After a long hiatus …

… New Red Indian is back.

I just finished reading this lovely review of Wajeda Tabassum (whom I confess to never having heard of) and thought it worth sharing:

Wajeda Tabassum, the noted Urdu short-story writer and novelist, has died. She was born in Amravati in 1935 and died in Mumbai on December 7, 2010. She was the third in the trinity of Ismat Chughtai and Qurratulain Hyder that represented modern Urdu women’s writing. While Hyder and, to a lesser extent, Chughtai have been accommodated in the mainstream (i.e. male) Urdu canon, Tabassum’s stories are ghettoised by their common theme of feudal Hyderabadi society and its sexual tensions. Most of her story collections are out of print and she has not been taken up by the English-language women’s presses in India for translation unlike her two senior contemporaries. In 1960, she married her cousin Ashfaq, against her family’s wishes and they fled to Mumbai where she lived till the end. Brought up in Hyderabad, she did her MA in Urdu from Osmania University.

And in another discovery (for me), I came across first an article about Aqaal Shatir and then Amitav Kumar’s piece on him (and his anti-Modi poetry):

I asked Shatir if he was true to his pen-name? Does his poetry address power? It was a slightly impertinent question but Shatir was patient with me and recited these lines of his to explain where he stood: Abhi zindaa hoon main, dekho meri pehchaan baaqi hai / Badan zakhmi hai lekin abhi mujhmein jaan baaqi hai / Tum apni hasraton ko zaalimo marne nahin dena / Shahadat ka mere dil mein abhi armaan baaqi hai (I am still alive, the person I was is left in me / This body is wounded but there is still life left in me / You, my killers, don’t let your ambitions die / The desire for martyrdom is still left in me.)

(I wonder if this is intentional, but the last line in Urdu reminds me of  “sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil me hain” which really does do an interesting number on nationalism).

Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle reports on the growing campaign to free Dr. Binayak Sen.  Praful Bidwai has a pretty good indictment of the trial verdict:

Chhattisgarh has witnessed massive state excesses because of its abundance of natural resources which predatory capital wants to appropriate. To ensure this, the government must crush the Maoists and obliterate the distinctions between hardcore Maoists, their sympathisers, parliamentary Communists, Gandhians, civil liberties activists, progressive intellectuals, and even health workers. It muzzles people like Sen to demonstrate that it’s willing to be unreasonably brutal. This is the stuff of which Banana Republics are made.

The Communist Party of India alone has clearly condemned Sen’s conviction. The Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party Marxist have refused to do so – the BJP out of its machismo and suspicion of civil liberties, and the CPM, even more short-sightedly, because of its “Naxal problem” in West Bengal. The Congress says dismissing the verdict would amount to admitting that India is a Banana Republic. But that inverts all logic.


Two new translations of Qurratulain Hyder’s works

First, Scott Esposito reviews the new translation of Fireflies in the Mist (just recently released by New Directions):

If Hyder is still obscure to the English-language audience it is probably due to a combination of subject matter and style. Hyder defied conventional ideas of what post-colonial fiction looked like.  Moreover, her books are uncompromisingly steeped in the politics of the subcontinent. Their proliferation of names, dates and places can be difficult for an uninitiated reader to assimilate, particularly in Hyder’s clipped modernist prose.

Of course, great literature transcends national boundaries, and bedevilling place-names and historical events need not impede the enjoyment of great books. This is a fact that is evident in Hyder’s acknowledged masterpiece, 1959’s River of Fire, which has been acclaimed as the greatest Urdu novel of the 20th century. A quasi-epic that covers 2,000 years of history and mythology in an attempt to tell the story of India and its major religions, it has been called Urdu’s own One Hundred Years of Solitude. When New Directions published the first English edition of River of Fire in 1999, it received praise from such stately periodicals as the London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books.

Also out, though I can’t find the publisher’s page about it, is The Exiles.

Just ordered both — and very excited, despite Esposito’s negative review.