Ralph Russell
Urdu literature > The Pursuit of Urdu Literature


This book is addressed to English speakers who know very little about Urdu, but are interested to see what its literature has to offer. It begins with an introduction to Urdu poetry by Marion Molteno, and then surveys all the major figures of Urdu literature over two centuries from about 1750. They are presented in sufficient detail to capture the interest of the reader. It may be regarded as a companion volume to An Anthology of Urdu Literature. I should like in due course to produce a fuller book in which materials from The Mughal Poets and the Ghalib books could be incorporated. It has briefer chapters on two of Urdu's greatest poets, the 18th century poet Mir and the 19th century poet Ghalib, because I had already published detailed treatments of their work. See Three Mughal Poets and On Ghalib.


Approaching Urdu Poetry: Marion Molteno

      -    Poetry and Daily Life
      -    The Language of Poetry
      -    Convention and Beyond

PART ONE: Classical Poetry (18th to Mid-19th Century)

1. The First Flowering of Urdu Literature
      -    The Muslim View of Indian History
      -    A Literature of Medieval Values
      -    Urdu and Persian
      -    The Forms of Classical Poetry

2. Understanding the Urdu Ghazal
      -    First Encounter
      -    Love in the Medieval Society
      -    Mystic Love
      -    The Poet’s Experience
      -    The dramatis personae of the Ghazal
      -    The Poet’s audience and the Ghazal form
      -    The Ghazal’s Contemporary appeal

3. Mir – The Poet and the Man

4. The Ghazals of Ghalib

PART TWO: Literature in reaction to British Rule (1857-1922)

5. The Raj and the Muslim Response

6. The Development of the Modern Novel
      -    Early Narrative Fiction
      -    The Transition to the Novel
      -    The First True Novel: Rusva’s Umrao Jan Ada
      -    Subsequent Development

7. Nazir Ahmad and the Aligarh Movement
      -    Early Life (1830-1857)
      -    Translations, school books, and the first three ‘novels’ (1857-
      -    Service in Hyderabad State (1877-1905)
      -    Religious Writings (1893-1910)

8. Changing Attitudes to Poetry: Azad and Hali

9. The Satirical Verse of Akbar Ilahabadi Ralph Russell and Khurshidul
Opportunities and Dangers Under British Rule
      -    What Akbar is For
      -    Conclusion

10. Iqbal and His Message
      -    Iqbal’s Importance
      -    Iqbal’s Message: The Power of Humankind
      -    Nationalism versus Internationalism
      -    Iqbal’s Message to the Poor and Oppressed
      -    The Limitations of Iqbal’s Thought
      -    Conclusion

PART THREE: Literature and the People (1920s onwards)

11. Achieving Independence, and After

12. Prem Chand and the short Story

13. The Progressive Writers’ Movement

14. Faiz Ahmad Faiz – Poetry, Politics and Pakistan

Zed Books, UK, and Oxford University Press, India (1992)
ISBN 0-19-563147-1

Also available in Urdu, translated by Muhammad Sarvar Rija, as Urdu adab ki justaju
Anjuman i Taraqqi-e-Urdu, Pakistan (2003)
ISBN 969-403-097-8

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