Basti by Intizar Husain. Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review 's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge and remind and warn you that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure. The complete review 's Review :.
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Basti by Intizar Husain. Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review 's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge and remind and warn you that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.
The complete review 's Review :. Basti is, in many ways, a sweeping novel, beginning in an India still under British rule before the Second World War and extending past the Bangladesh liberation war of But this isn't standard historical fare: Husain offers detailed and often dialogue-heavy scenes, but skips over great periods of time, in a novel that is more photograph album than a narrative focused on continuity. The central figure is Zakir, and the novel begins in his childhood, in the village of Rupagnar, where electricity is just being introduced.
Change is a force that can not be stopped: Zakir's father is only absent for a single day from guarding the mosque, but when he returns the electricity has been hooked up, against his wishes; monkeys, too, are defeated by the high-power wires.
Tellingly, too, it is about this time that the plague ravages the local population, Hindu and Muslim. Relatives move to town, and among them is young Sabirah, a girl whom Zakir befriends and who remains a constant though not a physical presence in his life. Setting the tone for their story, young Zakir suggests early on: "let's play bridegroom and bride", but she nervously worries that someone will see -- and a rainstorm interrupts them before anything else happens.
Their relationship is more forcefully interrupted later, and they remain separated -- Sabirah the one member of her family to remain in India after the partition, while all the other Muslims including Zakir moved to Pakistan, with most of Sabirah's closest relatives going to the eastern part, what would later become Bangladesh. Sabirah remains on Zakir's mind, yet he finds it difficult to reach out and even just contact her over the many years that follow their separation.
The trauma of partition is strongly evident, yet Husain presents it and much else obliquely. There is conflict, flight, occasional terror, but little of the worst excesses of partition -- or then the war -- are described. Instead, most is in the vein of: The discussion was first ideological, then personal, then insulting, then abusive, and then it came to blows. Passerby stood bewildered, stared at the combatants with fright, then asked each other, "What's happening?
What's going to happen? Then they went their several ways, and forgot that anything had happened at all. As though nothing had happened, as though nothing would happen. A first-person account by Zakir, dated diary entries "a means for keeping my mind occupied during the wartime nights" of the war between India and Pakistan, offer greater immediacy, yet also take on a surreal, alienated feel, Zakir exposed to war yet largely only indirectly.
Inside me, times and places are topsy-turvy. Sometimes I have absolutely no idea where I am, in what place.
Basti is a novel of this uncertain sense of displacement. So, also, it's littered with abandoned houses, left behind by those who fled, new inhabitants other refugees often moving in in a world turned upside down. Rupagnar is abandoned, but remains the Zakir's lost home; moving to a new ly created state demands new allegiances, yet Zakir always remains torn. But what's the good of clarity? What I feel obscurely is everything. There are scenes of precise clarity in Basti , but the overall feel is one of flashes and fog in this impressionistic novel of these nations and their history.
It is successful as such, giving a good feel of the experience of these times -- even as it can frustrate in its many shifts and often disjointed narrative. Basti is a different kind of piecemeal historical novel, less concerned with detailed realism and continuity; as such, in many ways, it is also more true to life.
A rewarding though unusual read. Orthofer , 6 February Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs. Contents: Main. Basti - US. Basti - UK. Basti - Canada. Basti - India. The Hindu. The Independent. The National. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
I bought this book last year, early in my translated fiction kick, and I think it's easily one of the best books I found as a part of that interest. It is also a difficult and challenging book to read Intizar Husain is considered by many as the most significant living fiction writer in Urdu. This novel is set against sectarian violence, both the violence of the partition and the violence of Intizar Husain. In Urdu, basti means any space, from the most intimate to the most universal, in which groups of people come together to try to live together, and the universal question at the heart of the book is how to constitute a common world.
Translation of celebrated Urdu novel Basti reveals search for a homeland
He is widely recognised as a leading literary figure of Pakistan. His exact date of birth is not known, sources indicate that he was born on 21 December , or After passing the Intermediate Examination high school equivalent in the USA in , he gained a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in Urdu literature at Meerut College in and respectively. They had no children. He wrote short stories, novels and poetry in Urdu , and also literary columns for Dawn newspaper and Daily Express newspaper. Aagay Sumandar Hai Sea is facing you in the front contrasts the spiraling urban violence of contemporary Karachi with a vision of the lost Islamic realm of al-Andalus in modern Spain.