In this treasure trove of stories, verse and history, Ralph Russell – one of the greatest scholars of Urdu – expands our world of Urdu letters to include fascinating folk and oral narratives, besides exceptional prose and poetry. By situating each form historically, he gives us a refreshing perspective on the diverse literary cultures of India in the last two centuries.
Besides canonical short stories by the likes of Manto, Krishan Chander, Premchand and Rashid Jahan, he brings us gripping extracts from the memoirs of Ismat Chughtai and Shaukat Thanavi. Exciting creation tales from the Quran find space next to the popular stories of Akbar and Birbal, and the legendary exploits of Sikandar (Alexander the Great). The sublime section on love poetry features selections from the masters Mir, Ghalib, Momin and others, and is supplemented by astute commentary and roman transliterations of the original Urdu. Finally, in Farhatullah Beg’s brilliantly imagined account of the ‘last Delhi mushaira’, Russell presents a moment in time never seen again, with the horrors of 1857 just around the corner.
This luminous volume is an accessible introduction for new readers, and a pleasurable companion for those familiar with Urdu literature. Originally published to great acclaim as Hidden in the Lute (1995), this revised edition has been edited by Russell’s student and friend, the novelist Marion Molteno.
About the Author
Ralph Russell (1918-2008) has been widely recognized as the greatest western scholar of Urdu. Khushwant Singh described him as ‘the most revered name of interpreters of Ghalib’s life and works’. He headed the Urdu department at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London for thirty years.