Pakistani fiction hijacked by English language writers

A restricted and myopic view of Pakistani society is emerging as the work of Urdu writers remains inaccessible.

Nazish Zafar November 07, 2010
Why is it that I can access Francis W. Pritchet’s English translation of Intizar Hussain’s Basti on the net but find nothing about the original Urdu novel? The only Pakistani fiction that is making its way on the internet is either written in English or is translated into English from Urdu. Thus a majority of Urdu fiction stays locked in the black and white pages of books - out of the reach of potential readers.

The world now knows contemporary writers like Nadeem Aslam, Muhammad Hanif, Kamila Shamsi and Daniyal Moeenuddin as representative Pakistani writers because English books can easily be accessed. But veteran names like Amjad Islam Amjad, Iftkhar Arif, Mustansir Hussain Tarrar and Shehzad Hassan are out of sight as their work stays walled in the national language and a single medium of print.

The issue with the phenomenon is that a minority is being considered representative of Pakistani fiction by the world at large. Consequently emergent is the restricted and myopic view of Pakistani society.

Having come across Granta, a recently released literary publication I was surprised to find that most of the pieces are not what could be considered representative of Pakistani fiction. The works included were either originally written in English or had been lucky enough to get translated into English from Urdu and thus catch the eye of editors of the magazine.

The call of the day is to transfer information about Urdu fiction on to the internet as much as possible. Websites like are making a difference. More attempts like this one need to be made, by literary academies, writers, teachers, critics and students of Urdu literature. Translating Urdu fiction into English is a job better done by Pakistani writers who have a better understanding of the language and the soil in which it cultivates rather then writers from the West.

Fiction that fails to translate into this new universal language is doomed to a forsaken death.
Nazish Zafar Senior Associate Producer programming at Express News.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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