KARACHI: The launching ceremony of senior journalist, author, poet and translator Zafar Qureshi’s collection of short story translations titled ‘Aalmi Kahaniyaan’ was held at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.

Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan, writer, researcher and educationist, told the audience that the book is Qureshi’s sixth contribution to literature. His other books also include a novel on the issues of migrants, which the author has good understanding of as he himself had migrated to the United States sometime back. Of the stories selected for translation by him in his latest book, Dr Tauseef said they are all reflections on human behaviour.

Senior journalist Saeed Usmani said that he knew Qureshi for long but he got to know him even better through his earlier book in which he had shared his political views. “He speaks the truth, which many might not agree with. He is correct in saying that because of a lack of student politics, narratives of the Left or the Right are no longer known. Our kind of politics thwart narratives,” he said.

About the latest book, Usmani said that it focuses on the downtrodden. “He had been thinking about highlighting their issues when he left Pakistan,” he said.

Zafar Qureshi’s work highlights issues of common folk, examines feelings, reflections and impressions, say speakers

Journalist and writer Shahnaz Ahad said that Qureshi, in his prime, used to work for a news organisation not known for paying journalists too well so he used to work as a translator of articles and features on the side. She commended him on his choice of stories for translation in the collection as they raise awareness about the issues of the common folk.

Writer Saleem Siddiqui said that for translating, Qureshi selected a particular style of modern fiction. “This style of fiction has to do with cleaning out of unnecessary things from your lives,” he said.

Appreciating Qureshi’s work, social activist Mahnaz Rahman said that it is never easy or simple to translate literature, because the translator also needs to translate the feelings, reflections and impressions of the original author”. She added that she often wonders why he has taken on such a difficult and thankless job of first translating the stories and then taking the added trouble of publishing them also because everyone here only wants free books from him, which he also provides.

But then she also answered her own question: “Qureshi loves the Urdu language, and he loves Pakistan. These translations keep him connected to both Urdu and Pakistan.”

Columnist Agha Masood said that Qureshi always encouraged his column-writing. “As a human being, Qureshi carries a deep love for his country. It is this love, which brings him back to Pakistan again and again. His translations are as deep as his other writings. They are not hasty or mechanical. He gets under the skin of the writers.

Veteran journalist and Dawn’s External Ombudsman Muhammad Ali Siddiqi, who presided over the event, spoke about the nuances of Urdu literature. He said that he found Qureshi’s books, especially his novel Boom Basera, quite extraordinary because it does what a novel should do. “It takes you away from your environs to transport you to a new place, where the story is set,” he pointed out, while discussing the novel in depth.

“It takes you to New York where a young migrant from Pakistan survives by doing odd jobs, where all migrants help each other and human values cut through ethnicity,” he said.

Finally, Zafar Qureshi thanked everyone for their kind words and review of his works.

Writer Anis Zaidi also spoke.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2022

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