KARACHI: A book titled The One Who Did Not Ask — the English translation of Altaf Fatima’s Urdu novel Dastak Na Do by Rukhsana Ahmad — was launched in a weekly session of Writers and Readers Café at the Arts Council on Thursday evening.

Dr Tanveer Anjum, who moderated the event, introduced the author and guest speakers to the audience.

She said Ms Ahmad was a novelist, short story writer and playwright. The first book that she read penned by her was The Hope Chest. And it was in 1993 that The One Who Did Not Ask was first published.

Durdana Soomro was the first speaker at the launch who shed light on the quality of the translated work. She said it’s a smoothly translated book, very easy to read. “It’s been translated effortlessly. Contrary to what people think, an effortless translation requires more hard work. It’s a simple story which has a female protagonist named Gaiti. She is a rebel. In the simplicity of the story there are a lot of themes, such as feminism and alienation. It focuses on family relationships with a big number of characters.”

The author of the book, Rukhsana Ahmad said one of the reasons for translating the novel was that she found its female protagonist, Gaiti, quite interesting. “She is a lively character. Her mother is repressive who wants to control the girls [in the family]. The other aspect of Altaf Fatima’s work was its readability. I found it unputdownable. She tells the story so beautifully and goes with its pace.

“Then it’s written in a philosophical style. There’s a Chinese character in the story and the protagonist thinks about why two civilisations (China and the subcontinent) are different. This was also what I found intriguing. I didn’t know anything about Lao-Tzu. I have a friend who introduced me to a lot of this stuff. Altaf Fatima has thought deeply about all these things. Apart from that, there’s a contrast between two sisters — one is compliant and the other is rebellious.”

Ms Ahmad said a critic while praising her translation complained about the plethora of characters (relatives) in the novel. English novels are so much about the individual, unlike their Urdu counterparts, she argued.

Dr Omair Ahmed Khan said Dastak Na Do was published in 1965. One of the important works of Altaf Fatima is the translation of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mocking Bird. There are traces (aasaar) of that novel in Dastak Na Do. She carried the same melancholic tone when she wrote her book. The translation as a previous speaker said is effortless. Altaf Fatima’s theme is based on Lao-Tzu’s famous philosophy that ‘you don’t have to knock on doors to ask for good things’. While translating it, Ms Ahmad, rather than going for the literal meaning of the Urdu title, went for the philosophy.”

He touched upon the post-colonial aspect of the story, too.

Shama Askari read an excerpt from the book. She did a nice job.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Iran’s counterstrike
Updated 15 Apr, 2024

Iran’s counterstrike

Israel, by attacking Iran’s diplomatic facilities and violating Syrian airspace, is largely responsible for this dangerous situation.
Opposition alliance
15 Apr, 2024

Opposition alliance

AFTER the customary Ramazan interlude, political activity has resumed as usual. A ‘grand’ opposition alliance ...
On the margins
15 Apr, 2024

On the margins

IT appears that we are bent upon taking the majoritarian path. Thus, the promise of respect and equality for the...
Noshki killings
Updated 14 Apr, 2024

Noshki killings

It must be asked why Baloch separatists continue to target civilians as well as security men despite large deployment.
Upholding the law
14 Apr, 2024

Upholding the law

THE recent discord in Bahawalnagar offers a chance to reflect on the sanctity of the law and its enforcement across...
Tragic travels
14 Apr, 2024

Tragic travels

FOR those embarking on road and boat journeys, the probability of fatal accidents has seen a steady rise. The recent...