LAHORE: In an impressive ceremony at a hotel on The Mall, veteran short story writer, novelist, journalist and poet Intizar Husain was conferred upon the 'Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters' by the French Ambassador to Pakistan Philppe Thiebaud.

The French government has given this award to Mr Husain in recognition of his huge contribution to Urdu literature. He is the first Pakistani writer who has been given this award by France.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Thiebaud held Husain's huge contribution towards enriching the Urdu literature in high esteem. The ambassador said: "It is certainly a great privilege for me to confer an award upon Mr Intizar Husain on behalf of the French government".

He said the award was established in 1960s and had been given to personalities related to different genres of art such as painters, writers and musicians.

Addressing Husain, Thiebaud said: "This major contribution you have made will remain a milestone in the journey of Urdu literature". Paying rich tributes to Mr Hussain the ambassador said that he was a humanist who had upheld human dignity through his literary works. He said the works by Husain also carried a rich cultural heritage and unique flavour of language.

Intizar Husain, in his address thanked the French Government for extending such an honour to him. Being highly proud of the Urdu language and the literary tradition attached to it, he said that very tradition justified the award.

Naming three towering personalities of Urdu literature --- Saadat Hassan Manto, Meera Jee and Muhammad Hassan Askari - he said they had a great contribution in introducing French literature to Urdu readers through translations. He said in begining of his literary career Manto did a number of translations of French short stories. Meera Jee also did translations of the poetic works by leading French poets, he added.

Pointing out Muhammad Hassan Askari's contributions in this connection, Husain mentioned how Mr Askari used to keep inform his readers through his columns about what was current in French literature.

Khalid Ahmed said Husain spent his life walking through the streets of Lahore and developed relations with the literary folk in tea houses of the city.

Asif Farrukhi from Karachi read a detailed paper on the literary journey of Intizar Husain with a focus on his monumental novel 'Basti'.

Prominent on the occasion were Kishwar Naheed, Director French Center, Lahore Dominique Scobry, Asghar Nadeem Syed, Masood Ashar, Shahid Mehmood Nadeem and Madeeha Gauhar.

Published in Dawn, September 21th, 2014

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