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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 Wayne Chambliss
At the time I left home for good I must have been around twenty-two or twenty-four years old. What prompted me to leave was my father’s attitude. He complained that I’d developed bad habits.…
Translated from Urdu by Wenguang Huang
Beyond the Fog
By Victoria Offredi Poletto
1 Throughout the day English sahibs, memsahibs, and their baba log cross the bridge on mules and horses or riding in rickshaws and dandis. In the evening, the same bridge becomes the site of milling crowds…
Translated from Urdu by Virginia Jewiss
The Pose
God knows what got into her head. She abruptly broke her stride and slipped into Shandar Cloth Store. Then she opened the door of the show window and, deftly, removing the lovely mannequin, stood herself…
Translated from Urdu
Fable of a Severed Head
By Sajid Rashid
5:40— verar local expressShifting his heavy, red canvas bag from his left shoulder to his right, he looked up at the Churchgate Station monitor and scurried toward Platform 3. People were practically…
Translated from Urdu by Muhammad Umar Memon
Two Old Kippers
By Tobias Hecht
. . .sleeping as quiet as death, side by wrinkled side, toothless, salt and brown, like two old kippers in a box. —Dylan Thomas, “Under Milk Wood” Recently two pensioned old men in Calcutta…
Translated from Urdu by Tom Leonard
A Sheet
By Zhu Hong
He was standing behind the window looking out onto the street, which one could see in the distance shimmering in the sun as if somebody had magically stopped a flowing river. It was the same street on…
Translated from Urdu by Zjaleh Hajibashi
Visiting the Morgue
Am I really being pursued? Where is my corpse? When he reached the coffeehouse at the entrance to Bab al-Mu‘azzam Square, Yusuf changed his mind and didn’t enter, even though it had begun…
Translated from Arabic
By Young-Moo Kim
Had the bazaar stretched to infinity or had the business itself hit a slump? To the west, where the street rose steeply, almost hugging the sky, and then swooped down sharply, was the very end of the…
Translated from Urdu by Yu Young-nan
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 Traci Andrighetti
Somebody should have gone and inquired from this Jaanki Raman Pandey, Advocate, why in the name of God did he have to go to Rasoolpur and die there when he was doing so well in Allahabad? And die, not…
Translated from Urdu
Of Fists and Rubs
By Tiina Aleman
There was quite a crush of people at the polling station, as if it was the premier of some movie. A long line stretched out to infinity. Five years ago, too, we’d formed such endless lines, as if…
Translated from Urdu by Tiina Nunnally