We Are All Dr Faustus – Parveen Shakir

Last month, in the freezing climes of Islamabad, we talked about Parveen Shakir, Pakistan’s popular poet who died at a young age.

One of Parveen’s poems invokes the legend and metaphor of Dr Faustus:

‘The name ‘Faust’ has become deeply rooted in European mythology as the name of a man who sold his soul to the devil in return for eartly power and riches. The Faust legend has been embellished and retold in many formats …’

I found this skillful translation of her poem – We Are All Dr Faustus – by another noteworthy poet Alamgir Hashmi on this site.

We Are All Dr Faustus

In a way we are all
Dr Faustus.
One from his craze
and another helpless from blackmail
barters away his soul.
One mortgages his eyes
to trade in dreams
and another offers
his mind as collateral.
All that one may need sense
is the currency of the day.
So a survey of life’s Wall Street says
that among those with the buying power these days
self-respect is very popular.

The Urdu version was found with the translation

This is an appropriate commentary on what constitutes self-respect and the all-pervasiveness of Wall Street culture in our contemporary existence.

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