Manzar on contemporary literature and literary criticism
Shamim Manzar, head of the German Language Department, Goethe Institut Karachi is not only a teacher but also a fiction writer, a poet and translator. He has recently published an Urdu novel titled Zawal se Pehley which portrays the life and miseries of individuals who consider and question existence in a class-based society full of contradictions in itself.
Previously he had written a collection of Urdu short stories titled Tanhaai ka Eik Din which received critical acclaim and was described by critics as a portrayal of the crude facts of life. Moreover, critics have noticed an existentialist bearing in his stories. However, in the novel the critics have appreciated the fact that Manzar’s fiction targets the exploitation and rejection of subjectivity or individuality.
Although Zawal se Pehley discusses a lot of characters and their functions, the novel portrays the individual quality of mankind. Manzar says that, although he believes in collective consciousness, generally people work individually and have their own personal aims.
In this way, men suffer isolation and desperation in a system where people are deprived of their basic rights. Manzar’s truthful characters face hardships because they cannot give up on the truth under any circumstances and ultimately negative designs victimise them or punish them for boldness and truth.
When asked whether objective conditions influence the inherent individuality of mankind, he said “Yes individuality is influenced by the objective world, however, still the individual has to face the consequences even the consequences of people’s collective actions.”
Commenting on the subjects of his short stories, Manzar says that has gained a lot of his experience by educating students of different sorts and under different conditions, and he puts this experience to use in his writings.
Furthermore, he points out that he is also translating works from German to Urdu. He says that these are modern German short stories which he translated into Urdu so that Urdu readers would know about the latest literary trends in German literature. The collection of his translated short stories is under going publication and the book will be available in a few months.
Replying to a question about his poetry, Manzar says that he will put together an anthology in 2009, as he has a lot of other literary assignments. However, he is confident that his poems will attract readers of literature. Commenting further, Manzar says that he prefers poems over ghazals, because the format of the poem is better for expressing emotions.
Talking about the prevalent literary scene, he says that although there are several writers bringing out new creations, however, critics have their own biases due to which literature and poetry is not being evaluated properly. While talking about literary criticism, Manzar said that in present times, a critic should be a writer and a poet as well so the worth of the writings could be adjudged fairly. He argued that a critic should be a critic and a writer at the same time; it would help him or her to perceive all the aspects of the creations in question.
He highlighted that there are a few good critics who include Ali Haider Malick, Syed Mazhar Jameel and Hameed Shahid who are not only critics, but also published authors. Appreciating these critics, he added that their criticism on literature, especially on short stories and novels presents the true picture of contemporary literature in Urdu.
Explaining his viewpoint, he added that Ali Haider Malick was so keen to give more books on latest Urdu short stories and fiction and all his work showed he kept himself updated. He had complete knowledge of past Urdu literature and was also studying the writings of the young people in literature which was necessary for a critic.
Similarly Syed Mazhar Jameel in his book titled Aashob-e-Sindh aur Urdu Adab has given modern criticism examining past writers’ works and the literature produced in present times. Another critic, Hameed Shahid has given his book on criticism titled Sau Sala Afsana which is current and perfect. He also mentioned Saba Ekram who is also a writer and a poet, but has at the same time brought out revealing criticism. In his preface, Shamim Manzar points out that numerous senior writers and artists have played an important part in encouraging him and persuading him to get his recent novel published and those people include Yawar Aman, A Khayyam, Akbar Azam Manzar, Naseem Anjum, Jameel Azeemabadi, Khawaja Manzar Hasan Manzar, Siddiq Fatehpuri, Arif Malik and Qaiser Saleem.
Source: The News