A valuable critique of Faiz

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Faiz is widely acknowledged as a literary icon of the last century

Yasmeen Hameed – an eminent litterateur, educationist and connoisseur of the arts – has compiled and edited the present work. A painstaking exercise that bespeaks her talent as an editor also!

Faiz is widely acknowledged as a literary icon of the last century. His person and work continues to be a subject of primal significance and interest for literary scholars and researchers the world over. As a poet he sought to synthesize literary aesthetics with the Zeitgeist which in turn lends an aura of universality to his poetics, his charismatic personality notwithstanding. His commitment to the dignity of man as a compact but complex organic entity striving for survival in a hostile milieu of robotic self-preservation seems to derive its life-force from thinkers and ideologues like Hegel (1770-1831), Marx (1818-83), and Lenin (1870-1924).

But Faiz scrupulously shunned political obscurantism. What he espoused was a liberal but optimistic vision of life focused on elimination of pain, penury and prejudice from the world.

He ensured that his poetic vision was not polluted by the equivocations of politicking. The monologic tone of his ghazal suggests a deep emotional involvement in the affairs of the heart on the part of its persona. The delicacies of Faiz’s quasi-Persian diction tend to lend, as it were, a poignant grace to his poetic outpourings.

Love is the central theme of his poetry – ghazal and nazm alike. His lover is a passionate but self-respecting human soul fervently seeking a Donnesque synthesis of thought and emotion in his amorous pursuits. The morning star is a symbol of fulfillment in this quest. In his nazm, however, he (the persona) is instinctually disposed to countenance the seamy side of life with equanimity in the face of a fierce internal commotion ignited by the fire of love.

The world today is a far more self-conscious place than it used to be, say in the days of Ghalib. An overview of Faiz’s verse would show that ‘it is possible for the poet, writing as a practical man, with material loyalties in his environment, but with a sensitivity acutely attuned to the shifting forces of an evolving world outlook, to write other than he is aware.’

Daybreak: Writings on Faiz was intended to be a project of the Gurmani Centre for Languages and Literature at the Lahore University of Management Sciences to commemorate the Faiz Ahmed Faiz Centenary. It contains articles, essays, and interviews related to Faiz by British, American, Russian, Indian, and Pakistani writers besides the translated version of some of his representative poems in English.

The compiler/editor rightly avers in her introduction that Faiz’s popularity, in the post-World War II socio-cultural scenario, is unrivalled among his peers and contemporaries. The following paragraph from the introduction would further reaffirm the raison d’etre of the instant work:

‘More has been written on Faiz than any other Urdu poet of the subcontinent after Ghalib and Iqbal, and compilations and selections from this kind of work have also been published. Such compilations not only bring to light some long forgotten pieces but also put together diverse views on a single subject. Interested readers find them quite useful.’

The compilation includes contributions from Victor G. Kiernan, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Ralph Russell, Gopi Chand Narang, Carlo Coppola, Safdar Mir, Naomi Lazard, Rimma Kazakova, Maryam Salganik, Frances W. Pritchett, Agha Shahid Ali, Ludmila Vassilyeva, Ayesha Jalal, Aamir R. Mufti, A. Sean Pue, Ted Genoways, Karrar Husain, (Dr.) M. Sadiq, Alys Faiz, Mirza Hasan Askari, Khalid Hasan, Muzaffar Iqbal and Tahir Mirza, the last two being his interviewers. They have ventured to explore and discuss Faiz in terms of his poetic and political beliefs, concept of tradition and innovation, love and revolution, prison poetry, ghazal, lyricism, biography, pacifism et al. Thus the publication turns out to be a veritable ‘companion’ to Faiz.

Faiz’s select verses have been translated by Victor G. Kiernan, Agha Shahid Ali, Daud Kamal, Waqas Khwaja, C.M. Naim, Carlo Coppola, Naomi Lazard, Yasmeen Hameed, Mahmood Jamal, Shoaib Hashmi, Riz Rahim, Baidar Bakht, Kathleen Grant Jaeger, and Shiv Kumar.

All said, the book is likely to evoke a keen response in the reading public across the continents, more specifically in the lovers and connoisseurs of Faiz’s verse who wish to remain in a perennial rapport with their ideal.

Daybreak – Writings on Faiz

Title: Daybreak – Writings on Faiz

Compiled and Edited by: Yasmeen Hameed

Published by: Oxford University Press, Karachi

Pages: 380; Price: Rs.995/-

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