YASUNARI Kawabata (1899-1972), the Japanese writer, is not unknown to Urdu readers for two reasons: Kawabata had won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 and one of his works was translated into Urdu by Baqar Naqvi and published as Japan Ka Nobel Adab (2018).
Today, another work by Kawabata, The Sound of the Mountain (1970), has been translated into Urdu. Titled Pahar Ki Awaz and published by Ilqa Publications of Lahore, it was rendered in Urdu by Muhammad Saleem-ur-Rahman.
In his introduction to the translation, Saleem-ur-Rahman says that Kawabata’s parents died when he was a child and he was brought up by his grandparents. Kawabata spent her early childhood and youth in solitude, and the deep sense of loneliness that permeates her novels was perhaps the result of this unwanted loneliness. This novel tells the story of an unhappy family in its own way, says Saleem-ur-Rahman, quoting Leo Tolstoy’s famous phrase “all happy families are alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”.
The novel tells the story of a sixty-something in a simple way, but it is not devoid of sublime. Set in post-WWII Japan, many may feel the story sounds like it’s their own story. It does not have a large canvas or larger than life figures, as Kawabata unfolds the story in a slow manner, illustrating how a family plods towards misfortune, adds Muhammad Saleem-ur-Rahman who is a veteran poet , fiction writer, translator, editor and lexicographer. Saleem Sahib was born on April 12, 1934 in Saharanpur, British India. Having emigrated to Pakistan, he settled in Lahore. He writes in Urdu and English. This work has been translated into Urdu from an English translation of the Japanese text.
Another world famous work translated into Urdu is War and Peace. Considered one of the greatest novels in the world, this masterpiece by Leo Tolstoy was translated into Urdu some thirty years ago by Shahid Hameed. Now it has been reprinted by Lahore’s Readings. Translating War and Peace into any language is such a gigantic task that it is in itself a great feat to accomplish and when the job is done well, it is difficult to find the right words to pay tribute to the translator. The voluminous tome—it has 1687 pages—requires a lot of time to read, let alone translate. Shahid Hameed not only translated it, but took care to add a brief sketch of Tolstoy’s life as well as detailed explanatory notes on the context of the novel, the text and its edition, its English translations, Russian history, Russian society and the cultural background of Russia.
Shahid Hameed was an academic and a lexicographer, but above all he was a great translator. It is unfortunate that his work was not recognized during his lifetime as it should have been. Shahid Hameed had given us Urdu translations of masterpieces like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Brother Karamazov by Dostoyevsky, The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway and The Question of Palestine by Edward Said, just to name a few. cite just a few.
Shahid Hameed was born in 1928 in a village near Jallandhar, British India. He moved to Lahore and after earning a master’s degree in English from Government College, Lahore, he started teaching, eventually becoming a teacher at his Alma meter. Shahid Hameed passed away in Lahore on January 29, 2018.
Another translation just published by Book Corner, Jehlum, is actually a collection of translations. Titled Junoobi Asia Ki Muntakhab Nazmein, or Selected Poems of South Asia, the book offers Urdu translations of 104 poems from 16 South Asian languages. Rendered in Urdu by Yasmeen Hameed, these poems were taken from languages such as: Assamese, Bengali, Dogri, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sinhalese, Tamil and Telugu.
Yasmeen Hameed writes in her introduction that “While writing the Pakistan Academy of Letter magazine Pakistani Literature, I came across translations of poetry from different Pakistani languages and while browsing ‘lost poetry’ composed in South Asian languages by female poets, I felt the style and sensibility was quite modern. These poems do not appear to be written in different languages and sound familiar. Although belonging to two different language families, namely Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, the poems share a common cultural atmosphere”.
Yasmeen Hameed has been engaged in writing and teaching for 35 years. She was the founding director of the Gurmani Center for Languages and Literature at LUMS. She has five books of poetry to her credit and is a regular contributor to Dawn’s Books and Authors.
Posted in Dawn, April 25, 2022