29 November, 2020

Fire In Her Belly

Two English translations bring Qurratulain Hyder, the legendary Urdu writer, into focus

Prashant Panjiar
Fire In Her Belly
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

She now lives in the relative middle class anonymity of her niece's flat in Noida, near Delhi, far away in space and time from the graceful courtliness of her youth in 21, Faizabad Road, Lucknow, and the intellectual ferment of her middle years. Yet, Qurratulain Hyder, the legendary genius of Urdu literature, is still a fascinating alchemy of imperious intellect and sudden warmth, of grey eminence and flaming orange hair. Meeting her can be fraught with apprehension though—for Hyder is as famed for her encyclopeadeic knowledge as for her mercurial crossness. But the energetic woman who sits, legs splayed out in splendid abandon grudgingly discussing her life, displays not so much an unprovoked cantankerousness (though there could be some of that), as the classic impatience of the achiever.

Khushwant Singh calls her the "most erudite woman" he's ever known, Times Literary Supplement hails her as one of the world's major authors alongside Marquez and Milan Kundera, and Ali Sardar Jaffri says he can think of no other Asian woman...

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