Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Presenting Ghani Kashmiri to the world

Title: The Captured Gazelle: 
The Poems of Ghani Kashmiri 

Trans: Mufti Mudasir and Nusrat Bazaz. 

Introduction: Mufti Mudasir

 Penguin Classics, June 2013.

Every moment it seeks to slip from the mind’s nook.
Fresh poetic meaning is a gazelle to be captured.
                                            (Ghani Kashmiri)

Kashmir has recently been honoured by the advent of brilliant fiction writers and now we have brilliant scholars writing for international audience. It is great news to learn that as renowned a publishing house as Penguin has published an English translation of Kashmir's foremost Persian poet and one of its cultural icons Ghani Kashmiri in its highly acclaimed list, Penguin Classics. For the first time Ghani has been translated into English by the Kashmiris making his poetry available all over the world to those who can't read Persian. A remarkable thing about the book is that it has the transliteration of the Persian on the facing pages which makes it a real treat to read. It shows the quality work of international standard on Persian literature can be done by Kashmiris.
Ghani Kashmiri is arguably Kashmir’s greatest contribution to Persian language and literature. Highly popular in India and the larger Persian-speaking world up to the modern times, he influenced many generations of Persian and Urdu poets in India. Superlatively praised by such giants as Mir and Iqbal, Ghani is an outstanding representative of Sabk-e-Hindi or the ‘Indian Style’ in Persian poetry, which became a hallmark of the Mughal-Safavid literary culture. Ghani’s forte lies in his remarkable use of language to create poems with multiple layers of meaning. This, along with his versatility in creating delightful metaphors and images, makes him one of the few medieval poets with a striking appeal to the modern reader.
Lengthy but scholarly introduction distills huge corpus of works on Ghani to clarify key elements of his art and life. It helps to approach a great stylist and master craftsman that Ghani is while giving readers a fresh vistas to appreciate his distinctive contribution. It argues why he shouldn’t be read as a Sufi poet and reviews major points in Ghani criticism till date. It situates Ghani against his unique background in which Iranian and Indian poetic cultures came together to create a glorious literary age in Kashmir, while the translations capture Ghani in his wide spectrum of moods – satirical, playful, self-pitying, pessimistic and mystically-resigned – bringing alive his wit and ingenuity in a modern idiom without losing hold on the tone and essence of the original. Divided into three sections, the first section of the Introduction treats Ghani's life and reception and focuses on the reputation he enjoyed during his lifetime and afterwards. Section Two provides a brief but much needed overview of the beginning and development of Persian literary tradition in Kashmir. It especially focuses on Kashmir's immense importance as a confluence of Persian and local literary cultures. It offers delightful translations of verses of poets we have always heard of but hardly ever actually read such as Saib Tabrizi, Kalim Kashani, Muhammad Hussain Mantaqi (Wusi Sahib), Muhsin Fani and many others. Section three forms the core of the introduction from a critical point of view as it discusses the question of Ghani's style and evaluates his poetry in general. Basing his argument on the classical as well as modern critical theories, Mudasir reveals the fallacy of regarding the poets of Sabk-e-Hindi or 'taaza goyi' (speaking anew) as superficial or artificially intellectual. The author moves effortlessly from Russian formalism, New Criticism to Shibli Numani and Shamsur Rahman Faruqi to establish his point. Ghani's dexterity in creating multilayered poetry is brilliantly brought out. This treatment on style is complemented by a thorough discussion of Ghani's main themes, ranging from Sufism, love, poverty, self-denial, pessimism etc.
The Introduction is followed by English translation and transliteration of the original Persian and detailed endnotes. The translations are selections from his ghazals, rubaiyis and masnavis. A few examples are given in the box. The masnavi describing Kashmir's legendary winter translated as Winter's Tale is a beautiful piece every Kashmiri may love to read.
Translating Ghani, a great self-conscious master of form, elegantly and lucidly is a great achievement for which readers will be thankful. It seems hard labour has gone into rendering Persian verses into an idiom which strikes one as contemporary without departing from the original substantially. This work will boost many more such translation works in future. The work is an honour for Kashmir University which has so far only a handful of books published by prestigious publishing houses. This work is going to sell like hot cake in the world interested in Persian literature or Kashmir. As a contribution to Persian studies, studies in comparative literature and introduction to the best of Kashmiri-Persian literary heritage, the work will be of immense use to everyone interested in Indo-Persian literature, scholars of Ghani and Kashmiri culture.
We should be grateful to translators for making accessible to English knowing people such an exquisite work of a poet who no doubt was a genius.

What wonder if my genius claims to be miraculous? Matchless is the pleasure my verse affords.

Notes on TranslatorsThe first translator, Mufti Mudasir Farooqi, senior Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Kashmir University, is one of the most gifted and brilliant teachers of literary criticism currently available in Kashmir. For me he is amongst the very few brilliant scholars in Kashmir to be envied and consulted. He is our present to the world of scholarship in Indo-Persian poetry and literary criticism. Gifted with great memory and a temperament he has produced some brilliant papers on as diverse themes as deconstructive reading of romantic poets, rethinking of Islamic thought in Arkoun, form of Chehal Asrar,  Iqbal, Marxism and postmodernism. Currently he is engaged in pursuing his postdoctoral fellowship in Germany that involves unearthing some important works in Persian written in Kashmir. His mission of presenting the best in Kashmir’s contribution to Persian literature will constitute a major contribution to both literature and Kashmir studies.
Nusrat Bazaz is a popular teacher of literature at Department of English, Kashmir University. It is a singular achievement of an English Professor to co-translate a work from another language for international audience that has been largely ignored in last few decades. She seems to have brought her experience in teaching American poetry that borders on the mystical in the present translation.

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