Saturday 22 October 2016

Thrice Divided

It is a book to buy, read, keep and most importantly to gift to your children
Fireflies In The Mist
By Qurratulain Hyder
Women Unlimited Pages: 404; Rs. 350
Non-Urdu readers have just begun to realise that Qurratulain Hyder is without doubt one of the finest writers anywhere of fiction, especially reportage fiction. Trying to review Qurratulain Hyder’s translation of her novel Akhir-e-Shab Ke Humsafar is like trying to review two books together. She has made several significant changes in the translation. The first two chapters—Caledonia and The Golden Album—have been written only for the English version. Many chapters have been shuffled around and new details added.

The changes, however, do not diminish the epochal tale that Fireflies is. In fact, they make it richer and easier for someone unfamiliar with the multi-layered complexity of a land and its diversities. Through short crisp chapters, the tale carries you on a journey of discovery and realisation. The rather detailed scene descriptions are not there just for atmosphere but are crucial to the tale. They are also a testimony to how deeply Qurratulain Hyder, whose own milieu was Urdu and East UP, knew and understood Bengal and its pain.

Fireflies is about three generations of Bengalis, one born around the time of the Bengal partition, the next growing into youth when India is partitioned and the last growing up with the emergence of Bangladesh. It is also about the shared heritage of the subcontinent and the artificial cleavages that politics created.

Hyder’s finest, undoubtedly, is Aag ka Darya and Akhir-e-Shab is in many ways a sequel to that magnum opus. It is a book to buy, read, keep and most importantly to gift to your children.

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