A handsome, new translation of Ismat Chughtai’s memoir, Kaghazi Hai Pairahan (KHP from henceforth), by OUP is cause for celebration in itself. To readers of Indian literature, Chughtai needs no introduction, given how lionized she is in multiple canons. Noor Zaheer, as translator, is more than a match for the verve of Chughtai’s style and this is a translation marked by ease and confidence. Zaheer’s method is appealing: she sandwiches the actual text of the memoir between a section that contains two essays on Ismat by writers Patras Bukhari and Manto, and three
essays by Ismat on Manto, Asarul Haq Majaz, and Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. What such a
move does is to position the memoir itself as a text that instantiates the artistic and creative process of Ismat’s writerly formation. Indeed, it is with such an interest that this reviewer approached the work and on this criterion, the book yields some fascinating insights.
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