Book Reviews

Review Published in THE OUTLOOK

Stories by Intizar Hussain (translated Moazzam Sheikh); Katha 2004; Pgs 29; Rs. 250/-

The protagonist in “Strangers”, one of Intizar Hussain’s shorter stories in this excellent collection, lies on his bed and watches the straws float down towards him from a sparrow’s nest. And as they float, his mind wanders, weaving through the tempting bylanes of lost times; his mind’s eye chases the memory of a sparrow that had once beencoloured pink. “There was no order, no continuity in his memories of those past moments. Mismatched and out of sequence memories, huddled and interwoven with each other- afternoons, evenings, mornings- dissolving into one, partially erased contours from whose depth a pink shadow appeared…..” One of Pakistan’s best known writers, Intizar Hussain explores Hindu- Muslim interaction in pre-partition India, the trauma of migration and the burden of the past with a delicate touch, through the intermeshing shadows cast by memory. The agony of the person who left, the mystery of the one who was left behind, the thoughts of a careless childhood spent in the lanes of distant villages no longer within reach, teenage infatuations that glow and smoulder when they have no reason to………Hussain knows exactly where to scratch.

Again and again, he takes a moment, a thought, a vision and turns it into the defining event in a life, a small stone that leaves endless concentric ripples, an apparition that refuses to go away. Only master short story writers can do this, and Hussain is certainly that. That the stories retain the delicacy and light touch that they must have in Urdu, is a tribute to the translater Moazzam Sheikh.