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Faiz in English Original

Sukrita Paul Kumar

Conceptualised and Edited by Sheema Majeed
Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005, pp. 261, price not stated.


The mere mention of the name Faiz Ahmed Faiz evokes a warm adulation, as much in the highbrow scholarly critic as in the mind of the common reader, not restricted to the Urdu world. Faiz became in fact a legendry figure in his own life time, an icon to reckon with. When Sheema Majeed, in her “Editor’s Note” in the book, Culture and Identity, refers to him as a “metaphor of his age”, she directs one’s attention to the gradual unfolding of different aspects of the spirit of the times presented in Faiz’s English writings. What she has compiled in this book arouses the attention of all, readers in Urdu as well as those who can read Faiz only in English. Several attempts have been made to transport the vibrant poems by Faiz into English, some fairly successful and others mere experiments in translating great poetry. But, what we get in this book for the first time is Faiz’s original writing in English, his insights, reflections and random thoughts on ‘culture’, ‘identity’, ‘Pakistan’, ‘Urdu and linguistic identity and literary heritage of Pakistan’ and amongst many other themes, he also dwells on some individual poets and writers such as Amir Khusrou, Ghalib and his favourite Mohammad Iqbal.   It would not just be performing a ritual to quote in this review, first and foremost, from Faiz’s solitary poem in English, ‘The Unicorn and the Dancing Girl’, included in this volume: The birth of time out of timelessness is beset like all births with travail, and hope, and joy and apprehension. And its birth in Pakistan as elsewhere in the newly liberated countries of Asia and Africa is as yet only a small flag of freedom raised against The bannered and embattled host of fear and want and hunger and Pain and the death of human hearts.   Pakistan, and for that matter, India too, with their newly begot liberation from the oppressive colonial rulers, could at best carry but a “small flag of freedom” when confronted by the host of “want and hunger and pain”. Faiz captures the delicate contradictions of his times in his poetry and his insights seem to come out of his deep concern for the multitude of ordinary people battling for survival. He knits into his poem a strong philosophic strain while he sounds playful in tone and words.   In his Introduction to the ...

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