One of the most important voices in contemporary Indian poetry, Shahryar (1936–2012) cast a mesmeric spell with the publication of his very first collection, Ism-e Azam, in 1965. Over the next fifty years, he not only managed to remain topical, his poetry defining the times, he always seemed to have something to say that was timely and relevant without ever compromising on quality.
Shahryar: A Life in Poetry is as much a study of a poet’s life – the father, friend, teacher and raconteur par excellence – as it is an attempt to write the literary history of contemporary Urdu poetry. Tracing Shahryar’s journey as a poet, Rakhshanda Jalil demonstrates how he evolved a set of symbols, images and metaphors that, while seemingly personal, transcended the self and the individual. She also evaluates his work in the light of the two major literary movements that shaped his poetic sensibility – the Progressive Writers’ Movement and modernism – while he consistently refused to belong to any one group.
Including a selection of some of Shahryar’s best poems – ghazals, nazms and film lyrics – brilliantly translated by the author, the book introduces his poetry to a new generation while evaluating Shahryar’s considerable body of work in the trajectory of contemporary Indian writings and his extraordinary contribution to not merely modern Urdu poetry but, more significantly, modern Indian poetry.
Writer, critic and literary historian, Rakhshanda Jalil has published over fifteen books and written over fifty academic papers and essays. She runs an organization called Hindustani Awaaz, devoted to the popularization of Hindi–Urdu literature and culture. Among her recent books are several published by HarperCollins: a translation of Premchand’s short stories entitled The Temple and the Mosque; her debut collection of original fiction in English, Release & Other Stories; a translation of fifteen short stories by Intizar Husain entitled The Death of Sheherzad; a translation of Intizar Husain’s seminal novel on Karachi, The Sea Lies Ahead; and a translation of Gulzar’s Footprints on Zero Line: Writings on the Partition.