Sunday, April 17, 2016

Abdullah Hussein, Urdu Novelist, passes away in Lahore, Pakistan on 4th July, 2015

Excerpts from Abdullah Hussein's Urdu language Novels

              I first read Abdullah Hussein's 1963 debut Urdu novel "Udaas Naslein" (English version "The Weary Generations) sometime during 1979-1981 when I was an M.Sc. student in the Biological Sciences department of Quaid e Azam University, Islamabad.  Social buzz about this novel, which was an instant best seller in Pakistan when it was first published by the avant-garde Lahore publisher Nazir Ahmed Chaudhry ("Naya Idara" publishers; also published the leading Urdu literary journal "Savayraa") had always been very positive ... words like ground breaking, brilliant, cutting edge being used to praise it. It also won the most prestigious literary prize in Pakistan, the Adam Jee Award.
            I heard about "Udaas Naslein" and Abdullah Hussein in 1969 from listening to my parents' drawing room conversations as a 10-year old book worm addicted to children's Urdu novels published by Feroze Sons Publishers. We had just rented the lower portion of a house at Lodge Road, Old Anarkali (just 50 yards away from Lady Maclagan Girls High School where Bollywood Diva Kamini Kaushal had studied in the 1940s and where ghazal singer Farida Khanum's daughters studied around late 1960s or early 1970s, according to a short story by Shabnam Shakeel) ... but I digress  ... a bad habit of mine ... There was an "Aanaa Library" (lending library with a subscription of one Aanaa ... roughly Pak Rs.10 or 10 US cents of 2015) in our neighborhood and I tried renting out Udaas Naslein but all the copies were always lent out. My chance to read Udaas Naslein came in 1979 when I would leave my Quaid e Azam University Men's Hostel every weekend with my bag of dirty laundry and come to my Uncle's (Ahmad Ashfaq, younger brother of Urdu poet Ahmad Mushtaq) house to spend the weekend. I borrowed a copy of Udaas Naslein from my Phoopho Jaan and enjoyed it immensely. Some of the passages were so haunting that they echoed within me for many months afterwards.
           Udaas Naslein was later translated into English by Abdullah Hussein himself and published in 2003 by Peter Owens Publishers, UK via Hussein's literary agent Simon Smith. It was reviewed in 2010 by Kirkus and is now available in English as "The Weary Generations" from Amazon.  

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