Philosophy in modern times generally implies western philosophy. The reason is the West’s intellectual and cultural hegemony which is rooted in its ability to use reason and rationality as tools to decipher and analyse phenomenon, natural and human.

In the non-western world, on the contrary, emphasis has been and still is on tradition and authority. The breakthrough in the western world came with the emergence of materialist worldview which sought to explain phenomenon in terms of material causes responsible for its very existence. The traces of such an awakening can be found in the philosophic views of early Greek thinkers from Ionia, a place in modern-day Turkey. This is from where we got our word “Younan” for Greece. Western society from the Renaissance onwards built their intellectual edifice on this rock solid base which was to dominate the entire known world with its overarching presence. This not to say that no other society had rational tools and suffered from the lack of materialist way of thinking. It was there in some of the societies but historically its existence proved marginal and thus it played a peripheral role in the social evolution as it had no incremental development. Anyway philosophy whether materialist or idealist has been a crucial component of our historical development.

Manzur Ejaz’s book ‘Falsafey di Tareekh’ published by Kitab Trinjan, Lahore, is a brief history of philosophy that introduces us to the different philosophies found in diverse cultures. The book has been divided into six segments dealing with Greek philosophy, Chinese philosophy, philosophy of Punjab and subcontinent, Arab and Iranian philosophy, western philosophy and other multiple philosophical views on politics and economics. The book is meant, it seems, for lay readers. Philosophical nitpicking has been avoided and complex notions have been explained in a simple manner with a view to reaching the maximum number of readers. The language employed is lucid. There’s nothing that is contrived or high-sounding as we usually find in the books written on the subject. So it attracts you rather than scaring you away.

History and evolution of Tantrawad [Tantric philosophy] in the context of Punjab is particularly illuminating. It’s placed in the socio-economic context and analysed as an essential product of interplay of material forces at a particular point in time in history.

Manzur Ejaz has elucidated Marx’s life and struggle with loving care which shows his empathetic nature. Marxian philosophy has been well-explained. The book successfully proves that study of philosophy or philosophical activity isn’t exclusive and elitist. Diverse strands of multiple philosophic systems are intricately and subtly woven into the skein of our individual and collective being. One feels while going through the book that perhaps the publisher couldn’t hire or find a professional proof reader. The book is a very valuable addition to our existing repertoire which in no way is wide. It’s a rewarding read. Buy your copy to know what the great minds have on offer.

Another book by Manzur Ejaz is “Waddi Jagatt Shari” published by Kitab Trinjan, Lahore. It’s translations of selected verses of poets from different cultures who the translator thinks are great. He seems to be fascinated by Chinese poets who appear prominently in the book. They in fact make half of the book. One finds their obsessive concern with landscapes amazingly unfamiliar. A large part of their expressions reflects an effort to create paintings out of visuals, still and inane which have decorative value rather than artistic or metaphorical significance. Besides Chinese one finds poets from Europe, Asia, Africa and Americas included in the anthology. Some are great and some surely aren’t. But one has no option other than reconciling with the translator’s choice. In the matters of such literary undertakings it’s the quality of translation that eventually determines the success or failure of the endeavour, not the stuff selected.

Let it be said that no translation is perfect; it sacrifices something to convey something. The reason is that a specific cultural perception/ vision embedded in a language is unique to it in such a way that it’s not translatable. That’s what is lost in the translation. But still we come to know and appreciate poets of foreign languages through translations. So it’s important that a translator thoroughly knows at least the nuances of the language he/she translating the stuff into.

Manzur Ejaz knows the Punjabi language and his renderings sound good and read well. The natural flow of language adds to the charm. Enjoy the verses.

Rajanpur-based Javed Asif is a Sariaki poet and fiction writer who has a number of books to his credit. “Janjj Kachavay Charhi” is his latest book of verses published by Taskeen- i- Zauq Publishers, Lahore.

Dr. Naseem Akhtar introduces the book and comments on Javed Asif’s poetry: “a distinct mark of an indigenous poet is his sense of sorrowfulness or an air of expectancy which is the foundation of mystic experience. The more the poet expresses it, the deeper becomes his relationship with it”.

Dr. Muzammil Hussain in the blurb which is laudatory says: “… his poetic expression is neither shallow nor trite, nor traditional. It’s laced with strains of thought”. The collection comprises a few Dohras [quatrains], some poems and the bulk of ghazal. The expression is not complicated and thus is comfortably accessible to the lay readers of the poetry. Such simplicity owes much to the prevalence of oral tradition and ubiquity of extemporaneous verbal interaction in the Baloch dominated area of Punjab.

Asif’s poetic experience is underpinned by cultural nostalgia, personal angst and social deprivation. Community ethos shared by him serves as a kind of backdrop to his musing. “I have treaded every path thinking that at long last it may lead to where the city is”. His is simple and sweet poetry. Savour its flavour. — soofi01@hotmail.com

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2020

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