Novelist Abdullah Hussain meets fans at PAL
By: Jamal Shahid
ISLAMABAD: Renowned novelist Abdullah Hussain, who had disassociated himself from the Pakistan Academy of Letters 17 years ago, accepted the literary body’s invitation to meet his fans on Tuesday.
The event was arranged by the PAL to honour the renowned writer and novelist, and discussed his impressive contributions to Urdu literature.
Dressed in starched white shirt and khaki pants, Abdullah Hussain sat restlessly with his mike turned on, waiting for a chance to say what he had come to say.
When the floor was finally handed over to him, he explained why he had disassociated himself with the PAL.
“I did not agree with its policies. I certainly did not approve of the people who had been appointed as its heads because of their political affiliations. But above all, the disassociation gave me the opportunity to do what I do best – write literature.”
While he responded to comments and remarks from speakers and the audience, his talk focused on one of his major works, Udaas Naslain and how the partition had impacted the novel, bringing up questions of identity and migration. He also delved upon the political misadventures in the country.
Belonging to Punjab, Abdullah Hussain said he realised that many who had read him did not entirely approve of his styles in Urdu. “But I enjoy it. The Urdu may not be as fine as some of the nice works, but the crudeness is what makes my work interesting,” he explained to his fans.
Abdullah Hussain said he had to translate Udaas Naslain into English himself so that the novel did not lose its essence.
His readers were particularly interested in learning about Azad Log, a novel he was in the process of writing. The 82-year-old explained briefly that it revolved around how people had become free of all moral and ethical values.
He greatly appreciated everyone gathering at the event to honour his contributions. “I have survived three generations and their sensibilities; I consider this an achievement,” said Abdullah Hussain.
Other speakers at the event took turns to share their views about the writer who sat on the stage between them. Fiction writer Dr Amjad Tufail, who drove from Lahore to speak at the occasion, said most people cherished Abdullah Hussain for his politically inclined writings, but he (Mr Tufail) saw more to the writings.
“I particularly admire how Abdullah Hussain describes the ordinary post colonial Pakistani citizen during the 1940s and the 1950s – their frustrations, tensions and feelings of isolation,” said Dr Tufail.
Analyst and writer, Ayesha Siddiqa echoed along similar lines. She appreciated the fact that Abdullah Hussain had written extensively. “He is one of the most progressive writers. Few dare to experiment with the language as boldly as Abdullah Hussain,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, who had known the novelist since childhood but had not met him since 1979.
She said discussions in the literary gatherings were restricted to a few big names, but in reality there were numerous writers who had contributed significantly to the literary world.
“It will be sad if the generations to come do not know of other big names,” she said.
Speakers also shared their thoughts about some of the best Urdu novels such as Udaas Naslain, Baagh, and Naddar Log to mention some.
The event allowed guests in the audience to speak their minds and share their thoughts with the writer.
A poet in the audience, Farah Deeba, said she had all of Abdullah Hussain’s books in her collection, and had been reading him as far back as she could remember. “I finally got to meet the writer I have always admired,” she said.
Similarly, Munira Ahmad Shamim, another short story writer, had all of Abdullah Hussain’s books and had only imagined what the novelist looked like in real life. She placed Abdullah Hussain among the top writers of the likes of Ashfaq Hussain, Bano Qudsia or Qudratullah Shahab.
A member in the audience pointed out that it had been 50 years since Abdullah Hussain had written Udaas Naslain, adding that better celebrations should have taken place to honour the renowned writer.