A woman going through books at a stall, Karachi Literature Festival, 2013. - Photo by Shameen Khan/Dawn.com
The apparently contradictory trends prevalent in Pakistani society are as evident in literature and literary journalism as in other fields. Urdu’s literary magazines, for instance, are apparently thriving and the number of new magazines being launched is increasing. On the other hand, the oft-repeated lament that the reading habits are on the decline or Urdu books are not as widely read as they were a few decades ago, too, is heard as often as it was in the past.
It is quite interesting to note that the two conflicting trends — indifference towards literature and an increased literary activity — exist side by side and this phenomenon can be of great interest to sociologists and psychologists. Whether people read or not, whether Urdu literature is as popular or not as it used to be, the fact is during the last few months Urdu’s literary magazines have been pouring in and in addition to the monsoon showers, this summer we enjoyed a heavy downpour of literary magazines as well.
Considering the large number of new issues of literary magazines, it will be difficult to review them all hence most will be briefly introduced here. Moreover, it is pertinent to note that other than the journals being published by the universities’ Urdu departments and government-funded organisations, private organisations and individuals too are bringing out literary magazines.
Mabahis is a research journal edited by Prof Dr Tehseen Firaqi and published from Lahore. Its second issue was published a few weeks ago and, keeping in line with the first issue, it includes research and critical writings of a galaxy of bigwigs from both India and Pakistan, such as Shamsur Rahman Farooqi, Gopi Chand Narang, Muhammad Saleem-ur-Rahman, Haneef Naqvi, Muhammad Umer Memon, Shaf’e Qidvai, Ata Khursheed, Moinuddin Aqeel, Shahabuddin Saqib and many others.
The fourth issue of Bunyad, a research journal published by Gurmani Centre for languages and literature, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), has just appeared. Edited by Dr Najeeba Arif, this issue includes some interesting pieces by well-known researchers. The special section included in this issue of Bunyad is titled ‘Bayad-e-raftagaan’ (remembering those who have departed). It has an article on Dr Abdus Sattar Siddiqui, one of the most respected linguists and scholars of the Urdu language, written by Tehseen Firaqi. Dr Siddiqui, writes Firaqi, knew many languages and his doctoral dissertation was on Persian-loan words in classical Arabic, which he wrote in German and it was published from Gutenberg.
Other articles in this section discuss Mira Jee’s life and his works. In this section, Dr Tabassum Kashmiri has emphasised the importance of Mira Jee as a great critic.
In his opinion, it was Mira Jee who created a framework in Urdu that enabled us to understand the modern Urdu poetry. Dr Kashmiri has beautifully proved, by citing vivid examples, that Mira Jee was the critic who deliberated on critical theory and he was in fact a visionary critic, though his calibre as poet too was no lesser than that.
Other articles in the section are by Saadat Saeed and Dr Najeeb Jamal. Mr Saeed has explored Mira Jee’s thought while Dr Jamal has successfully tried to clear some of the mystery surrounding Mira Jee’s life. According to him it was about time the accusations levelled against Mira Jee were taken back and stop labelling him as a morbid, a psychopath and an escapist. Dr Arif teaches Urdu at International Islamic University, Islamabad, but she was invited by LUMS as a guest editor to compile this issue. One must say that she has justified her selection.
Bazyaft is the research journal published by the Urdu department of the Punjab University Oriental College, Lahore. Prof Dr Fakhrul Haq Noori, the head of the department, is the chief editor. The 21st issue of Bazyaft was brought out a couple of months ago. Aside from other research articles, it carries two special sections: one on Faiz Ahmed Faiz and the other on Mira Jee.
The second, voluminous issue of Tanazur, edited by M. Khalid Fayyaz and published from the Pakistani city of Gujrat (Punjab), has just been published. Other than literary issues, Tanazur also covers social, political and historical subjects.
This issue includes special sections on Saadat Hasan Manto, Mira Jee and Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian author of the world famous novel Things fall apart.
A Karachi-based, nascent literary journal, Collage, edited by Iqbal Nazar and Shahida Tabassum, brought out its second issue a few weeks ago. True to its name, this bulky and serious-minded journal offers a variegated range of literary pieces by a number of well-known authors.
Another literary journal being printed from Karachi is Ijmaal. Edited by Faheem Islam Ansari, Ijmaal’s fourth issue was published a few months ago. Karoonjhar is a research journal that the Sindhi Department of Federal Urdu University, Karachi, publishes. Its recently published eighth issue, edited by Dr Kamal Jamro, is teeming with articles written in Urdu, English and Sindhi.
Older literary journals continue to toil and are regularly bringing out their issues. For instance, Bazm-e-Iqbal from Lahore has just brought out two new issues of its official magazine Iqbal. A research journal dedicated for Iqbal Studies, Iqbal is a journal that has entered its 59th year.
Ijra is a Karachi-based quarterly literary journal. Edited by Ahsan Saleem, Ijra’s three voluminous issues have been brought out during the year 2013. Its April-June 2013 issue, the 14th one, has articles, poems, ghazals, pen-sketches, short stories, novellas and book reviews.
Saheefa, a prestigious literary journal and the official mouthpiece of Lahore’s Majlis-e-Taraqqi-e-Adab (MTA), has finally been brought out after a lapse of several years.
Its previous editor Shahzad Ahmed had reactivated it in 2009 but after a few issues it faltered again and remained dormant for about three years. As Dr Tehseen Firaqi has recently taken over as the director general of MTA, he has revived Saheefa with a new resolve.
It is heartening to know that not only Karachi or Lahore or some cities of Punjab are the centre of Urdu literature but some cities of Sindh, too, are contributing in Urdu literary journalism.
Pehchan is a journal published from Mirpurkhas. Edited by Dr Zulfiqar Ali Danish, the 24th issue has a special on Taj Qaimkhani. Insha is a journal edited by Safdar Ali Khan and published from Hyderabad. It has entered the 21st year of its continuous publication and it is a pity that the contemporary literary critics do not acknowledge its contribution. Loh-e-adab is also published from Hyderabad. This too has completed 15 years of publication and Dr Shakeel Ahmed Khan is its editor.
For the general reader, it is indeed difficult to get hold of these literary magazines since few bookshops stock them. However, for those having an interest in reading such journals, many are available at Fazlee Books and Welcome Book Port in Karachi.