Editor's Note
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Urdu does not lack for lovers. Tens of millions of people across the subcontinent and, indeed, around the world, would agree with Gulzar in saying that the language gives you a high, that it goes down your throat like a gulp of wine1. Much of the love has been apportioned by poetry but fiction too has its fair share of fans.

 

Short story writing, called 'afsana-nigari' in Urdu, is a relatively new form, just over a century old and the wealth of theme and narrative innovation has only grown since. The literary cannon in this genre includes names like Premchand, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Qurratulain Hyder, Krishan Chander, Naiyer Masud, and of course, Saadat Hasan Manto and Ismat Chugtai, who have been widely translated, published and performed in recent years. Happily, with new translations appearing every year, more work has become accessible to readers in English.

 

We hope that this 28th issue of Out of Print, devoted to Urdu short fiction, featuring a select set of translations from Lucknow to Lahore, will be as much of a journey of discovery and as much of a joy to read as it has been for the editors.

 

Dhanpat Rai who wrote first as Nawab Rai, and later as Munshi Premchand, is among the foremost writers of his generation, or indeed, all generations since. His stories are often prescribed on school syllabi for his canny ability to observe the world with innocent eyes. Qazzazi, translated by Fatima Rizvi, is the story of a child's friendship with the man who delivered the post and told marvellous tales.

 

In contrast, Abdullah Hussein's Spring, translated by Raza Naeem, gives us an old man's view of his own life. What happens when a retired Brigadier with an unwavering sense of routine meets a younger man while he's out on a walk?

 

Shaukat Hayat's Pigeons of the Dome, translated by Sara Rai, appears to offer a delicate portrait of a genteel existence, filled with children, pigeons, snakes, cats and rakish friends, only to disrupt it with the evidence of more troubling strands of lust and undefined damage.

 

Animals feature again in Azra Abbas' The Chameleon's Game, translated by Daisy Rockwell. Told from the point of view of a chameleon, this story uses just a few deft strokes to change colour, from innocuous to distressing.

 

Intizar Husain's Reserved Seat, translated by Rakhshanda Jalil, delves into the world of dreams and portents through the familiar character of Badi Boo who, as much as she is ready to depart, is still quite tangled in her earthly affections.

 

Ali Akbar Natiq's The Graveyard, translated by Ali Madeeh Hashmi, delves into the politics of burials in a village, access to land, and exposes the way feudalism and class distinction undercuts every aspect of life, including death.

 

Guest Editor: Annie Zaidi

 

Other translations of Urdu work available on Out of Print are two from the fantastical Tilism-e-Hoshruba, the first by Musharraf Ali Farooqi and the other by Shahnaz Aijazuddin, as well Firduas Haider’s The Cow translated by Nighat Gandhi

 

1Gulzar, on the beauty of Urdu, recited at the 70th birthday celebration of Jagjit Singh

 

 

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The cover design by Yamuna Mukherjee contains images from a piece of Kalamkari or crafted-by-pen fabric depicting stories from Indian mythology. The cover image by Olivia Fraser is one from a series of nine panels titled, You are the Sun, 2015, stone pigment, gold leaf and gum arabic on handmade Sanganer wasli, 14x14’’. Other panels from the series accompany the stories in the issue. The complete series, in sequence, may be viewed on the artist’s site.

Olivia Fraser first moved to India in 1989 in her early twenties. She earned an MA in Modern Languages from Oxford University before studying for one year at the Wimbledon Art College. Initially, Olivia painted the architecture of Delhi and its people, influenced both by her ancestor, James Baillie Fraser who painted in India in the early 1800s and by a hybrid form of painting that developed in the era where Indian artists mixed techniques and ideas from the East and West.

In 2005 she began to study the traditional Indian miniature painting technique under Jaipuri and Delhi masters, and now uses its gem-like stone colours, its unique miniature brush work, and its elaborate decorative and burnished surfaces. Having been especially influenced by Nathdwara pichwai painting and early C19th Jodhpuri painting, Olivia has been exploring its visual language, reaching back to an archetypal iconography strongly rooted in India's artistic and cultural heritage that can breach borders and be relevant to her twin life between East and West.

Her work has been shown in galleries and art fairs around the world and in 2015 her work was shown at the Venice Biennale. Her paintings are now in collections in India, UK, France, Belgium (Museum of Sacred Art), UAE, Singapore, Australia, China and the USA.

Olivia divides her time between Delhi and London.

 

 

Selected stories may contain language or details that could be viewed as offensive. Readers below 18 are cautioned to use discretion. Views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily supported by Out of Print.