Short story writing, called 'afsana-nigari' in Urdu, is a relatively new form, just over a century old and the wealth of theme and narrative innovation has only grown since. The literary cannon in this genre includes names like Premchand, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Qurratulain Hyder, Krishan Chander, Naiyer Masud, and of course, Saadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chugtai, who have been widely translated, published and performed in recent years. Happily, with new translations appearing every year, more work has become accessible to readers in English.
We hope that this 28th issue of Out of Print, devoted to Urdu short fiction, featuring a select set of translations, will be as much of a journey of discovery and as much of a joy to read as it has been for the editors.
Dhanpat Rai who wrote first as Nawab Rai, and later as Munshi Premchand, is among the foremost writers of his generation, or indeed, all generations since. His stories are often prescribed on school syllabi for his canny ability to observe the world with innocent eyes. Qazzazi, translated by Fatima Rizvi, is the story of a child's friendship with the man who delivered the post and told marvellous tales.
In contrast, Abdullah Hussain's Spring, translated by Raza Naeem, gives us an old man's view of his own life. What happens when a retired Brigadier with an unwavering sense of routine meets a younger man while he's out on a walk?
Shaukat Hayat's Pigeons of the Dome, translated by Sara Rai, appears to offer a delicate portrait of a genteel existence, filled with children, pigeons, snakes, cats and rakish friends, only to disrupt it with the evidence of more troubling strands of lust and undefined damage.
Animals feature again in Azra Abbas' The Chameleon's Game, translated by Daisy Rockwell. Told from the point of view of a chameleon, this story uses just a few deft strokes to change colour, from innocuous to distressing.
Intizar Hussain's Reserved Seat, translated by Rakhshanda Jalil, delves into the world of dreams and portents through the familiar character of Badi Boo who, as much as she is ready to depart, is still quite tangled in her earthly affections.
Ali Akbar Natiq's The Graveyard, translated by Ali Madeeh Hashmi, delves into the politics of burials in a village, access to land, and exposes the way feudalism and class distinction undercuts every aspect of life, including death.
Guest Editor: Annie Zaidi
Other translations of Urdu work available on Out of Print are two from the fantastical Tilism-e-Hoshruba, the first by Musharraf Ali Farooqi and the other by Shahnaz Aijazuddin,as well Firduas Haider’s The Cow translated by Nighat Gandhi.