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Pakistani Urdu writer's oeuvre dipped in Indian nostalgia

Posted on Aug 22 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Aug 22 : Unlike his counterpart and celebrated Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, Pakistani writer Intizar Husain's writings have distanced themselves from the gory details of partition and have, in fact, drawn from early memories of his stay in India.

A window to his world is an anthology of his short stories that also reek of sorrow of many wasted opportunities.

Husain, popularly recognised as a living-legend in Pakistan, was not aggressive in his writings when it came to partition. The motifs he picked from this tragedy were of longing and nostalgia that he used repeatedly in his stories.

A reflection of these sentiments comes across strongly in the anthology "Intizar Husain: The Death of Sheherzad" (Harper Perennial: Rs.299) that is translated from Urdu by Rakhshanda Jalil.

For writer and author Jalil, the most challenging aspect of translating these stories was to keep the colloquial-style flavour of Husain's writings intact.

But, what was interesting is to understand the context of his writings and how different they were from the Progressive Writers' Movement group.

"What made him different from other Pakistani writers like Manto was that he used 'hijrat' migration as a sole thread to connect to partition, and not the mayhem, bloodshed associated with the event," Jalil said Friday at the launch of the book.

"He never picked these motifs," she added.

Husain's stories also missed the "sting" that endings of Manto's stories had. Most of his stories have open-ending where he left it for the reader to deliberate and interpret it according to the settings.

What also is Husain's distinctive feature is the ability to pick up "seemingly inconsequential things from here and there" and narrate a tale that would have a story within a story.

If the settings of his stories always had his village in Uttar Pradesh in the backdrop, there was a melancholic tone with hinted reference to "wasted opportunities".

"There was a sense of sorrow in his writings and a bit of disillusionment. There is also a subtle hint of Pakistan not being able to seize many opportunities," said Jalil.

"There is no aggression in his stories. But he has used allusions that refer to India," she concluded.

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