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September 2010

Urdu Fiction from India

Image: Joe Neff, In Flight, Gelatin Silver, 2007

Guest Editor Muhammad Umar Memon,

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.

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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.

Beyond the Fog

"People regard her as no more than a tart. Do you really want your daughter to become a striptease dancer in some hotel?"

Fable of a Severed Head

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

Two Old Kippers

"Why don’t we toss a coin. Heads you’ll live longer, tails I will."

Destitutes Compound

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?

Of Fists and Rubs

"But Ratti Bai, when you earn forty rupees, why whore around?"

The Pose

The moment he saw her, his hand stopped dead, his mouth fell open, and his eyes widened. She stared at the cop sweetly.


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."

A Sheet

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!"

The Saga of Jaanki Raman Pandey

"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."


Book Reviews

Mela Hartwig’s “Am I a Redundant Human Being?”

Reviewed by Daniela Hurezanu

It is as if the narrator takes her own self, puts it under a microscope and probes it without flinching.

Laurence Cossé‘s “A Novel Bookstore”

Reviewed by Emma Hamilton

A new bookstore opens in Paris and stirs up a culture war.

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