Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"Memories of an Indian Childhood" by Qurratulain Hyder - 1965

Qurratulain Hyder (Urduقرۃ العین حیدر; January 20, 1928 – August 21, 2007)

"Memories of an Indian Childhood" is just what sounds like.  It centers on the experiences of a Muslim girl, growing up in the days of the British Raj in pre-partition India.  The family is affluent with several servants but not super rich.  Most of the fathers in the neighborhood seem to have high ranking jobs in the government.  All the marriages are arranged and there are rumors of affairs.  The streets of the neighborhood are trodden by various kinds of tradesman.  The wives are always trying to "one up" each other and the latest craze is to get musical lessons in the sitar for your sons or classical dance lessons for your daughters.  The neighborhood is rife with gossip.  A great source of pride to the Indian Grandees is to be, in their mind at least, be thought of as equal by the English higher ups.  The descriptions of the English houses and the ways the wives fill their time was very interesting.  There are tragic events, turn over in the servants, a sad event involving a beloved cat.  There are even motor cycle death circus rides!

This was a good story and I am glad I had the opportunity to read it.  It was originally published in Urdu and translated by the author herself.

About this author

Qurratulain Hyder, also known as Qurrat-ul-Ain Haider (Urdu: قرۃ العین حیدر; January 20, 1928 – August 21, 2007) was an influential Indian Urdu novelist and short story writer, an academic, and a journalist. One of the most outstanding literary names in Urdu literature, she is most known for her magnum opus, Aag Ka Darya (River of Fire), a novel first published in Urdu in 1959, from Lahore, Pakistan, that stretches from the 4th century BC to post partition of India. Popularly known as "Ainee Apa" among her friends and admirers, she was the daughter of writer and pioneers of Urdu short story writing Sajjad Haidar Yildarim (1880–1943). Her mother, Nazar Zahra, who wrote at first as Bint-i-Nazrul Baqar and later as Nazar Sajjad Hyder (1894–1967), was also a novelist and protegee of Muhammadi Begam and her husband Syed Mumtaz Ali, who published her first novel.

She received the 1967 Sahitya Akademi Award in Urdu for Patjhar Ki Awaz (Short stories), 1989 Jnanpith Award for Akhire Shab Ke Humsafar, and the highest award of the Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters, the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship in 1994. She also received the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India in 2005.

A prolific writer (she began to write at the young age of 11), her literary works include some 12 novels and novellas and four collections of short stories. Hyder has also done a significant amount of translation of classics. Her own works have been translated into English and other languages. From Goodreads.

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