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In this luminous assortment of Urdu poetry and prose, Ralph Russell expands our world of Urdu letters to incorporate people and oral narratives, apart from prose and poetry. By situating every type traditionally, he offers us a refreshing perspective on the various literary cultures and histories of India.
Besides canonical quick tales by the likes of Manto and Premchand, there isIsmat Chughtai’s a little-known autobiographical essay about her relationship along with her brother, the author Azim Beg Chughtai. There are creation tales from the Quran, common tales of Akbar and Birbal, together with the legendary exploits of Sikandar (Alexander the Great). Selections from the elegant poetry of Mir,Ghalib and others are supplemented by astute commentary and roman transcriptions of the unique Urdu. Farhatullah Beg’s brilliantly imagined account of the ‘last Delhi mushaira’ captures a second in time by no means seen once more, with the horrors of 1857 simply across the nook.
An accessible introduction for unfamiliar readers and a pleasurable companion for these aware of Urdu literature, this quantity is a treasure trove of tales, poetry and historical past. Originally printed as Hidden within the Lute (1995),this revised version has been edited by Russell’s scholar and good friend for a number of years, the novelist Marion Molteno.