Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ismat: Her Life, Her Times

India Today
(April 3, 2000)


Writer of short stories and novels, essayist and playwright – Ismat Chughtai is one of the best and most colourful personalities in modern Urdu literature. A rebel with a fiercely individualistic way of thinking, replacing idealism in fiction with reality, her writings are not mere figments of imagination, but reflections of what she had herself experienced and perceived.

Ismat oberved with a burning curiosity the way of life around her, especially the young women who led a suffocting existence confined within their homes, observing strict purdah. She writes about how supression led to complexes in gender identity and made one stray into illicit relationships, even homosexuality.

This volume attempts to present different aspects of this vibrant, forceful, multi-faceted personality – what she thought of herself and what her critics and contemporary authors thought of her. Accompanied by her letters, extracts from her autobiography and other works, warm and informative, articles by well-known writers like Manto, Qurratulain Hyder,Faiz and Krishen Chander amongst others, snippets from her interviews, a comprehensive chronology a detailed family tree tracing the writer’s antecedents back to Chengez Khan, and a potpourri of interesting mementos from her life, this book promises to be an absorbing and compulsive read for scholars and laymen alike.

Reviews and Commentary

This is a fun and imaginative book. As a concept it’s wonderful-literary criticism, biography and autobiography, with lots of photos, box items and memorabilia – a real guide book to Ismat Chughtai, one of Urdu’s great modern writers and script/story writer of a bevy of Hindi films, particularly the moving Balraj Sahani starrer about Partition, Garam Hawa.

To recreate her times Katha’s editors have brought together all her “set” at a period when being a writer was truly exciting, when it mattered, when, and many of them were, of course, communists, and thought they could change society. The contributors read like a who’s who of mdoern Urdu writing- there’s Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Sadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander and Qurratulain Hyder Commenting on Ismat.

- Gillian Wright

The Telegraph
(December 12, 1999)

And for the first time in English a book – Ismat: Her life, her times – puts a writer’s career and preoccupation in perspective. Laced with anecdotes, it is primarily a collection of essays by the writer herself and by fellow authors and critics. The book helps us see Chugtai’s life and work in its context and tradition; the life she led and the culture she hailed from.

- Avijit Ghosh

The Hindu
(May 21,2000)

Ismat: Her Life, Her Times is a tribute to Ismat Apa. First in a series of Katha’s Approaches. To Literature in Translation, it attempts to put a writer’s entire body of work in its correct socio-cultural, political and historical perspective. Edited by Sukrita Paul Kumar and Sadique, this volume contains extracts from Ismat’s ouvre, family photogrphs and memorabilia.

- Rakhshanda Jalal

The Express Magazine
(April 9, 2000)

Sadly, in this haze of cultural laments another trend is overlooked. The last decade has witnessed a phenomenal growth in the translation industry, making works of repute available to an over swelling readership. Probing a lazy obsession with celebrityhood is beyond the scope of this review, but books like Ismat offer a welcome counterpoint to literary pessimism.

The first of a series planned in Katha’s Approaches to Literature in Translation series, aimed at putting India’s non-English literary heritage in perspective.

- Mini Kapoor

The Hindustan Times
(June 4, 2000)

The overall impression of the books is positive and encouraging. Urdu died because it could not provide a living for even its master writers like Ghalib, Majaaz and `Firaq.’

Perhaps the retelling of Ismat in English will help keep her – and thus something in Urdu – alive in some small and obsecure way, Here’s hoping.

- Akhilesh Mittal

Edited by Sukrita Paul Kumar & Sadique
Price: Rs 395
Binding Type: Paper Back


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