A curious development
In the field of literary production, the readers of Urdu have rarely experienced a new idiom and it is not likely to appear in 2009. The same old metaphors of the moth dancing around the candle flame before dying for its "love" still continue to be rehashed to the extent that this triteness has even spilled over to English writing produced by Pakistanis, hence the running metaphor in the novel Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid. After Ghalib, and Iqbal, Faiz and Faraz are the two names which introduced a new form of literary expression, especially Faiz's transformation of the sacral idiom into the socialist idiom was a profound reconfiguring of the sensibility of Urdu readers. The mixing of revolutionary hope with the desire for a loved one as expressed by Faiz was something new in the language, which turned into a celebration of sensuality in Faraz's poetry.
In fiction, it is a curious development the way the social realism of Manto has led to a justification of the metaphysical by appealing to the semi-scientific sensibility of the readers by Ashfaq Ahmed and Bano Qudsia. This kind of writing has further ossified an already moribund culture. The debate that has been rehashed in Raja Gidh was an old one: the public sphere was under the control of the British and the Muslims had to turn to the domestic sphere and this inward turning produced a new aesthetic of interpersonal relations. Assigning spiritual values to the domestic and interpersonal interactions was easier than transforming the public sphere according to the principles of social justice. This powerlessness in the public sphere produced a new kind of the intellectual that encouraged a transformation of the inner self before the public self could be transformed. This kind of mysticism, which produces a semblance of control, albeit an inner one, was quite appealing to the otherwise disempowered readers. Even Faiz and Jalib, to some extent, have been subsumed under this pseudo-scientific pseudo-spiritual sensibility.
It is quite possible that this trend will be not be reversed in a year of literary production. We may have to live with the kind of work produced by Wasi Shah and Farhat Abbas Shah. Our censorship laws, self-censorship, fear of persecution, and becoming literary outcastes will continue to influence our literary production in particular and cultural industry in general. There are some underground music bands whose songs show more vitality and radical departure from normalised aesthetics than what is available in mainstream poetry. So readers will have to look deeper and elsewhere for intellectual nourishment than the shelves stationery-plus-books stores.
Published in The News on Sunday
dated January 04, 2009