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The Penguin Book of Classic Urdu Stories

The Penguin Book of Classic Urdu Stories
Item Code: IDI077
Author: M. Asaduddin
Publisher: Penguin Books
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 0670999369
Pages: 313
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 5.6"X 8.6"
The Urdu short story, the youngest fictional genre in Urdu literature, is century old. Hence it may sound incongruous if one applies the word 'classic' for it in the sense of antiquity. But within this short period of time it has made remarkable strides and has established itself as a significant, if not primary or representative, vehicle of expression in Urdu literature. In many ways this 'minor' genre in Urdu has played the role usually assigned to the 'major' genre (the novel) in fictional literature. The near absence of a significant novel in Urdu during several decades of the twentieth century propelled the short story to centre stage where it successfully engaged with issues of colonial modernity and the emergent concept of nationhood. In the context of this volume, 'classic' has been used to indicate enduring quality that is literary works of a certain standard that have drawn generations of readers to them who found them satisfactory in terms of what they expect great literature, to be what may be called its aesthetics, and in terms of engaging with issues and concerns that have both immediate and lasting appeal for the readers. The heritage of the Urdu short story is sufficiently rich the constitute such a tradition. My attempt here is to showcase the best samples of that tradition.

What I intend to do in this 'Introduction' is not to give readers a summary of the stories selected, as is usually done in anthologies of this kind nor is it feasible for me to deal with the entire history of the Urdu short story. What I would like to do, however, is to touch upon some significant moments in the development of this genre to underline broad trends and contours that constitute this tradition. This I expect will give the reader a wider context and a perspective in which the stories can be read with greater insight and understanding.

The Urdu short story, or 'afsana' (sometimes called 'mukhtasar afsana' to distinguish it from longer fictional works), can be seen as a continuity of the fictional tradition that existed in Urdu for several centuries that is literature consisting of qissa, hikayah, dastaan, etc., which drew upon the Perso-Arab narrative tradition on the one hand and the Indian tradition of storytelling as one finds in works like The panchatantra, Hitopadeshaand the Jataka tales on the other. The short story proper however emerged only in the opening decade of the twentieth century after a fairly long period of India's colonial encounter with the West. There is no consensus about who wrote the first Urdu afsana. Some give this credit to Allama Rashidul Khairi who wrote 'Naseer aur Khadeeja' in 1903, making him the first Urdu short- story writer. According to another view the genre and even the word 'afsana' owes its sajjad Hyder Yaldaram who was the first to coin this term for the qissas that were being written at the time and he them went on to write his first afsana in theJournal Makhzan Lahore in 1907. Another pioneer of the Urdu short story was Niyaz Fatehpuri. Sentimentalism, realism and romance mixed freely in the Urdu short stories of the early phase.

Transliteration of the Urdu terms /names retained in the English text indicates that appropriate equivalents were not available and the translators considered their retention in the original crucial. In the absence of any generally accepted convention regarding transliteration of Urdu text in Roman, and our unwillingness to take resort to any complex procedure which does not make sense in a work of fiction we have tried to approximate the sound of the original using diacritics (which create other problems) and without doing too great a violence on the Roman orthography which may be distracting.

The translations have been done primarily for readers in the Indian subcontinent and that is why a certain level of knowledge about south Asian history culture and mythology along with Muslim history and culture which forms an important strand of the south Asian experience has been taken for granted. However our past experience has shown that it is better to err on the side of giving more information than withholding it. Those who require it will find it useful and those who do not can pass it over. It has been our effort to weave information on unfamiliar concepts culture and otherwise into the body of the text. Wherever that was not possible and we felt that some elucidation is necessary to make the story a little more accessible we have appended a footnote on the same page that can be last pages of the book to locate the item in the glossary. Further to spare the reader avoidable distractions, such glosses have been used only at the occurrence of the term in the story.

From the Jacket

Though barely a hundred years old, the Urdu short story, or 'afsana', has established itself at the forefront of Urdu literature.

Emerging as a discrete narrative genre with Munshi Premchand, it gained momentum with the Progressive Writers' Movement in the 1930s. The partition of the subcontinent in 1947 introduced new dynamics into the genre as writers grappled with emerging trends of modernism and symbolism as well as with a depleted readership in India and the challenge of establishing a new literary tradition commensurate a new nationhood in Pakistan.

The Penguin Book of Classic Urdu Stories brings together sixteen memorable tales that have influenced generations of readers. From Saadat Hasan Manto's immortal partition narrative 'Toba Tek Singh' and the harrowing realism harrowing realism of Premchand's 'the Shroud' to the whimsical strains of Qurratulain Hyder's 'Confessions of St. Flora of Georgia' and the daring experimentation of Khalida Husain's 'Millipede', this definitive collection represents the best of short fiction in Urdu. In the process, it provides a glimpse of the works of acclaimed masters on the both sides of the border Ismat Chughtai and Ashfaq Ahmad Rajinder Singh Bedi and Intizar Husain Krishan Chander and Hasan Manzar, Naiyer Masud and Ikramullah.

M. Asaduddin teaches in the Department of English and Modern European languages, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, and writes on literature, culture and the experience of living in a multilingual and multi-religions society. His articles and reviews appear regularly in Indian literary, The Book Review, The Hindu Literary Review and The Annual of the Urdu Studies (University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.). Among his recently published books are Lifting the Veil: Selected Writings of Ismat Chughtai(Penguin Books, 2001), For Freedom's Sake: Stories and Sketches of Saadat Hasan Manto (OUP, 2001) and (with Mushirul Hasan) Image and Representation: Stories of Muslim Lives in India (OUP, 2000). A distinguished translator in several languages, he has received, among other awards and citations, the Sahitya Akademi Prize and the Dr. A. K. Ramanujan Award for translation. In the summer of 2001 he was Translator in residence and lectured at the universities of East Anglia, Cambridge and Warwick.

The Shroud1
Rajinder Singh Bedi
Kalu Bhangi24
Krishan Chander
Toba Tek Singh40
Saadat Hasan Manto
The Wedding Suit48
Ismat Chughtai
Ghulam Abbas
The Thal Desert80
Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi
Confessions of St. Flora of Georgia93
Qurratulain Hyder
An Epic Unwritten123
Intizar Husain
The Shepherd145
Ashfaq Ahmad
Khalida Husain
The Cow202
Enver Sajjad
A Requiem for the Earth207
Hasan Manzar
The Scarecrow221
Surendra Prakash
Sheesha Ghat228
Naiyer Masud
The wind Carried All Away …247
Notes on Authors268
Notes on Translators286
Copyright Acknowledgements288

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