Urdu not a vessel for poetry alone: Shamsur Rahman Faruqi
“A majority of the prose writers then were writing short stories. I told them write a novel… a novel is a big thing… there are things you can only convey through fiction and there are things only poetry can express,” Faruqi said.books Updated: Jan 21, 2014 20:59 IST
Shamsur Rahman Faruqi has accomplished a phenomenal literary feat. At the ripe age of 62 in 1999, he says, he realised he could do better than the short story he had written.
He then wrote a thick Urdu novel about a 19th century courtesan determined to “taste men first, keep them if she liked them, or dump them if she didn’t”.
Then he went a step ahead: he translated the novel into English himself.
The English avatar, the 984-page The Mirror of Beauty, became the springboard for an interesting session on the last day of the
Faruqi’s bilingual adventure is the product of his struggle for ridding Urdu of its tag as a language meant only as a vessel for poetry. He said such thinking did not let the Urdu novel evolve. And those who wrote prose made it heavy with poetry.
“A majority of the prose writers then were writing short stories. I told them write a novel… a novel is a big thing… there are things you can only convey through fiction and there are things only poetry can express,” he said. “It won’t be an exaggeration to claim credit for prodding people into writing novels.”
While the burden of poetry plagued Urdu in general, the prose soon got influenced by social-realism and many writers advised Faruqi to write social-realist novels.
“But that kind of writing didn’t interest me. I told them write experimental fiction, prose poems or whatever caught their fancy.”
A highlight of the session, which was interspersed with readings from both Urdu and English versions of the novel, was a debate on the purity of language.
Faruqi said Punjabis in Pakistan were cribbing about lexical infiltration when, in fact, 70% of its words were borrowed from other languages.
He said Urdu in Pakistan was being fashioned in a different way by including many Persian words.
A Pakistani participant, however, told him the feeling in Pakistan was Indian Urdu was assimilating Hindi influence, while Pakistanis were trying to Arabise the language of Ghalib.