Faiz’s Kalam in English
Poetry enthusiasts can read excellent translation of the great Urdu poet, Faiz, in the new book In English, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. This collection contains translation of about 270 poems and quatrains from the eight books that Faiz Ahmed Faiz published from 1941 to 1984. This book presents over 85% of his entire published poetry, the largest portion yet translated. The book includes a Preface on how his poetry sought social justice and freedom of speech, and how it reflects his own incarcerations. Another chapter, A Word on Translation, highlights the problems of translation across philologically distant languages. The Index has translation of Faiz's Urdu speeches and other prose, and the views of other writers on him and his poetry.
Dr. Riz Rahim, with a long affiliation with Toxicology-Cancer, Chicago, has over the years published numerous articles in English and Urdu in newspapers/magazine in the US, India and Pakistan, on a wide range of topics from science, health, environment, history, politics to literary matters. Dr. Rahim has also been a frequent contributor to Pakistan Link. In this book, Dr. Rahim translates an unprecedently large part of published Urdu poetry by Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
“A poet’s autobiography,” Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said, “is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote.” This applies to a very select group of poets that must include the Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. In the case of Faiz, the reverse seems truer, if that is possible, because it is his poetry that fills the chapters of his life.
He published eight books of poetry: Naqsh-e-Feryadi, (NF), being his first, published in 1941, and Ghubbar-e-Ayyam (GA), his last (1984), and a collection of all his poetry, Nusqa-ha-e-wafa, was published posthumously. His early verses, written mostly during his student years, were quite traditional for Urdu poetry and were well received in student and literary circles. That phase did not, however, last long because Faiz underwent a major transformation from traditional Urdu “poetry for poetry’s sake,” exemplified by his idol, Ghalib, to “poetry with purpose.” It is not just a road less traveled but a terrain totally alien to Urdu poetry. Unlike “ [a] poem should not mean, but be,” each of his poems recorded a part of his own life in the larger context of his country’s history.
That break came with his famous poem halfway into his very book (#15 in NF). It starts with these memorable lines: “Don’t ask me, sweetheart, for the love we had before / Many other woes in the world besides love and heartache / many other comforts besides our togetherness,” “Mujh say pahli si mohabuth meraymahboob na maang.” He marked that change with a telling line from a Persian poet, Nizami: “I have sold my heart, and bought a soul” (Dil-e-bufro-khathm, jaan-e-khareedun)….. [Page 25]
A Word on Translation
No native English speaker would ever rush to first read a translation of Shakespeare, Byron, or Milton in any other language. Nor would English readers find in any translation the same poetic beauty and lyricism as the English poets had for them in their native language. No leap of faith, then, to imagine how native speakers of Urdu would feel about and react to translations, in English or any other language, of the Urdu poetry. [….]
By importing Pushkin, Rilke, Voltaire, Neruda, Omar Khayyam, Rumi, and others from across the linguistic borders, English literature has only gotten richer, more expansive and inclusive. More so with each translation of each non-English writer, poet! Faiz Ahmed Faiz belongs in that select group of poets who, in translation, have been brought to English bookshelves. A translation, regardless of its individual poetic qualities or limitations, does provide a window into another culture, another emotional terrain that would have otherwise remained inaccessible or nonexistent to them. […]
If translation between two philologically and culturally related languages were not already difficult enough, a similar attempt between two languages with little in common (e.g., Urdu/Farsi and English, representing distant, unrelated culture and linguistics) is going to be barely acceptable, if at all, to speakers of either language. If it was a graceful line in Urdu, it could well be turned into gibberish in English and vice versa.
Translation is not something that often receives a kind mention. Particularly of poetry, on which, Robert Frost’s reminder is hard to miss: Poetry is what gets lost in translation. This caution is not without basis, however. The responsibility of a translator is to remain not only faithful to the letter and spirit of the poets lines (no putting words into the poets mouth, no going off tangent, no over-explanations, etc.), but to render them with lyrical quality, equally acceptable in a language not originally intended by the poet. Such an exercise might not be much different from watching an Arabian horse that, upon crossing a linguistic border, acquires all the elegance, grace, and agility of a mule on an alien terrain. […]
From Naqsh-e-Feryadi :
Don’t Ask Me, Sweetheart, for the Love We’ve Had Before
(Mujh say pahli si mohabuth meri mahboob na maang )
Don’t ask me, sweetheart, for the love we’ve had before.
I had then thought --
as long as you’re here, my life would flourish;
when I had your grief, grief of the world didn’t matter.
You were the one who kept the world in eternal bloom,
but for your eyes, what else is there for me in the world?
If I have you, I’d have the destiny in my hand.
That was not to be, though I wanted it so.
Many other woes in the world besides love,
many other comforts, besides our togetherness………… [Page 78]
From Zindaan Nama :
So many Crosses dug in my window each tainted with blood of its own Messiah each anxious to meet its own God..... [Page 177]
Flowers Crushed (Phool mus-lay ga-yay farsh-e-gulzaar per )
Flowers crushed on the garden path,
color sprinkled on the gallows.
Let whoever wants to enjoy the party, enjoy:
an invitation to dance at the swords point ! ………… [Page 375]
From Index : A Tribute to Faiz by T. Beeth
In a cruel
the freshest air,
deprived of pen and paper
his heart and mind
his soul soars,
pierces the relentlessly cold skies.
In a harsh dry soil
an unforgiving acorn. &nb sp; That’s Faiz!
Faiz Ahmed Faiz
A Renowned Urdu Poet
R i z R a h i m
ISBN13 Hardcover: 978-1-4363-7313-5
ISBN13 Softcover: 978-1-4363-7312-8
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