Dr Anis Nagi – the great novelist, poet and critic
By Dr Amjad Parvez
I am in a habit of taking a walk in Bagh-e-Jinnah every evening and often visit Quaid-e-Azam Library. When late, I am content with just looking at the architecture of the building, the old Gymkhana Club that houses the great library now and get awestruck each time when I look at the building. Another building that attracts me but now for its apathy is Punjab Public Library building on Lake Road. It was here that Dr. Anis Nagi, one of the great novelists expired on October 07, 2010 at the age of seventy one, surrounded by the books, his great friends and M. Phil. students who came to listen to his lecture. His funeral prayer was held the same day in Allama Iqbal Town’s Raza Block. It is the third consecutive loss in the recent past in the field of literature after the demise of Dr. Wazir Agha, then that of Muhsin Ehsan and now that of Dr. Anis Nagi. After retirement from government service, Dr. Anis Nagi whose family name was Yaqub Ali Nagi, opted to stay in Lahore, his birthplace. He is more famous for writing novels namely Zawal, Deewar Ke Peechhe and Mushaira. He would often sit on his computer and compose his novels himself like it is done in the West.
Dr. Anis Nagi was a senior writer, critic and poet and was often requested to chair literary functions. One of recent such function was arranged by the Pakistan Academy of Letters to celebrate the eight second birth anniversary of the famous poet late Munir Niazi. Begum Nahid Niazi and a number of the late poet’s fans and admirers like Dr Tabassum Kashmiri, Dr Saadat Saeed, Dr Amjad Tufail and Professor Shahida Dilawar Shah were present.
I shall talk of late Dr. Anis Nagi’s contributions in the Novel writing first especially as compared to the similar works of his contemporaries and seniors. It is not my intention to write an essay on Pakistani Novels and their authors but some milestones shall be mentioned just to appreciate the environment that Dr. Anis Nagi inherited. History of Novel Writing is very rich in Pakistan as far as the selection of their themes is concerned. It emerged with Qurratulain HeiderÂ’s Aag Ka Darya (The River of Fire, 1957) dealing with the problem of self-identity, still moving in a wider trajectory and traversing the warp between self identity and the peoples’ collective identity that were placed in a critical state on the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Leslie Fleming has regarded this novel as A Tale of Three Cities. It was followed by Abdullah Husain’s Udas Naslain (A Tale of Sad Generations, 1963), the tragic story of three successive generations living in British occupied India between 1913 and 1947. Bano Qudsia’s Raja Giddh (The King Vulture) published in 1984. It follows the same scheme of writing as that followed by Dr. Anis Nagi, where her hero loses his identity while vacillating between his rural background and immediate urban environment. These novels portrayed the working of the dynamics of a developing society where man is crushed under the pressure of inhuman social mechanism. Though Ashfaq Ahmad’s Gadariya (Sheppard) in 1954, many others like Tariq Mahmud’s Allah Megh De (Send Clouds, Oh God), Altaf Fatima’s Chalta Musafir (The Ever Traveler), and Salma Awan’s Tanha (The Lonely Person) made East Pakistan the theme of their fictional imagination.
Dr. Anis Nagi has been a very impressive addition to the galaxy of Urdu Novelists. He came to limelight when two other novels, Anwar Sajjad’s The Garden of Delights (1980) and Anis Nagi’s Behind the Wall (1981) appeared; they took a new direction and also worked on a different theme. In The Garden of Delights, the protagonist is faced with a callous human situation where he is gradually deprived of every initiative. In the end, he joins a group of wandering dervishes and participates in the Sufi dance, which gives him a new understanding and restores his confidence that had been almost shattered by the pattern of living he had followed all his life. Generally speaking Dr. Anis Nagi used the absurd as the principle of framing the protagonist in an indifferent world. Though Dr. Anis Nagi got fame due to his criticism on Saadat Hassan Manto’s works, his Novel Zawaal is a fair depiction of an aging bureaucrat’s mental and physical deterioration. Anis Nagi’s novels describe an unequal and unbalanced equation between man and his situation. His hero is condemned to live in the underworld where crime and hypocrisy haunt him, and he is driven to commit suicide. He throws himself from the bridge into the river, but is saved by the patrolling boat of the local garrison. Dr. Anis Nagi’s second novel titled’ (Behind the Wall) introduced new trends in Urdu fiction. He highlighted the pains of human being in a creative manner.
In his creative endeavour, ‘Jins Aur Wajood’ (Sex and Existence), Dr. Anis Nagi questions the status of a woman living in our part of the world facing innumerable problems. One can decipher that he wrote with sincerity and purpose with deeper insight into the issues he touched upon. Writing on womenfolk boldly has generally been avoided by writers in our society but Dr. Anis Nagi was not deterred. Many writers from Zameer ud din, Dr. Saleem Akhtar to Mumtaz Mufti understood woman problems but it was Manto whose vision was unique, so was Dr. Anis Nagi’s. Many believe that Dr. Nagi’s analysis of a woman’s psyche has been more clinical in approach but his essays are a milestone in understanding the matters of life wherein a woman can be understood in our society. Ironically many NGO’s set up in our country to address woman issues have failed to address them as explicitly as Dr. Anis Nagi could do in his essays. A human being is an intricate creation of God surrounded by factors such as childhood experiences, environment, economics, religion effects, history, biology and genes which develop human being’s sex, psyche and social existence. Generally speaking, a woman is subjected to dual tyrannies of father, brother, husband, family life and many other relations especially living in a culture where even a man seems to be a victim of these factors and relations. Dr. Anis Nagi’s essays therefore engulf all these issues in his essays inviting all people with a heart to think and respond.
Dr. Anis Nagi was not confined just to Novel Writing; he also said poetry of class, criticism of substance and translated many writers of Western literature. His loss is tremendous like that of Dr. Wazir Agha, Muhsin Ehsan and Kanwer Aftab Ahmad (in the domain of Tele Production). I have received many condolences from public and intellectuals like from Safdar Hamadani, Dr. Satya Pal Anand, Adeel Akbar, Prof. Mubashar Gora (who was Dr. Nagi’s student in GC, Lahore) and alike. May his soul rest in peace and our younger generation emulate the hard work put in by these intellectuals in their respective fields of interest to come out with their best!
Source: Daily Times