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Friday, July 18, 2014

"Angarey- 9 Stories And A Play" - by Mahmuduzzafar, Sajjad Zahir, Ahmed Ali, Rashid Jahan; translated from Urdu by Vibha S.Chauhan and Khalid Alvi

Title:  Angarey- 9 Stories And A Play
Authors: Mahmuduzzafar, Sajjad Zahir, Ahmed Ali, Rashid Jahan; translated from Urdu by Vibha S.Chauhan and Khalid Alvi
Category: Fiction (Anthology)
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Date: 2014
Price: Rs. 195
Pages: 144

Summary of the Book

Angarey was first published in the year 1932, but it happened to be one of the first books to have been banned on free speech in the country then, by the British Government of India. It was then re-published in 1995 in Urdu. The book had stories that reflected the hard truths and had no mercy on pretense or sham, which could have evoked the protests back then. But it is now published in English for the first time, after being translated sensibly and sensitively. It will bring to you some of the most evocative stories like A Night of Mahavatt, The Clouds Don’t Come and The Winter Rainthat belonged to the beginning of Progressive Writers Movement in the twentieth century.

The Review:  Anyone interested in literature loves the writings of the era gone by more than the current times for many reasons. For me it is because these writings are the only means to connect with the ideology of the past and ponder upon the structural and ideological changes in the society since then. This book being all of that was also the fruit of the forbidden tree being banned right after its publication in 1932 and it spoke of liberal views prevalent even in that era. How could this voice not drive me? I stuck to the book like honey bee to a comb.
The stories in the book are all short to the point. The narrative technique used is "the stream of consciousness" that hits the heart right as intended by the authors. The book speaks about poverty, the double standard of the upper class society and the religious priests alike. It speaks about infidelity and dominance of men and the last play "Behind the Veil" delivers it simply yet sarcastically. The intertwined thoughts of women who since birth were taught and trained to wives and mothers, let their hearts out about their fanatics being born as the very Christian women (as it is written during the British rule) they would hate as daughter-in-laws. 
I believe the book was banned mostly because it didn't pretend to or hint at the issues it wanted to portray but was a full fledged direct attack at the double faced society, which I hope people would be able to accept now better than those times. Having said that its also important to mention that the issues that existed then are unfortunately not the issues of the past, they live very much even today amongst us or we chose to nurture them, this translation like an alert signal has come out at the right demanding freedom, more so now post independence singing "its a high time", more than there ever was. 
The translation was difficult with a modern narrative technique but has been accomplished beautifully, and I wish the motive of the same is successful. A must read for everyone 4.5 stars on 5 especially for erasing the myth that Indians are not direct and straightforward, well some of them have been and mercilessly so as deserved. Taste it to believe it. 
About the Authors
Sajjad Zaheer was a famous Urdu poet, Marxist thinker, writer and dramatist. He completed his studies in Law at the Oxford University. His translation works include Othello, Gora, The Prophet and Candide. Some of his famous works are London Ki Ek Raat, Roshnai, Zikre Hafiz and Pighla Nilam.
Ahmed Ali was a renowned poet, translator, diplomat, novelist and scholar. He and Mahmud-uz-Zaffar formed the League of Progressive Authors which later expanded and became the All-India Progressive Writers’ Association. Ahmed Ali is the author of Twilight in Delhi.
Rashid Jahan was a famous Urdu writer. She was known for her progressive and groundbreaking short stories. Rashid was also involved with the Communist Party of India. She dies in Moscow. She is the author of Dilli Ki Sair.
Mahmuduzzafar had graduated from Oxford and came back to India in the year 1931 as he had turned out to be an active nationalist. He wrote the play called Amir Ka Mahal in Urdu.
Dr Vibha S. Chauhan teaches English at the Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi.
Dr Khalid Alvi teaches Urdu at the Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi.

I thank Rupa Publications for a review copy.

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