Much to the surprise of the world outside Europe, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2008. Described as an “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of humanity beyond and below the reigning civilisation”, Le Clezio was not as well-known outside Europe till winning the coveted prize. Now he is enjoying his newly-found world-wide fame.
Le Clezio delivered his Nobel lecture on December 7, 2008, at the Swedish Academy, Stockholm. His lecture titled 'In the forest of paradoxes' has now been rendered into Urdu by Dr Nasir Abbas Nayyar under the title 'Tanaquzaat ke jangal mein'. Published in the latest issue of 'Bazyaft', the translation not only makes the lecture accessible to those who are computer-shy and shun the internet but is also a help for those who cannot enjoy the lecture available in different languages, including English, on Nobelprize.org. The lecture begins with the question 'why do we write?' and then goes on to discuss certain global issues. In his introduction, Dr Nayyar describes Le Clezio's writings as 'non-Euro-centric' and says that in the lecture Le Clezio “generously praises representatives of world literature and quite unexpectedly 'deconstructs' the hegemonic attitude of Western writers regarding enlisting of great world writers. Le Clezio pays tribute to many non-European writers including Urdu's Qurat-ul-Ain Hyder. His non-Euro-centric perception is deeply rooted in his real and imaginary experience of exile. Understandably, he shows great respect for all writers who have had to deal with exile. Hence exile and migration become a major theme of his novels.”
Here one is reminded of certain Urdu short stories and novels whose theme is migration. Qurat-ul-Ain Hyder's 'Aag ka darya', for instance, too, discusses the theme of exile, albeit only in the later part of the book. Similarly, Intizar Husain's short stories and novels portray the deep sense of agony and dislocation that the psyche of the Ã©migrÃ© is engraved with. In today's world migration has become a global issue because of the conflicts and human misery brought about by these conflicts and, therefore, a piece of literature depicting the agonies of migrants strikes a chord everywhere.
'Bazyaft', the magazine that carries the translation of the Nobel lecture, is a research journal published by the Urdu department of Punjab University's Oriental College, Lahore. Its latest issue (July-December 2008) came out about a couple of months ago. It contains articles by some of the well-known and senior scholars such as Dr Rafiuddin Hashmi, Dr Moinuddin Aqeel, Dr Tehseen Firaqi, Dr Najeeb Jamal, Muhammad Hamza Farooqi and others. Under the editorship of Prof Dr Tehseen Firaqi, 'Bazyaft' is reaching for new heights. Ably supported by his two young deputies namely Dr Zia-ul-Hasan and Dr Nasir Abbas Nayyar, Dr Firaqi, a veteran research scholar and experienced academic, has definitely raised the standard of the journal after taking its charge in the recent past.
Ever since the Higher Education Commission (HEC) began emphasising research activities and imposed certain conditions on the promotion of university teachers — such as getting published a certain number of research papers in HEC-approved research journals — there has been a spurt of research activities and research publications.
It has had a positive impact on Urdu as well. Though there is a long history of Urdu research that can be traced back to, say, the early twentieth century, of late there has been a remarkable increase in the number of research papers published on Urdu literature and language. This has also encouraged the Urdu departments at Pakistani universities to get their research journals published on time. As a result now we see a regular flow of these journals.
Lately I have mentioned, in these columns, Multan's Bahauddin Zakaria University's 'Journal of Research', Sindh University's 'Tehqeeq' and Oriental College's Oriental Learning's 'Mujalla-e-Tehqeeq'. Now we have another journal, in addition to 'Bazyaft', that deserves a mention. It is 'Daryaft'.
Enlisted as a 'Y' category research journal by HEC, 'Daryaft' is brought out by the National University of Modern Languages (NUML), Islamabad. Its latest issue (2009, No.8) has just been out and contains many thought-provoking articles both by senior scholars and promising ones. Dr Moinuddin Aqeel's article 'Junubi Asia mein farsi matbooaat ki fehrist navisi' briefly reviews the history of compilation of publication lists of Persian texts published in South Asia. Dr Tabassum Kashmiri's article 'Aakhri Mughlia daur ki Dilli ki yaaden' introduces 'The Golden Calm', a very important source of information on Delhi's history and culture. Originally titled 'Reminiscences of imperial Delhi' and written in 1844 by Emily, daughter of Thomas Metcalfe, the book could see the light of day only in 1980. Metcalfe came to Delhi in 1813 and lived there for 40 years, collecting a treasure of all kinds of antiques including manuscripts, books and miniatures in his vast house. Later he edited his daughter's memoirs, but the book could not be published and its manuscript remained with his heirs. Dr Kashmiri has introduced the book and its strange writer and compiler in a very interesting manner. The book includes miniatures, some of which have been reproduced by 'Daryaft'. One of the miniatures adorns the title-page of the journal.
In the same issue, Dr Atash Durrani's article 'Maghrib mein matni tadveen ki tareekh aur tadrees' highlights the two prominent features of research methodology in the West textual criticism and scientific principles of research. Other articles that deserve special mention, though there are many that call for a detailed review, are on the issues of language and lexicography. Dr Suhail Abbas Baloch has come up with quite a fresh idea by introducing a new term 'muraad' in his article by the same name. His study gives the metaphorical and idiomatic meanings of Urdu words or phrases that do not contain verbs, though a verb is an essential part of an idiom. Such constructions are known in Urdu as 'muraad'. Dr Abdul Aziz Sahir in his article has shed light on the use of words that are not governed by syntactical rules. Dr Najeeba Arif research paper reviews the contributions of some of the British orientalists in writing history of Urdu language and literature. Edited by Dr Rasheed Amjad, a senior researcher and academic, the journal justifies the category allotted to it.
A lover of Urdu language and literature can only celebrate the publication of such quality research journals but, keeping one's fingers crossed, can we hope for the same standard and quality in the wake of a spurt that seems rather uncharacteristic of Urdu?