Qurratulain Hyder -End of an Era

End of an era: Ainee Apa 1927 – 2007

Why do we all find ourselves present in this particular context, in this particular place? How have these pictures assembled here in this jigsaw puzzle? Soon, something will happen, pieces will scatter and become part of a newer pattern? This time will pass? (From My Temples, Too)

The death of Qurratulain Hyder marks the end of an era of the finest writing in Urdu. Hyder, also known as Ainee Apa, dominated the world of Urdu literature for over six decades. She started writing as a child and published her first novel, Meray Bhi Sanam Khanay (later trans-created as My Temples, Too), when she was 22 years old. The novel set a new trend in Urdu literature: a voice of modernity, yet one rooted in the traditions of the Indo-Muslim ethos as it struggled to narrate the tragic tale of the birth of two new nations. Even her worst critics, the doyens of the Progressive Writer’s Movement, acknowledged her innate gift for writing. Within three years, her second novel was published and she had unwittingly kick-started the revival of the Urdu novel from the point where Munshi Prem Chand had left it in the early twentieth century.

Her genius found a panoramic range of expression in Aag Ka Darya, which for its canvas, historical consciousness and characterisation, surpasses most novels written in any language. This novel deals with the plight of the human condition in the Indo-Pakistani setting from the fourth century BC to the 1950s. Starting with a translation of a TS Eliot poem, it traces multiple eras, with characters disappearing and reappearing in different guises, pitted against the broad strokes of history and time.

It was an epoch-making event in Urdu literature, but ran into trouble in Pakistan, as the novel highlighted the thousand year old composite Indo-Muslim culture of pre-Partition India, something which was not in line with the official version of history being constructed in Pakistan. Ideologically driven right-wing critics considered it a threat to their nationalism. Continue reading “Qurratulain Hyder -End of an Era”