Critic and fiction writer Shamsur Rahman Farooqi remembered

Published July 19, 2021
THE sitting to pay tribute to Shamsur Rahman Farooqi under way at Arts Council Karachi.—White Star
THE sitting to pay tribute to Shamsur Rahman Farooqi under way at Arts Council Karachi.—White Star

KARACHI: The Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, on Saturday evening held an event to pay tribute to the renowned Indian critic, fiction writer and linguist Shamsur Rahman Farooqi who passed away last year on Dec 25.

Prof Sahar Ansari, one of the three speakers present in the council’s Josh Malihabadi Library, said Farooqi sahib was an institution who was an expert in undertaking a variety of [literary] works in a masterful way. Although he had achievements in various genres of literature, even if he had focused on one of them, he still would have been a big name in the field. Giving this argument, Prof Ansari touched upon the late scholar’s great critical accomplishment Sher-i-Shor Angez. He argued it was important on two counts. One, it provided the reader with the understanding of the great poet Mir Taqi Mir’s poetry on the level of meaning (as is done at educational institutions). Two, it also discussed the poet with reference to philosophical theories such as deconstruction and hermeneutics.

‘In our part of the world, critics generally do not find the courage to talk about many things with clarity’

Poet Iftikhar Arif who joined online from Islamabad said after M. H. Askari, Farooqi sahib was the most prominent name in criticism. He launched his literary magazine Shabkhun in the 1960s as a movement. He was a voracious reader who had read literatures from all parts of the world (Persian, Arabic, western). If he had not done anything else except translating his novel Kai Chand Thay Sir-i-Aasman into English alone, he still would have been one of the most important literary figures. His death is a huge loss to the world of letters.

Poet Yasmeen Hameed, who spoke from Lahore, said Farooqi sahib was an extraordinary man. He came to LUMS twice where she was his host and got to know him better on a personal level. He was like a teacher to her. She has learned a great deal from his writings. “He was a thinker. In our part of the world, critics generally do not find the courage to talk about many things with clarity. That was not the case with Farooqi sahib. His criticism was transparent.”

Ms Hameed said the late scholar had the ability to simplify the most difficult of topics, which goes to show that he had complete command of his subject. His scientific approach to criticism was noteworthy. He would never present an argument without giving examples. Whatever he chose to write on, had significance, she added.

Dr Ziaul Hasan said Farooqi sahib’s personality was steeped in the Hindi-Islamic civilisation. He was known for different [literary] aspects in different times. For example, when he started publishing Shabkhun he became known as the torchbearer of modernism. When he came out with Sher-i-Shor Angez, his fondness for 18th and 19th century India came to the fore. A big part of his personality could be found grappling with 18th and 19th century India. But when he began writing fiction clarity about that time period became evident.

The late scholar’s daughter Mehr Afshan Farooqi, who resides in the US, said her father could connect across generations. He was a modern and contemporary man. He would always have a book in his hands and this reading habit sharpened his intelligence. His knowledge was deep and vast; and he had an analytical mind.

Mubin Mirza said after Alftaf Husain Hali and M.H. Askari, Farooqi sahib came up with ‘unpopular discussions’ in his criticism.

Akhlaq Ahmed said Farooqi sahib’s firs novel was published in a magazine from Meerut in four episodes. He was barely 15 years old at the time.

Ambareen Hasib Amber moderated the programme.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2021

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