A two-day Urdu literature festival will kick off at Comsats Institute of Information Technology on Friday. The afternoon session will be held at Islamabad hotel.

The festival, being organised by Perveen Shakir Trust, will provide an opportunity to writers, intellectuals and academics to discuss the challenges being faced by Urdu language. Prominent personalities including Mustansar Hussain Tarar and Talat Hussain will also attend the festival. Poetry and short stories will be narrated in an interesting way. Talat Hussain will recite the poetry of Noon Meem Rashid. A gazal evening will also be arranged where famous singer Sara Raza Khan will perform.

Frenchman Julien Columeau reading in Urdu at a bookstore in Lahore. PHOTO: AFP

Frenchman Julien Columeau came to Pakistan at the age of 30 as a humanitarian worker – but a knack for languages and love for books have made him one of the country’s most innovative Urdu novelists.

Writing mainly historical fiction with a prose described as vivid and forceful, critics say that Columeau, now 41, has injected fresh life into the literary scene.

His works have featured at the country’s most prominent literature festivals with three novels published and more in the pipeline.

Nine snowy days in Istanbul, 1591. This is the setting of Orhan Pamuk’s widely red novel, Benim Adım Kırmızı. The story revolves around Eküre, a beautiful woman with two sons, who decides to look for a new husband four years after her own never returns from war. Enter three potential suitors — and chaos. Mystery, love, murder and the supernatural, these are the elements which, when combined, make up an enigmatic plot which haunts the reader long after the book has been put down.

MynameisredWritten by Pamuk in 1998, the book was translated into English in 2001 and is now commonly known as My Name is Red. This book not only helped establish Pamuk’s international reputation, but also contributed towards the Nobel Prize in Literature the author received in 2006.

The Society of Urdu Literature will host an international conference on Urdu next year and make the colloquium a regular annual feature as part of its efforts to promote the language in North America. Founder and renowned literary figure Abul Hasan Naghmi revealed this while speaking at an event held to mark the sixth anniversary of the organization, which has gained popularity with its acronym SOUL. Naghmi also pledged to broaden the organization’s outreach on the Internet through web television transmission and its publication the ‘Soul Gazette’.

Ask any publisher of Urdu books, great or small, about the sale of Urdu books and probably you will have to bear with a litany of complaints, including dismal figures of ever-dwindling sales and readers’ declining interest towards books in general and Urdu books in particular.

Some booksellers may also join in the elegiac chorus. But all you draw would be blank stares when you ask the same people why then they don’t close down and do something else for a living instead.

MoazamMoazzam Sheikh was born in Lahore, Pakistan. He studied business, film and library science and is currently a librarian in the Art/Music/Recreation department at the San Francisco public library. In addition, he teaches at City College of San Francisco, writes fiction, and translates fiction from Urdu/Hindi/Punjabi/English. His latest work of translation is Stories of Intizar Husain (Katha). He has also edited a collection of stories, A Letter from India: Contemporary Pakistani Short Stories (Penguin). Moazzam is the author of Cafe Le Whore and Other Stories (Weavers Press, 2013), and The Idol Lover and Other Stories of Pakistan (Ithuriel’s Spear, 2008).

Here’s an interview with Moazzam Sheikh.

MusharrafThis month, Pakistani author Musharraf Ali Farooqi launched a new publishing house, Kitab, to promote Urdu literature among children in Pakistan: Mid-Day

Farooqi: This year, which I spent trying and testing things, was an eye-opener. I travelled to schools in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi and did sessions with children. We sold quite a few books there, and I returned with a better idea of how many copies I must actually print.

If Muslims and Hindus can live together in Sindh before the partition of the Subcontinent then why cannot the Sindhi and the Urdu-speaking population do the same. It is a socio-cultural matter but the so-called politicians have made it very controversial, commented renowned Sindhi intellectual Amar Jaleel.

He was speaking at a seminar, titled ‘Dawn in the Valley of Wisdom’, organised by the Sindh Abhyas Academy of the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology on Sunday evening.