Exploring the past
The Capital recently witnessed the launch of the book the The Death of Sheherzad, stories by Intizar Husain at Oxford Bookstore Connaught Place. The stories in the book represent Husain’s oeuvre defying narrative tradition and exploring the past specifically partition as a means of unraveling the present.
Many years ago, Sheherzad had saved her life by telling the prince 1001 stories night after night. Now she has grandchildren who want to hear bedtime stories from her. But she seems to have lost the yarns of fantasy that had once helped her escape beheading; she has forgotten all the stories.
Thus begins Husain’s latest and most exquisite collection of stories. He has used motifs and images from an eclectic range of sources such as the Jataka Katha, Panchatantra, Katha Sagar, as well as traditions of the qissa-kahani and dastangoi from the early history of Islam to tell tales that seamlessly weave in the old and the new, the historical and the contemporary.
Husain born in 1925 has written five novels and published seven collections of short stories. Naya Ghar (The New House) paints a picture of Pakistan during the ten-year dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq. Agay Sumandar Hai (Beyond Lies the Sea) contrasts the spiralling urban violence of contemporary Karachi with a vision of the lost Islamic realm of al-Andalus in modern Spain, and will be published in English translation by HarperCollins in 2015. He was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013.