in Urdu, the form, accessed by The Indian Express, reads: “I son/daughter of confirm that my book/magazine titled which has been approved for bulk purchase by NCPUL’s monetary assistance scheme does not contain anything against the policies of the government of India or the interest of the nation, does not cause disharmony of any sort between different classes of the country, and is not monetarily supported by any government or non-government institution.”

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India: Urdu book fair a flop

Spread over 10 days, the Kul Hind Urdu Kitab Mela or the All-India Urdu Book Exhibition at the Quli Qutub Shah Stadium in Hyderabad was touted to be a grand book fair. One which would be a delight for lovers of the language. But a day before its conclusion, all the diacritics and its nuanced nastaliq script could not stop it from being a flop show, or so scores of publishers claim.

The book exhibition is a collaborative effort of the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language, a ministry of HRD agency , and the state’s own Urdu Academy (UA).Hundreds of titles stocked at its 123 stalls expectantly stare at a handful of visitors. “The exhibition has failed.I would have made as much as Rs 1.25 lakh in 10 days. I have sold books worth only Rs 6,000,” said Sultan Chowdhary , a Delhi-based publisher.

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Abdullah Hussain is undoubtedly the greatest realist in Urdu literature

His fiction has an unshakable power. It is firmly grounded in its soil and human nature: The Nation

Abdullah Hussain

Abdullah Hussain

Abdullah Hussain, author of some of the finest novels and short stories in Urdu literature, never liked to be in the limelight. Since the publishing of his first novel Udaas Naslein in 1961, which is considered Urdu’s second best novel after Aag Ka Darya and translated into English by the author himself under the title Weary Generations, Abdullah Hussain has been a big name in Urdu literature. However, the great man of letters had distaste for the set traditions and patterns of Urdu fiction, mediocre writers, unintelligent critics and perhaps most of all literary gatherings.

He emerged on the literary scene as a very promising new writer with a fresh voice and a different (odd for some) style and received the prestigious Adamjee Literary Award for his very first novel. But then he was nowhere to be seen for a very long time. Abdullah Hussain moved to England where he lived for four decades. Over the years he kept writing. Giving one great book after the other, novels, novellas, short stories but never became a part of Urdu literature’s Adabi Majlis tradition. In early 1990s, Abdullah Hussain came back home to research for his epic novel Nadaar Log and perhaps this was the beginning of the end of his years abroad. A few years ago, he separated from his wife and son and came back permanently to live with his daughter Noor Fatima. He remained the same old man in this new chapter of life, meeting very few people and living a quiet and private life.

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Reminiscing: Paying tribute to the gems of Urdu literature

The ‘Bayad-e-Raftagaan’ session held on Friday, the fourth and last day of the eighth annual Urdu International Conference, was graced by a number of significant faces from Urdu literature.

The memorable session, organised by Arts Council of Pakistan, was solely dedicated to the memories of the gems of Urdu literature. The speakers paid tribute to Jameeluddin Aali, Shahida Ahmed, Fatahyab Ali Khan, Raees Farogh, Ali Haider Malik and Jamal Mian Farangi Mahli.

Reminiscing the golden days of his life with Aali, critic and poet Professor Sahar Ansari said that Aali had innumerable qualities. Ansari added that Aali’s personality was not only restricted to one end but instead he was an open-minded person with various approaches to life.

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Reviving children’s Urdu literature

“Mein ne Urdu apni maan ke doodh ke sath pi hei!” (I have consumed my mother tongue, Urdu with her breastfeeding me). This is how I express love for the sweetest and most civilised language of the world; of course never to look down upon other languages as these all travel in the same boat. While my mother used to recite Urdu songs like, Chanda mamun door ke… and the lovely stories, it all got percolated into my soul and gave me the impetus to write kids’ stories while as a kid only. Read more

Abdullah Hussain: A giant in Urdu literature

Abdullah Hussain

Abdullah Hussain

Over fifty years have passed but it is still a daunting task to determine whether Abdullah Hussain created Udaas Naslain or it was the very novel that gave birth to Abdullah Hussain, who is still lives on despite the fact that he passed away last week. A chemical engineer by profession, Abdullah Hussain won the revered Adamjee award for his debut novel Udaas Naslain at the age of just 32, and that speaks volume about his excellence in writing.

His other literary works like Baagh, Nadaar Log, Qaid, Raat and collection of short stories named as Nashaib and Faraib further earned him acclaim during his life. He took as many as twelve years to write his second novel Baagh. He used to say that none of his other books was as dear to him as Baagh because he was of the view that a novelist was only as good as his second novel. Read more

Javed Akhtar, Ashok Vajpayee to explore the spirit of Urdu

Jashn-e RekhtaIndian and Pakistani writers Intizar Hussain, Javed Akhtar, Ashok Vajpayee, and Nida Fazli, among others will participate in an Urdu festival in Delhi to celebrate and explore the spirit of the language.

The two-day “Jashn-e-Rekhta” festival will begin March 14 and will bring together 60 renowned personalities from both the countries to celebrate Urdu language through performances, recitations, dastangoi, musical renditions, mushaira, dramas, panel discussions, film screenings and interactive sessions. Read more

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