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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hoori Noorani - Naushaba Burney

Her icon in the crowded poetic genre is Fahmida Riaz whom she describes as the greatest living poet. “We’ve done lots of her books including [the renowned] Badan Dareeda.” I repeat my earlier question: Having been an O and A level student, exactly how well-versed is she in Urdu poetry? She explains that she loves and reads Ghalib but is not that immersed in the long line of Urdu poets of earlier eras admired and quoted to this day by literary types.

She mentions a poetry book she published that was a departure from her usual fare. The English version of Attiya Dawood’s Sindhi poems titled, Raging to be Free. The book was beautifully illustrated by her husband, the artist Abro. “We are basically continuing with our old list. There’s so much to reprint, we’re kept busy.” She handles mostly classics and that explains why she doesn’t need to stick her neck out with new writers. Her best selling author by a wide margin is Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi. She describes him as a perfectionist. He keeps on reviewing and revising his manuscript over and over again until he is fully satisfied. He has been working on a new novel for some time now which, while it bears his trademark humour, is a little different from his other books. “There is nostalgia and sadness behind it,” Yusufi’s publisher clarifies.

Noorani studied philology in Moscow, her focus being literature. No, not just Russian literature, but European and American novels and poetry as well. “How funny it sounds today but, I read French, Spanish and American books in Russian.” What an experience it must have been, listening to lectures on the famous American classic, Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, in Russian. But she had taken a one-year course in Russian, so enjoyed studying in that language.

Noorani mentions doing a major comparative literary study of the short stories of Chekhov and Somerset Maugham. When she finally returned home to Karachi, she taught Russian for a while at Friendship House.

She agrees that, of course, Russia has now changed and its people too have changed. She recalls nostalgically how safe Moscow was then. She would travel in the underground alone, late at night without any worry. Even though her husband has business interests in the Soviet Union, they both find the country very expensive now. It is also quite unsafe.


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