Asif Farrukhi
Asif Farrukhi

KARACHI: The world of literature, in particular Urdu literature, was deeply saddened to learn on Monday evening that Asif Farrukhi, an eminent short story writer, translator, critic and publisher, had died of heart attack. He was 60.

Mr Farrukhi is survived by two daughters.

He was veritably a modern-day literary giant who hailed from a family of men of letters – his father Dr Aslam Farrukhi, uncle Anwar Ahsan Siddiqui and a relative from the mother’s side, Shahid Ahmed Dehlavi, were distinguished writers.

Mr Farrukhi had great feats to his credit in fiction writing. He published half a dozen collections of Urdu short stories and two works of criticism. He also published and edited a top-notch literary journal Duniyazad.

Last but not the least, Mr Farrukhi was a co-founder of the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) and the Adab Festival Pakistan.

He was born in Karachi on Sept 16, 1959. He went to St Patrick’s School and passed his intermediate exam from D.J. Science College. He did his MBBS from Dow Medical College in 1984 and obtained a Masters degree in public health from Harvard University.

From 1994 to 2004 he served as the health and nutrition programme officer at Unicef. In 2014 he joined Habib University as director of the Aarzu Centre for regional languages and humanities.

Mr Farrukhi, along with Ameena Saiyid, founded the KLF for Oxford University Pakistan (OUP) in 2010. It went on to become the country’s foremost cultural event and put it on the global literary map.

Mr Farrukhi rose to literary prominence in 1982 with his first collection of Urdu short stories, Aatash Fashan Per Khiley Gulab. But his critical faculty and proficiency as an editor were also widely acknowledged. Among other books, he published a collection of critical essays on writer Saadat Hasan Manto and an anthology of writings on Karachi, Look at the City from Here.

Mr Farrukhi was a regular contributor to Dawn. He wrote a popular column for the newspaper’s Books & Authors section.

In the 1990s he frequently wrote for the Herald and did interviews of literary stalwarts which to date are fondly remembered by followers of Urdu literature.

Mr Farrukhi was a voracious reader, a habit which helped him develop the ability to translate works from world literature. He translated pieces of fiction of many western and Arab writers for a variety of publications, including Duniyazad.

For the last two years, he had been successfully running the Adab Festival Pakistan with Ms Saiyid. He regularly took part in literary conferences across the world, reading papers and introducing Pakistani literature to new audiences.

In 2013, Asif Farrukhi accompanied renowned writer Intizar Husain to England, where the late Mr Husain was one of the finalists for the Man Booker Prize. Both were extremely fond of, and had tremendous respect for, each other.

One of Mr Farrukhi’s famous short stories was Samandar Ki Chori (the stolen sea). As the name of the tale suggests, it is about the disappearance of the sea. He once remarked that he had found the story while walking on Seaview Beach. “Some people find seashells, some find dead birds, but I find stories by the sea.”

Much like his tale, readers of literature and admirers of Mr Farrukhi found him absent from their world on Monday.

Mr Farrukhi was a recipient of the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz.

His Namaz-i-Janaza will be held on Tuesday (today) after Asr prayers at Jamia Masjid, University of Karachi (KU), and he will be laid to rest in the KU graveyard.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2020