Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kum Kum Sangari on Qurratulain Hyder's "Aag Ka Darya"

Quote from Kum Kum Sangari on the relationship of the Urdu original to Hyder's English translation:

The innovative structure of Aag ka Darya had no precedent. The novel is staged in four historical periods : first, the expansion of the Mauryan empire under Chandragupta in the fourth century BC; second, the end of the Lodi dynasty and the beginning of Mughal rule in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries; third, the late-eighteenth-century beginnings of East India Company rule until its consolidation in the 1870s; and fourth, the two decades leading up to the 1950s that encompassed nationalist struggle, Partition, and Independence. These constitute four sequential yet discrete experiential moments that can neither be made amenable to a causal and teleological reading, nor slotted in as the discontinuous fragments characteristic of a high modernism. They are more readily grasped as a single constellation, as an individual attempt to apprehend a ‘civilization’, and as a doubled gesture repeated in a different conjuncture when the author’s own English version, River of fire , appeared in 1998. This was a fifth moment, rendered invisible by labels of transliteration or mistranslation, yet so powerful that I was compelled to reread Aag ka Darya backwards from River of Fire . It is a novel recomposed by the author: the changes in some narrative sequences and narrative voices remodulate it both in intention and effect. The basic spatial and temporal structure, however, remains unchanged; the four movements remain linked to each other through sedimentation and retrieval.

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