Despairing voices


DespairingVoices

‘Despairing Voices’ is a collection of short stories translated from Urdu. Vastly dissimilar in background, style, expression, treatment of subject, and their vision, these stories express, in different ways, some of the common concerns of Urdu writers in India and Pakistan. These stories, each in its own way, with its unique style, have a tale to tell, of man in the post-modern world, of the personal predicament that wrecks him, and of his existence splintered by the clash of fundamental and glaring contradictions that control his destiny. The anthology is a sensitive selection of contemporary Urdu short stories by prominent Indo-Pak writers. Though not definitive of course, this translation, nevertheless, aims to make the book an interesting reading, and brings it closer to an original work with a sort of creativity tuned in with the spirit of the original work. The stories portray the post-Independence world of India and Pakistan – the two countries separated at the birth of Indian independence – wrecked by clash of identities and ideologies, drastically altering destinies of peoples who suffered the division. A brief history of the birth and growth of English short stories, and the blossoming of the genre in Urdu literature produced in India and Pakistan are given in the Introduction. There are also brief autobiographical sketches of the original writers after the Introduction.

Selected Urdu Short Stories Translated into English; Edited and Translated by Syed Sarwar Hussain; published in 2011 by Satyam Publishing House, New Delhi, India; ISBN: 978-93-801908-6-0

Excerpts from the book

“How amazing are the vicissitudes of life!”
Sometimes innumerable scattered and inconsistent symbols, transform into a meaningful form, phrase, or word during the last phase of ones’ life. Man watches it, reads it and stands perplexed. It is something of a puzzle how all the scattered parts, however disorderly, at last join together each at its own place, and we are surprised to discover the meaning they bear.”

from ‘The Leaves’ (a story in the anthology ‘Despairing Voices’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Satyam Publishing House, New Delhi, 2011).


“He smiled to himself, and wondered how quickly the pawns on the chessboard of life exchanged places. He was Asif’s defence until yesterday, and now he himself needed his defence. This is how the assaulter and the assaulted snatch each other’s role. This is the greatest drama of destiny. However, he was neither afraid nor sad at this astonishing change of role.”

from ‘Black Hole’ (a story in the anthology ‘Despairing Voices’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Satyam Publishing House, New Delhi, 2011).


“The night was departing and the leaves were not yet cleaned. I again picked up the Bonsai pot sitting among the other plants. Its branches were thin and delicate, and its leaves sparse. It had a finished design, though. Completely perfect! Like the moulded porcelain figure. Like a toy. Like the dwarf who couldn’t attain full height. It was weeping in the pot, as if to make me hear it. ….

The sound of its cry was like the soft shrill whistle of a bird. It was sniveling, twirling, stamping its feet, struggling hard, restlessly trying to come out of the pot. It wanted to free itself from the wire that had tangled it; to straighten its boughs, and join the severed branches. It craved to grow, to expand.”

from ‘Bonsai’ (a story in the anthology ‘Despairing Voices’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Satyam Publishing House, New Delhi, 2011).


“The night’s darkness had eclipsed the house, filling it with its own voices and shadows. I got up in the midst of these voices, and found my way to the greenhouse. There seemed to be something new about the darkness there. Lights, on the contrary, are all alike and unexciting. I prepared myself to grope around in the gathering darkness. Since the day I entered this house, I had been walking into the deepening gloom, every night, all the way to my plants, hearing them breathe like living beings, in the lengthening shadows of the night.  . . .

Whenever fear overtakes me, I try to think about my plants. I close my eyes and feel my body stiffening in the mossy darkness, the skin baking dry and rough, the green fluid running in my arms, and chlorophyll rolling down, covering my arms with leaves, so in a short while my arms get covered with leaves. My legs automatically slip into the slippers without creating any sound.”

from ‘Bonsai’ (a story in the anthology ‘Despairing Voices’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Satyam Publishing House, New Delhi, 2011).


“Whenever the sun started setting, its light fleeting to disappear, and the creeping shadows of evening spreading into gathering darkness, a woman, heralding the prowling night, walked on the twilit gloom where the last rays of sun had begun to shrink. She would come out of the room through the half-open door, and in a fit of frenzy run blindly down the street.

The hapless woman is dead now. Her half-naked body is lying on the road. It is soaked in blood, singed with petrol, diesel and acid, and has deep gashes in her body as if torn by claws, nails, teeth, and iron nails. Her loose hair is soiled, and her clothes stained with grease. The only aspect of her that is obviously conspicuous is her eyes.

But look what’s that! She lies there cold and lifeless, but she is holding a flower, clenched tightly in her fist, doused with the smell and smoke of gunpowder. It is a black rose – the earth’s last flower.”

from ‘The Eve-Afflicted Falcon’ (a story in the anthology ‘Despairing Voices’, edited and translated by Dr. Syed Sarwar Hussain; published by Satyam Publishing House, New Delhi, 2011).