Literary Notes: Urdu novel’s historic comeback in 21st century | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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Literary Notes: Urdu novel’s historic comeback in 21st century

Pakistan Press Foundation

IRFAN Javed is a voracious reader and a writer, too. He writes fiction, pen-sketches and, perhaps for a change, criticism. A few years ago he wrote a piece in a newspaper on new arrivals and, citing many new Urdu novels, concluded that Urdu novel was staging a revival.

Though I was already convinced, publication of a large number of Urdu novels in the following years made me realise how accurate his analysis was. Yes, Urdu novel is making a revival with thunder. In fact, it has staged a historic comeback in the 21st century. And especially in the last few years, novelists have become quite prolific. After a hiatus in the last few decades of the last century, when Urdu novel was, perhaps, hibernating, this comeback is indeed heart-warming.

Here I would run the risk of naming the seniors and some new writers who have published their Urdu novels in the last two decades. Such naming game is usually very dangerous because writers are a very sensitive lot and are offended easily even on minor issues, such as the sequence in which their names are mentioned, let alone forgetting a name or two. Despite that risk, naming a few of them is a must so as to have some idea of who has been contributing in this revival.

But new novelists enriching Urdu fiction are quite large in number and only a few of them can be mentioned here. Among the senior Pakistani novelists who have published their works in the 21st century are: Bano Qudsia, Khalida Hussain, Mustansar Hussain Tarar, Hasan Manzar, Mirza Ather Baig, Younus Javed, Muhammad Ilyas, Fehmida Riaz, Anees Nagi, Najmul Hasan Rizvi, Haroonur Rasheed, Muhammad Hameed Shahid, Ubaidullah Baig, Shamshad Ahmed, Azra Abbas, A. Khayyam, Muhammad Asim Butt and Zafarullah Poshni.

Some not-so-seniors and juniors, in this genre include: Khalid Fateh Muhammad, Akhter Raza Saleemi, Waheed Aziz, Naseem Anjum, Tahira Iqbal, Muhammad Ameenuddin, Waheed Ahmed, Khayal Afaqi, Shahid Siddiqi, Salahuddin Aadil, Ikramullah, Muhammad Hafeez Khan, Syed Saeed Naqvi, Ali Akber Natiq, Azad Mehdi, Najma Suhail, Nikhat Hasan, Shaer Ali Shaer, Sheeraz Dasti and many more.

What is heartening is the fact that Urdu novel has not staged a comeback in Pakistan alone, but in India, too, Urdu novel has re-emerged, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Some of the senior and junior Indian novelists of Urdu who have been writing novel during the last two decades include: Shamsur Rahman Farooqi, Kashmiri Lal Zakir, Joginder Pal, Nand Kishor Vikram, Balraj Verma, Musharraf Alam Zauqi, Muhammad Hasan, Abdus Samad, Ghazanfar, Rahman Abbas and many others. I apologise to many new novelists from India and Pakistan whose names could not be mentioned here because of space constraints.

In addition to novels, of late, the publication of research and critical works on Urdu novel too has picked up pace. During the last couple of years a good many books on novel’s art, its history and Urdu novel have been published. Among the more recent ones is, for example, Urdu Novel Aur Muhajreen Ke Masaael: 1947 Ke Tanazur Mein. A dissertation written by Dr Abida Naseem and published by Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu Pakistan, the book analyses some 30 Urdu novels that portray the problems faced by those who migrated from India to Pakistan after independence.

Shaer Ali Shaer in his book Jadeed Urdu Novel: Usloob Aur Fan has mentioned that during the last 18 years or so, some 140 Urdu novels have been written in India and Pakistan. The book, published by Karachi’s Rang-i-Adab Publications, offers some critical views on recent trends in Urdu novels and a bit on the history and technique of novel.

Another research work on Urdu novels is Pakistani Urdu Novel Mein Asri Tareekh. Though the book, published by Sargodha University’s Urdu department, successfully analyses contemporary history as recorded in Pakistani Urdu novels, Shahid Nawaz, the writer, at times cites a scene from a novel and goes on to comment on the moral and national behaviour of our military bureaucracy on the basis of that excerpt and that too in a sarcastic and extravagant way.

The young critics must keep in mind that a novel is a piece of fiction and despite the fact that some pieces of fiction are true reflection of the facts, creative writings cannot be taken as fact and cannot serve as a base to condemn someone as a definitive proof. So instead of taking a piece of fiction as actual history, one should only deliberate on its historical background and comment on it in a detached manner.

The revival of Urdu novel is a phenomenon that must be celebrated, as novels tell a lot about culture and society.


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