“People who have money don’t read, people who read don’t have money” is what I always say when one of my friends visits a book fair and is depressed because he can’t afford an expensive book. It was the mantra I was uttering.
He would have had a heart attack if he had been to a few book fairs recently, now that Urdu book prices are about 2.5 times what they were a few years ago. But ridiculously high book prices weren’t the only trend that marked 2022. There were also some positive signs.
We are definitely not a book-loving nation when it comes to expensive books. While she feels that the exorbitantly expensive book will hit the already waning propensity to buy books, one writer reporting for the Karachi International Book Fair said that when she wrote I hit a nail. The bookstore saw a large crowd, but few real buyers, while the exhibition hall’s eating and drinking space was full to capacity. Moral of the story: People with money prefer burgers and panipuri to books.
Looking at the reprints, important and popular Urdu books were reprinted during the year, along with some of the previously published scholarly works by government agencies such as the Iqbal Academy (Lahore) and the Department of Language Promotion (Islamabad).
Other publishers such as Book Corner, Jehlum have reprinted several popular titles. Shanul Haq Haqqee’s Urdu translation of Artha Shastra — for example — Chanakya’s famous treatise on politics and governance, has been reprinted by Readings, Lahore. This trend shows the fact that no matter how expensive a good work is, there will still be at least some readers of the good work.
Another trend that caught everyone’s attention during the year was the holding of literary conferences and festivals. Several universities and cultural organizations held conferences, book fairs and festivals. It seemed to compensate for the lull we experienced during Covid-19.
The Karachi Arts Council’s Urdu conference was, as usual, a great success, but in the end it was a four-day event and some delegates complained of fatigue. The literary festivals held by Oxford University Press (OUP) and other organizations in various cities and small towns were also a positive sign.
Coming to the new arrivals, quite a few critical and research works have been published. Aurangzeb Niazi’s Urdu Adab: Mahaulyati Tanazur is an important work, discussing environmental issues presented in Urdu literature. explored new dimensions in Urdu literature. Saima Zeeshan’s Urdu Mein Islami Adab Ki Tehreek is a research study on the literary movement known as the Islamic literary movement. Several books evaluating the different genres of his 75 years of Pakistani Urdu literature have been published by the Pakistan Academy of Literature.
Autobiographies, biographies and memoirs are the more popular genres among the general readership and have had a very bountiful harvest in the last year as well. Younus Javed is a famous writer. His autobiography Faqat Aik Aansoo appeared. The biography of Maulana Jamaluddin Abdul Wahab Farangi Mahli was written in English by Francis Robinson. Khalid Nadeem translated it into Urdu and published by OUP Pakistan. Inamul Haq Javed’s memoirs, recorded in his diary, entitled Aina y Maho Sar, were published by Sangi Mir, Lahore.
Pen sketching is another popular Urdu genre. Renowned author Asghar Nadeem Said published Filter Hai Falak Burson. This is a collection of delightful pen sketches, many of which have previously been published in literary periodicals and received critical acclaim. Younus Hasni’s His Guhar Haa-i-Shab Chiraagh has been published. It is a collection of pen sketches and he is now one of the few authors to write precise, idiomatic and elegant Urdu prose.
Languages, linguistics, and related subjects have some very good work coming out in 2022. Khalid Hasan Qadri’s Alfaaz Ka Tilism was published by City Book Point, Karachi. Lisaniyat: Aik Jame’ Taaruf is a comprehensive textbook on linguistics written by four educators and published by OUP.
Arshad Mahmood Nashad’s Mubadiyaat-i-Bayan-o-Badee’-o-Arooz captures the essence of prosody and rhetoric. Abrar Husian’s Urdu Behrain, a short book explaining Urdu prosody in a simple style, has been reprinted by the National Book Foundation. Muzammil Husain’s doctoral dissertation Urdu Mein Ilm-i-Baya-o-Badee’ Ke Mabahis has been reprinted.
Other reprints on language issues include Ghulam Mustafa Khan’s Saqafati Urdu, Rajeshwer Rao Asgher’s Qiraan-us-Sa’dain Ma’ Majma’-ul-Bahrain, and Shanul Haq Haqqee’s Farhang-i-Talaffuz.
Other titles coming in 2022 include: Kulliyaat-i-Nasr-i-Iqbal, a collection of various Urdu prose from Allama Iqbal, edited by Khalid Nadeem. Written by Iqbaliyaati Adab, Rafiuddin Hashmi, a survey of his Iqbal writings published in the last 40 years.
Many other titles were published during the year, but due to space limitations, I could not mention them here.
Published at dawn January 2, 2023