Publisher: Random House India
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Translators are messiahs to the world of books. Had they not dared to venture into the realm of translating one world of stories to another, we may never have known the pleasures of the words of Neruda, Marquez, Omar Khayyam and in this case, Rabisankar Bal’s. Thanks to Arunava Sinha.
This novel is a world in itself, spanning all boundaries and generations of an India we know very little of. It is a conversation between two of the greatest writers of all times – Mirza Ghalib and Saadat Hasan Manto – two men who shared the same passion and dreams but never crossed paths in their lifetimes. So in their graves they lie, speaking of their misfortunes and loves, and the things that shaped their poetry into how it was.
As I began reading this 535 page wonder, it transported me to a whole new Universe of Urdu poets, shayaris, dastans of a rustic culture that now lurks in the corners of Lucknow or Agra, maybe taking its last breath. I was no longer a part of the 21st century illusion – the era of Emperors and their artists seemed more real to me. Such is the beauty of Dozakhnama – it is a journey not of the narrator or a lost manuscript or its characters; rather, it is a journey into the heart of Hindustan.
Whether the translation has succeeded in transcribing the emotions exactly as the original is something only a Bengali reader can tell us. To a non-Bengali reader like me, this work is certainly one of the best reading experiences that gave me the “Indian” feel in spite of employing an “un”-Indian language used to convey it.
Dozakhnama is thus a story of one man’s lifetime longing to meet a fellow poet, and the various tumults he faces in his quest to get through. More than that, it is a calm stride into stories of the joys and loss of a generation long gone; a history almost forgotten. A bookish treat to the lovers of the Urdu culture featuring many of the famous poems and personalities like Mian Tansen, Rumi and Munirabai, Doozakhnama is definitely worth reading this summer.