The Oxford India Anthology of Modern Urdu Literature (Poetry and Prose Miscellany)

Item Code: IDK144
Author: Mehr Afshan Farooqi
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 0195676394
Pages: 378
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.9" X 5.9"
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Book Description

It was Professor C.M. Naim who first approached me to edit an anthology of modern Urdu literature. He felt I was the right person to take on this Oxford University Press (OUP) project and asked me if I was interested. To be truthful, I felt so privileged to be approached by Naim sahib that I accepted at once without even pausing to consider the enormous challenge and commitment that such a project would entail. The scale of the task ahead did not actually hit me until I was asked to prepare a table of contents.

My engagement with Urdu literature began in the family home, almost synchronically during childhood. I imbibed a lot of the discourse on jadidiyat (trend for modernity) simply by being born in a family where such esoteric terms became epithets drifting into my six-year-old ears even as I skirted the precincts of our family drawing room where vociferous and lively discussions of the subject held forth and where the journal Shabkhoon was conceived and brought out in 1964. My mentioning Shabkhoon is only to show how baffled I was at the prospect of how much or how little I knew of the modern I Urdu.

I decided to tackle the table of contents as a teacher embarking on a syllabus for a full-scale 'survey course'. At the outset, my reading list was endless. After a year of frenzied and focused reading, I felt confident enough to broach the subject with scholars of Urdu and arrived at what I called my 'master list'. This was basically a list of writers who lived and worked during the period 1905-2005. My reading made me aware of the challenge of representing certain genres that had been ignored by most anthologists of Urdu literature. Prose, especially of the non-fiction variety, attracted me the most. Prose, in Urdu has trailed behind poetry for reasons which I need not go into here. Urdu's early modernizers such as Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Muhammad Husain Azad, and Altaf Husain Hali were brilliant prose stylists. Following the development of Urdu prose from the late nineteenth century onwards, unfolds a remarkable graph of highs and lows. Some genres. For instance, the literary sketch (khakah), essay (inshaiyah), humour and satire (tanz-o mizah), autobiography khudnavisht, and travel writing (safarnamah) blossomed, while critical prose was slow in developing. The extraordinary success of the short story (afsana) in Urdu has marginalized the other prose genres. I felt that a comprehensive anthology must include the relatively lesser known works. Despite strict adherence to my own criteria for selection, I struggled to achieve a balance. The problem was how to balance the importance, significance, and historical value of the selections.

My initial contract with OUP was for a four hundred-odd page book. However, it became impossible for me to stay within the page limit and be satisfied with the question of balanced representation. Fortunately, OUP agreed to raise the page limit and we ended up with two volumes instead of one. Anthologists, especially those dealing with contemporary literature, cannot expect their exclusions and inclusions to satisfy all writers and readers. I have made the arbitrary decision of representing each author only once. In the interest of fairness, I chose from the work of each author an example which reveals something new about the literature, and also gives us a persuasive sense of the writer's work.

I have incurred so many debts in the form of advice, ideas, help, and encouragement, from seniors, colleagues, and friends that a few words here by way of acknowledgement cannot be sufficient to express my gratitude to them. Professors C.M. Naim, M.U. Memon, Frances Pritichett, Carlo Coppola, Robert Hueckstedt, and Geeta Patel offered comments and suggestions on various aspects of the anthology and read my drafts of the Introductions to the two volumes. My father, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, allowed me to raid and rummage through his personal library, and never complained once when I asked him to mail me innumerable photocopies of poetry selections from out-of-print books, which I had overlooked when I was collecting material. He often rescued me when I was stuck in writing the introductory note on an author in fact, this simple task was quite frustrating for me because there was precious little information to be had on many of the writers included in the anthology. His comments on my work were incisive and helpful. I am truly grateful to my translator friends who found time from their academic pursuits to translate new material for this anthology. I want to especially acknowledge Guriqbal Sahota for doing not one, but three new, not so easy translations for me. Geeta Patel, Shantanu Phukan, Tahira Naqvi, Akbar Hyder, Griffith Chaussee, Moazzam Siddiqi, Moazzam Sheikh, and Baran Rehman all did new and difficult translations at my request.

The University of Virginia awarded me a faculty research grant in the summer of 2006 to work on the anthology.

These volumes could never have been completed without the unstinting support and collaboration of my husband Richard Cohen. Not once did he protest as I spent countless weekends hunched over the computer, irritable and uncompanionable; all the precious summers we stayed at home, with me immersed in the anthology, struggling with deadlines, racing against time. As the project developed, it became more complicated and so unwieldy that had Rich not stepped in to help me streamline with sensible editorial advice and support, I would still be floundering. I do not have words to express my gratitude for all he did in addition to the above: for endless cups of tea, the commute between Pittsburgh and Charlottesville, errands when he visited India, the list could go on forever. His optimism sustained me during the most frustrating times.

My editors at OUP, New Delhi, cheered me on and provided all kinds of logistical support and help. Nitasha Devasar was very accessible whenever I needed her help. She gave me a lot of space to articulate my ideas, and showed great understanding and sensitivity for the requirements that a project of this nature entails. In my meetings with her I always came back energized; her infectious enthusiasm kept me going even as the intricacies of editing sapped our endurance in the hot humid summer of Delhi. Mitadru Basu's meticulousness in editing, layout, and designing was incredible. I would like to thank them both for their tremendous help.

One last debt remains. My mother, my first teacher, who taught me the magic of letters, who always took keen interest and motherly pride, is not here to see the work in its final form. She is with us in spirit though, cheering me on, smiling.

The shortcomings, which must be many, are entirely mine.

From the Jacket

Urdu literature has had a long and colourful history in the India Subcontinent. The Oxford India Anthology of Modern Urdu Literature comprehensively and creatively surveys the field from the mid-nineteenth to late twentieth centuries. Covering 100 years of literary production, including about 90 authors and over 130 selections, and many new translations, the twin volumes cover major genres like poetry, drama, and fiction, as well as essays, autobiography, and letters.

The 'Poetry and Prose Miscellany' volume begins with Akbar Ilahabadi (1846-1921), features such celebrated practitioners of the genre as Muhammad iqbal, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Munibur Rahman, and Akhlaq Muhammad Khan Shahryar among others, and finally, Tanveer Anjum (b. 1956). The prose miscellany-essays and sketches, autobiography, drama, humour and satire, and letters-includes such past masters as Abul Kalam Azad, Shahid Ahmad Dehlvi, Saadat Hasan Manto, and Ismat Chughtai, as well s an interesting selection of anecdotes on well-known literary personages like Ghalib, Mir Insha ullah Khan Insha, Josh Malihabadi, and others-something rarely seen in canonical literature.

The 'Fiction' volume includes both short stories and extracts from novels and novellas. Beginning with Muhammad Hadi Rusva (1857-1931), it moves on to Premchand, Ghulam Abbas, Krishan Chander, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Intizar Husain, Qurratulain Hyder, Abdullah Hussein, and Naiyer Masud among others, and finally, Syed Muhamamd Ashraf (b. 1957).

While the focus of selection is on literary excellence, translatability, and relevance, an effort has been made to avoid writings easily available in translation and to include one piece per author. Moreover, the continuation between pre-and post-Partition Urdu includes authors from both India and Pakistan, thus providing a holistic picture of modern Urdu literature. The Introduction, giving an overview of the development of Urdu literature and placing the writings in their proper historical context, is accompanied by a chronological listing of authors, biographical head-notes to the writings, glossary, and bibliography to help readers understand and savour the rich diversity of Urdu literature.

One of the most representative collections of Urdu writing in recent times, The Oxford India Anthology of Modern Urdu Literature is a literary and cultural guide to the Subcontinent. It will appeal equally to general readers, as well as students and scholars of South Asian literature, especially Urdu literature in translation.

Mehr Afshan Farooqi is Professor of South Asian Literature at the University of Virginia.


'the individual selections are impeccable…I am assured of their quality, both in accuracy and readability…And I certainly can't see how this could be replaced by any anthology of comparable size at least for a few decades.'

C.M. Naim, Professor Emeritus, South Asian Languages
and Civilizations, University of Chicago

'I am deeply impressed with the scope of the anthology, as well as with the writers chosen and the selections translated.'

-Carlo Coppola, Professor Emeritus of Hindi, Urdu, and Linguistics,
Oakland University and Editor Emeritus, Journal of South Asian Literature

'Dr. Farooqi was an excellently qualified choice to compile this work, and the result is of real and lasting value.'
-Frances Pritchett, Professor of Modern Indic Languages,
Columbia University

'This is a timely project. At a time when there is a worldwide revival of interest in Urdu language and literature, it is important to "showcase" its fiction and poetry. The editor has done well to compile this anthology."
-Mushirul Hasan, Vice-Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia


AKBAR ILAHABADI (1846-1921)3
Lightning in Church
Satirical Verses
MUHAMMAD IQBAL (1877-1938)5
Wild Poppy
The Spirit of the Earth Welcomes Adam
FANI BADAYUNI (1879-1941)9
HASTAT MOHANI (1875-1951)11
His Mother's Reply
YAGANA CHANGEZI (1883-1956)16
FIRAQ GORAKHPURI (1896-1982)18
Beloved Child
Our City
ASRAR UL HAQ MAJAZ (1911-55)22
To Aligarh: A Dedication
NUN MIM RASHID (1910-75)25
Hasan the Potter
In the Depths of the Ocean
FAIZ AHMAD FAIZ (1912-84)30
Dawn of Freedom (August 1947)
Brief Meeting
MIRAJI (1912-49)33
The Juhu Shore
An Evening on the Far Side of the Wine Glass
The Clerk's Love Song or the Love Song of the Clerk
ALI SARDAR JAFRI (1913-74)42
Urban Expansion
AKHTARUL IMAN (1915-2003)43
Keeping a Promise
MUNIBUR RAHMAN (b. 1924)46
Fake Flowers
Death of a Day
In the Month of December
NASIR KAZMI (1025-72)50
Dreams of a Forgotten Land
Who Passes By?
MUHAMMAD ALAVI (b. 1927)53
A Poem
Moment's Death
IBNE INSHA (1927-78)57
ZEB GHORI (1928-85)58
BALRAJ KOMAL (b.1928)60
The Paper Boat
Saba's Hands are Now Saffron
The Little Rider
MUNIR NIAZI (1928-2006)64
Cry in the Wilderness
A Dream of Earthly Paradise in the Shadow of War
from One world to Another
Evening Among Enemies
AHMAD MUSHTAQ (b. 1929)66
ZAFAR IQBAL (b. 1933)70
KUMAR PASHI (1935-92)73
An Ancient Story
The Free Citizen: An Introduction
SAQI FAROOQI (b. 1936)75
An Injured Tomcat in an Empty Sack
Sher Imdad Ali's Frog
IFITIKHAR JALIB (1936-2003)78
ADIL MANSURI (b. 1936)82
On the Passing of My Father
Will You Be My Friend?
Some Poems: Craving Indulgence
IRFAN SIDDIQI (1939-2004)87
KISHWAR NAHEED (b. 1940)90
One of Many Stories
I Feel It In My Bones
Who Am I?
Love's Story
A Poem
FAHMIDA RIAZ (b. 1946)95
Come, Bring Your Hand Here
Four Walls and a Black Veil
AZRA ABBAS (b. 1948)98
Another Life
SARA SHAGUFTA (1954-84)101
For Sheli, My Daughter
A Debt
TANVEER ANJUM (b. 1956)103
Not a Sound
Death, Instantly
ABDUL HAQ (1870-1961)109
HASAN NIZAMI (1878/9?-1955)123
Guests are Pests
Delhi's Last Mushairah
ASHRAF SABUHI (1905-90)137
Mithu Bhatiyara
Delights of Chowk
Two Encounters with Agha Hashr Kashmiri
ISMAT CHUGHTAI (1915-91)165
QAISARI BEGUM (1888-1976)178
My Marriage
Bashfulness of Brides
Procession of Memories: Sarojini Naidu
Maulvi Abdul Haq's Little Zoo
ALE AHMED SUROOR (1911-2002)197
Dreams Still Remain
NIDA FAZLI (b. 1938)203
Beyond Walls
IMTIAZ ALI TAJ (1900-70)211
Anarkali (Act Three, Scene One)
Aligarh's Mushairah
The Saviour of Muridpur
SHAUKAT THANAVI (1904-63)235
House of Wealth
Hats and Doctors
A Fine Madness
ABUL KALAM AZAD (1888-1958)266
The Crow and the Bulbul
SAFIYA AKHTAR (d. 1953)277
Last Letters
List of Translations311
Select Bibliography317
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