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September 2010

Urdu Fiction from India

This September we’re treated to the finest in new Urdu fiction from India. Curated by distinguished translator Muhammad Umar Memon, this stunning collection is the perfect primer on the fantastic and varied forms of contemporary Urdu writing. Naiyer Masud, master of the Urdu short story and Saraswati Samman award winner, follows the travails of a young runaway given refuge by a mysterious stranger. Celebrated fiction writer Qurratulain Hyder tracks the fortunes of a young woman who jettisons family and home on an intercontinental romp, with the past hot on her heels. Trailblazing feminist writer Ismat Chughtai gives an unsparing account of the goings-on in a maternity ward, while Anwar Khan’s protagonist discovers the comforting solitude of a shop window. Award-winning journalist Sajid Rashid sorts through a train explosion in a tale told by a severed head, and Siddiq Aalam listens in on two grumpy old men in a Kolkata park. Rounding out the issue, Sahitya Akademi Award winner Rajinder Singh Bedi gives a lesson in the art of erotic statuary, while Zakia Mashhadi recounts a troubled saga of marriage, love, and religion, and Salam Bin Razzack paints a picture of a Mumbai under siege.

Also this month, Askold Melnyczuk extols the virtues of speaking more than Amerikanisch, Avrom Sutzkever recites an ode to the dove, and Najem Wali describes a visit to the morgue.

As an organization committed to presenting the perspectives of people around the world, we are devastated by the floods in Pakistan. We encourage our readers to donate to Red Cross relief efforts here.

Urdu Fiction from India: An Introduction
Notwithstanding President Barack Obama’s delightful disclosure that he likes Urdu poetry, few in the West know anything about this language and even less about its otherwise vibrant literature.…
Destitutes Compound
By Naiyer Masud
For some time I thought about Childhood Love. What a strange name! Was it some woman? Some old flame of Murad Mian? What state must she be in now?
Translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon
Beyond the Fog
By Qurratulain Hyder
“People regard her as no more than a tart. Do you really want your daughter to become a striptease dancer in some hotel?”
Translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon
The Pose
By Anwar Khan
The moment he saw her, his hand stopped dead, his mouth fell open, and his eyes widened. She stared at the cop sweetly.
Translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon
Fable of a Severed Head
By Sajid Rashid
Although the picture of the unclaimed head didn’t exactly resemble his brother’s, the slightly curved nose and the scar above the upper lip were exactly like Chotto’s
Translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon
Two Old Kippers
By Siddiq Aalam
“Why don’t we toss a coin. Heads you’ll live longer, tails I will.”
Translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon
A Sheet
By Salam Bin Razzaq
A scrawny young man ran out of a narrow alley. His wrists were bound behind him and his clothes were on fire. “Help! Help!” he was shouting. “Water! Water!”
Translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon
Visiting the Morgue
By Najem Wali
Yusuf caught a quick look at the box’s label: “Container for Cut-off Ears and Earlobes.”
Translated from Arabic by William Maynard Hutchins
Methun
By Rajinder Singh Bedi
Magan hesitated, fumbling for words, and then said, “Why, you could make a Gandhi, a Nehru . . .” And as if he’d made a mistake, he quickly corrected himself, “A nude, for instance.”
Translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon
From “Ode to The Dove”
Trapped on the lips are sounds, like pearls of forts oceanate are mute for thousands of years, and over the muteness—a blade. "Dove darling, childhood's child, let the lips speak, give…
Translated from Yiddish
Bitte, Ich Spreche Nur Amerikanisch
                                                            …
The Saga of Jaanki Raman Pandey
By Zakia Mashhadi
“I used to be a simple, unpretentious Hindu. I got mixed up with you and became a fake Muslim. Then I didn’t even stay a true Hindu. I have become a complete heretic, what you might call an atheist.”
Translated from Urdu by Faruq Hassan & Muhammad Umar Memon
Of Fists and Rubs
By Ismat Chughtai
“But Ratti Bai, when you earn forty rupees, why whore around?”
Translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon