Asad Muhammad Khan’s collection of short stories titled Ghussay ki Nai Fasl (2nd edition) and Akhtar Raza Saleemi’s Khwabdaan, lately appearing in succession, seem to have instantly engaged the attention of the discreet reader of literature for the quality of their form and substance.
Ghussay ki Nai Fasl
Asad Muhammad Khan’s credentials as a fiction writer and poet are widely acknowledged in the literary circles. Ghussay ki Nai Fasl is his third collection of fourteen short stories, having first appeared in 1997. Twenty-one of his stories have also been translated into English and published under the title of The Harvest of Anger and other Stories. In addition to Tamgha-i-Imtiaz(2009), he has also won the Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi Award Barai Fiction (2004), Aalami Farogh-e-Urdu Adab Award, Doha, Qatar (2007), and Sheikh Ayaz Award Barai Adab (2007), in recognition of his literary excellence.
Muhammad Salim-ur-Rahman is of the view that Asad Muhammad Khan has a true knack for perceiving the reality as manifest from his keen observation and retentive memory reproducing dialogues from actual life. The similitude in his fictional work artistically combines reality and imagination, suspension of disbelief notwithstanding.
Some of the implicit themes of these stories are social imbalances, human values, the ironic gap between appearance and reality, thesis and anti-thesis, colloquialism, hypocrisy, and vanity. The writer treats his subjects in the manner of a realist and his discourse is mainly focused on the exploration of the human psyche vis-a-vis a hostile socio-cultural milieu.
The style of the writer is another marked feature of the book. Being a mix of irony, idiomatic felicity, and syntactical precision, it has an explicit slant toward impressionism (cf. Toofan kay Markaz May). Other stories in the collection also illustrate the niceties of his art as a story-teller, characterization being one of them. Most of the characters in the instant stories are types representing vices and virtues peculiar to their own trade and status in life. Kishwar Khan, Hafiz Shukrullah Khan, Laji, Hitler, Khosa, and Darya Khan are some such characters who seem to dwell on the timelessness of time.
The book is thus bound to agitate the minds of the readers who, aside from capitalizing on its entertainment value, also regard reading of fiction as an educative pastime.
Akhtar Raza Saleemi is a recognized poet of both ghazal and nazm. Khwabdaan is his third verse collection with nazm as its exclusive content. Qazi Javed, Nasir Abbas Nayyar, Danyal Tureer, and Zia-ul-Mustafa Turk have highlighted the broad features of Saleemi’s verse in their introductory remarks about his present work. Besides, opinions of Shahzad Ahmad, Dr Tauseef Tabassum, Fehmeeda Riaz, Mansha Yaad, Muhammad Izhar-ul-Haq, Waheed Ahmad and Yusuf Hassan on his poetic art have also been summarily inserted into the epilogue of the book.
Saleemi’s nazm is an apt expression of ‘the ideal possibilities of human life’. Reading his verse between the lines, one gains an impression that the poet is overly conscious of poetry’s responsibilities and prerogatives in the world in a post-modernistic context. The poet in him, as Seamus Heaney would have us believe, seeks to evolve a synthesis of his innate urge for creative freedom with the sense of social obligation felt by him as a vocal member of the community he lives in.
Viewed in this perspective, Saleemi’s nazm would seem to engage the reader on a cerebral plane dotted with signposts of somnolent reveries, irate interpretations, wistful monologues, and mesmeric self-delusions. His persona is probably ‘one of us’ with whom one can share their pleasures and pains, gains and losses, and hopes and despairs. The all-pervasive element of contemporaneity tends to transform his nazm into a global narrative relying on the communicative power of poetry with regard to the actual quality of experience, with a subtlety and precision unapproachable by any other means.
The themes of these poems (fifty-seven in number) converge on life in its existential diversity touching the extremities of truth and untruth, reality and illusion, faith and scepticism, indulgence and asceticism, time and eternity, transparency and symbolism, and dream and disgust. Nevertheless in a few poems the poet gives powerful expression to the division in the modern consciousness caused by the contrast between the development of the moral sense and the dehumanized world picture provided by the scientific discoveries of the age.
In poems like Na’waqt may Isbaat-e-wujood, Daaira, Barzakh Yak Khwab, Bayha’iti ki Ha’it, PanchwaN Bu’d, Hairat Zindagi Hai, Event Horizon, Koi Sharay bhi Sharay Aam Nahi Hai, and Safar Hai Shart are some poems denoting ‘reflective writing of high order turned into vision by imagination’. Lastly, the book is sure to receive responsive readership whose belief is that the function of poetry is not self-expression, but the proper fusion of meaning in language.
Ghussay ki Nai Fasl
Author: Asad Muhammad Khan
Publisher: Ilqa Publications/Readings,
12-K, Gulberg II, Lahore
Pages: 194; Price: Rs.245/-
Author: Akhtar Raza Saleemi
Publisher: Sanjh Publications, 46/2, Mozang Road, Lahore
Pages: 124; Price: Rs.200/-