Professor Shamim Hanafi is a leading Indian Urdu literary critic, poet and playwright. He has penned several books, including the widely acclaimed works of criticism Nai Sheri Riwayat and Tehzeeb Aur Takhleeqi Tajraba, and a collection of poetry Akhri Pahar Ki Dastak. He has taught at the Department of Urdu, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, for a number of years.   What are you reading these days?
I read a few books simultaneously. Nowadays it’s a biography of Kabirdas by Purushottam Agrawal, two Hindi novels and a novel Jinder by Akhtar Raza Saleemi.

What one book have you been wanting to read for a long time, but haven’t yet got your hands on?
Not just one book, there are quite a few of them that I have been wanting to read for the last 50 years. I have no idea when I will get the chance to go through them.

What is the one famous/celebrated book that you haven’t read?
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

What is the most overrated book?
Aab-i-Gumm by Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi, despite the fact that it’s his best and most popular work.

What is the most underrated book?
Chakiwara Mein Wisaal by Muhammad Khalid Akhtar. Also, his travelogues and parodies.

Arundhati Roy the novelist or Arundhati Roy the social activist?
Arundhati Roy’s nonfiction.

Karachi Literature Festival or Jaipur Literature Festival?
I have been to the Karachi Literature Festival only once. I have never been to the Jaipur Literature Festival, but I’ve seen video recordings of many of its sessions. I feel the latter is better because of its vibrancy and a wider spectrum of subjects. Also, the number of public intellectuals seen there is no less than that of journalists, writers and social workers.

Udaas Naslein or Ghulam Bagh?
Udaas Naslein.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Dast-i-Tah-i-Sang or Noon Meem Rashid’s Guman Ka Mumkin?
Faiz’s book. And I know that Rashid’s is more opulent in terms of thought.

The one dead writer who deserved the Nobel Prize for literature, but didn’t get it?
Graham Greene and Allen Ginsberg. Both belong to different [creative] worlds, so it’s difficult for me to choose one.

The one living writer who deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature?
I haven’t read many books. Still, I think some of our regional writers and poets are better than some of the more famous Western writers and poets.

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, September 2nd, 2018

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