Literary Notes: Urdu literature in 2015: research and criticism take centre stage
IT is generally perceived that Pakistan’s cultural and political environment is more conducive to produce Urdu’s imaginative and creative writings — such as fiction, poetry and satire — and Indian Urdu writers, on the other hand, have come up with some remarkably fine pieces of research and critical works.
But the recent trends do not testify to the perception as new Urdu books published during the past few years in Pakistan show an increased interest in literary research and criticism. During 2015, critical and research works outperformed the imaginative and creative ones, at least quantity-wise. Most of these works were published by new critics or younger researchers though, and many of them are dissertations submitted to some university for earning a degree in Urdu.
The trend owes much to the Higher Education Commission’s policies that emphasise making higher degrees a part of hiring and promotion criteria at universities. As a result, everyone is rushing to carry out some kind of research work and the editors of university research journals are overwhelmed by the large number of research papers received for publication. Most of these research papers and dissertations are meant for fulfilling the hiring/promotion requirements and many of such ‘researchers’ do not write, or even read, anything once they reach the higher echelons they aspire for.
But some dissertations published during 2015 do show some promise and one can hope that we are going to have some good researchers and critics as well as creative writers and poets in near future.
For instance, Nighat Naheed Zafar’s doctoral dissertation angrezi roomani shuara ke Urdu shaeri par asraat, published by Lahore’s Co-opera publishers, captures quite well the essence of Romanticism and its impact on Urdu poetry. Aurang Zeb Niazi’s PhD thesis Pakistan mein Urdu tanqeed succinctly evaluates the critical Urdu works published in Pakistan. Ahtesham Ali’s MPhil dissertation Jadeed Urdu nazm mein asri hissiyet is a study of contemporary sensitivity in modern Urdu poems. But it discusses, largely, Pakistani poets and the topic should have been amended accordingly, or more Indian poets should have been included.
Two dissertations written for MA and published in book form are Urdu mein hayyeti tanqeed, by Muhammad Nasrullah, and Vazeer Agha ke tanqeedi ravaiyye by Muhammad Rafi Azher.
Aside from theses, some other praiseworthy works stoke the feeling that criticism and research is the name of the game these days in Pakistani Urdu literature. Naseem Abbas Ahmer and Shafeeq Anjum are comparatively young critics. Ahmer’s Urdu afsane ke nazri mabahis discusses Urdu short story’s epistemological issues. Shafeeq Anjum’s two books Haashiyaee maqalaat and Qavaid-e-tehqeeq-o-tadveen take up literary research’s basic issues and its principles. Though Naveed Shahzad’s Nai nazm aur Punjabi nazm is on Punjabi poems but lets the reader know quite a bit about modern poems in general, too. Two old works on Urdu grammar were compiled and edited; one is Moulvi Kareemuddin’s Insha-i-Urdu, first published in 1874, edited by Shafeeq Anjum. The other is Amanatullah Sheda’s Sarf-i-Urdu, first published in 1810, edited by Ghulam Abbas Gondal. Shahid Hinai compiled articles on the art and history of ‘khaka nigari’ or pen-sketches.
Among the not-so-young critics is Nasir Abbas Nayyar. His new book Alamgiriyet aur Urdu includes essays on globalisation and some other literary issues. Shadab Ehsani edited a classical Urdu tale Qissa-i-ishq afza, written by Faraso Queen, a German poet of Urdu. Abdullah Suhail’s book mat sahal hamen jano is a critical study of Mir Taqi Mir’s poetry. The trend favouring critical works is further strengthened by reprinting of some famous works on criticism, such as mavazna-i-Anees-o-Dabeer by Shibli Nau’mani, muqaddama-i-shear-o-shaeri by Altaf Hussain Hali and hamari shaeri by Mas’ood Hasan Rizvi Adeeb.
But poetry and fiction, too, had their fair share during the year and, as usual, a large number of collections of poetry appeared, though mostly unable to leave any lasting effect on the reader’s mind. As for short fiction, Mustansar Hussain Tarar and Muhammad Ilyas stood out with their new collections. Madaar, a biographical novel by Sheen Farrukh, an absorbing read, depicts Ali Imam’s life. Several publishers brought out collected works and selections of veteran fiction writers, as they always sell well. Sang-i-Meel Publications published, among other collected works, Hajra Masroor’s collected short stories under the titled Sab afsane mere. Among the translations of fiction, Baqar Naqvi’s mizraab, stood head and shoulder above the rest. It is the first complete Urdu translation of Les Miserbales. Saleem Siddiqi translated, from English, the best short stories from around the world, which were published by Karachi’s Rang-i-Adab in three volumes. Shahid Hinai translated, from Sindhi, Rasool Memon’s short stories, published under the title band kamre ka raaz.
Among the veterans whose collected poetic works were reprinted are Saleem Ahmed, Dilawar Figaar and Mirza Yaas Yagana Changezi. Also, Kulliyaat-i-Anwer Shaoor, Kulliyaat-i-Qabil Ajmeri and Kulliyaat-i-Sarvat Hussain, much awaited works, were finally published. Shan-ul-Haq Haqqee’s nava-i-saaz shikan includes both published and unpublished ghazals. Kulliyaat-i-Qaiser Najfi was compiled by Hasan Sajjad. N.M.Rashid’s selection was compiled by Tehseen Firaqi. Najeeba Arif finally brought out her first poetic collection: Ma’ani se ziyaada.
Autobiography and memoirs are becoming increasingly popular in Urdu. ham bhi vahan maujood thei and faraib-i-natamaam the two autobiographies by political personalities, Majeed Malik and Jum’a Khan Soofi respectively, reveal some political truths. Akhter Vaqar Azeem’s ham bhi vaheen maujood thei is an interesting account of a career at PTV. Kishwer Naheed’s muthi bhar yaaden and Rasheed Amjad’s aashiqi sabr talab let the readers have a peep at some literary personalities’ candid moments. Jafer Thanesri’s kala pani was reprinted by Idara-i-Yadgar-i-Ghalib.
The silence in the realm of humour and satire is deafening. No new good humorists are coming up in Urdu. Aside from bazla snajaan-i-aalam a selection of humorous pieces compiled by Anwer Alvi, no notable humorous or satirical work appeared in 2015. Hamza Farooqi’s ham nafasaan-i-khush guzraan is at times witty and lively, but it is in essence a collection of pen-sketches. Ata-ul-Haq Qasmi’s har fan maula is a print version of his popular comedy TV serial.
Andaz-i-bayan aur a collection of Qurrat-ul-Ain Hyder’s interviews, published by Oxford, is compiled by Jameel Akhter. Man-o-too is the collection of some writers’ interviews taken by Asif Farrukhi.
A lot many works have appeared in 2015 but for want of space their names cannot be mentioned here. But one thing we may say for sure: Urdu language and literature are flourishing and the fears that the onslaught of the dotcoms would cause to whither Urdu are unfounded, at least in the near future.