Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984) was one of the leading, if not the foremost poet of the Indian subcontinent during the greater part of the last century. Listed four times for the Nobel Prize of Poetry, he was often compared to his friend Pablo Neruda, revolutionary poet and Noble Prize winner, of Chile. Of Faiz’s multifaceted personality, which led him to become amongst other things an activitist for human rights and liberties, a famous journalist and editor of literary magazines, trade unionist and film song writer, it is his poetry which will no doubt, best survive the test of time. His very first volume of poetry, published in 1941 from Lucknow, brought him instant celebrity. “Neqsh-Faryadi” or “Imprints” has since haunted more than one generation of Urdu lovers. Its combination of classical and elegant Indo-Persian diction with modern sentiment and sensibility still touches the heart of the reader. Apart from inventing the modern Urdu love poem, Faiz revolutionized the classical form of Urdu poetry, the Ghazal, giving it a powerful socio-political resonance. He used ancient forms of poetry, such as the Qawwali and the Geet, to onvey his message of humanism without reference to caste, color or creed. He suffered prison and exile for this in his homeland of Pakistan, where he was, for long years denied access to the media. The musicality of his verse has continued to haunt many a younger poet, even though it is difficult to attain his unforgettable summits.
After School days in Dehradun and Massoorie at the foot of the Himalayas followed by medical studies in New Delhi and some years of medical work, the translator of these poems received a French Government scholarship for further medical studies in France. This led to a career in medical research in immunobiology with the INSERM, the Frech Medical Research Organization.
Since her retirement she has returned to her literary preoccupations. Her translation into English of 100 Poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984)
Which appeared in 2002 was well received at a special evening of the India International Centre, New Delhi. Her Complete translation of the Diwan-e-Ghalib (1797-1869) was published by the Ghalib Institute,New Delhi in 2003 and is the first of its kinds. It is still very much in demand. By her translations, Sarvat Rahman wishes to make known the humanistic and liberal ideas inspired by Sufism, in particular, which were and are the heritage which we have received from the great poets of the Urdu language. India has a very large public who appreciates the Urdu ghazal even without knowing the language properly. The English translation was meant for this immense public. Having lived for so long in France, the author of the French translation wished to make available poetry to the French public also.
Faiz Ahmed FAIZ(1911-1982) was no doubt one of the most celebrated poets of the Indian subcontinent during the second half of the 20th century. Proposed four times for the Nobel Prize" .he was how- ever practically left aside by successive governments of .Pakistan be- cause of his liberal ideas. He was denied access to radio and television in his own country. It was only after the arrival of Benazir Bhutto to power that he received official consecration by the award of the highest honour of his country, the Nishan-e- Pakistan, eight years after his death.
The present writer met Faiz, accompanied by his English wife Alys, who spoke Urdu perfectly, at New Delhi in 1941. This meeting was due to close friends of her family from Dehra Dun., Sahibzada Mahmuduzzafar of the princely house of Rampur had returned recently from England to his home in Dehra Dun after 13 years of studies at Eton and Oxford. He returned with leftist ideas and the firm intention of bringing about social change in his country. Having forgotten his mother tongue Urdu, he came to relearn it from the authuor's mother. He and his wife Dr. Rashid Jahan were members of the Progressive Writers Association (Urdu). Their Marxist ideas greatly influenced young Faiz who, from being poet writing romantic ghazals and songs, become the apostle of poetry with a social mission. His very first book "Imprints"(Naqsh-e-Faryadi) had just been published in 1941, with the help of Sahibzada Mahmuduzzafar and his wife, from Lucknow which is the eastern city where the couple had settled. This volume, one of the eight that Faiz would publish, gave him immediate and lasting celebrity because of its innovations of style and poetic sensibility. It influenced deeply several generations of those who loved Urdu poetry.
Faiz, a charismatic personality of multiple aspects, was one of the most loved celebrities of his time. Translated during his lifetime into multiple languages of Asia and Europe, attracting crowds wherever he went, he knew prison as well as glory. However, because of political reasons he was left in the shade. He had a difficult life but never changed his ideas, believing till the end in the arrival of a more just society for all humanity. He transformed Urdu poetry by giving a new content with great social resonance to its ancient forms. His ghazals full of music continue to be sung by celebrated singers of the subcontinent.
The author of these lines had found, as long ago as 1941, the title of' Nocturne' for the second poem of the volume "Imprints" (Naqsh- e- Faryadi). She had to wait for half a century, and the end of her medical career, to fulfill this wish of translation. Meanwhile, French had become her second language.
FAIZ's name is widely known among both literary and political circles. He was what would now be described as an activist for human rights, civil liberties and social justice. He was also the most outstanding poet of the subcontinent during the last century, and was often compared to his friend Pablo Neruda, the great revolutionary poet of Chile. Faiz's verse, however, is now less familiar, especially to the younger generation, and those whose language is not Urdu. For many years his poetry was denied access to the media, radio and television, in his homeland of Pakistan, the conditions being such that he went into self-imposed exile for some years, towards the end, returning only to die in his beloved city of Lahore.
The present writer had the honour of meeting Faiz and his wife Alys In New Delhi in the nineteen forties in the company of Sahibzada Mahmuduzzafar and his wife Dr. Rashid Jahan. These were family friends from Dehra Dun, and both well-known members of the Progressive Writers Association in Urdu. Since 1935, when they met him in M.A.O. College, Amritsar, they had both deeply influenced young Faiz, who, from a writer of romantic ghazals and poems, became a writer with a passion for social justice. Faiz was then an officer in the Indian Army in World War II. His first collection of verse, "Imprints" (Naqsh-e-Faryadi), had just been published (1941) and had brought him immediate celebrity. Those who were young a t that epoch will remember the effect this entirely new "voice" created in the U du speaking world.
Faiz's poetry has been, since, translated into many languages. Of the translations into English, the best known is that of KIERNAN, published under the aegis of UNESCO, more than four decades ago.' It had! long been unavailable, even in Paris. Some other translations by American 0" Australian authors suffer from the disadvantage that accrues from a lack of “knowledge of the original tongue.
This translation presents, in chronological order, a choice of fifty poems numbered serially. The chronological order, generally neglected by translators, enables one to follow the development and maturing of Faiz's thought and style through forty years and more, of his literary creeation, and the eight volumes of his published verse: "Imprints" 1941 (Naqsh-e-Faryadi), "With the East Wind" 1953 (Dast-e-Saba), "Prison Letters" 19556 (Zindan Nama), "The Hand beneath the Rock" 1965 (Dast-e-tahe-sang), "''The Valley of Sinal" 1971 (Sar-e-wadi-e-Sina), "The Evening of the City otf Friends" 1978 (Sham-e-Shahre- Yarafi), "0 Traveller, My Heart" 1981 (Mere Dil Mere Musafir) and "The Dust of Passing Days" (undated, posthurrnous). The chronological order adopted herein is based on the dates of the poems, and, when these are undated, on the year of the anthology in which they were first published. The order is in general conformity with that followed in "Leaves of Fidelity", the definitive collection of Faiz's verse (Nuskha'ha-e-wafa) published in 1992. The single exception to this rule concerns the poem "How autumn came". This beautiful poem figures in none of Faiz's anthologies and has not found a place even in "Leaves of Fidelity". It was, however, among the poems given by Faiz himself to Naomi Lazard. As this author states in her publication "The True Subject";' Faiz chose the poems he wished her to "translate", explained their meaning to her, which she then rendered into English. The Urdu version of "How autumn came" figures on page 20 of "The True Subject". For reasons of style and the context of extreme political repression, this poem has been included among those pertaining to the period 1960-65. This was a period of government under Martial Law and political repression in Pakistan which culminated in the first Indo-Pakistan War of 1965.
Translation of Urdu and Persian poetry into English was carried out extensively by the English themselves in India in the 18th and 19th centuries. They fell in love with the dominant Mughal culture of the time and learnt both Persian and Urdu. In general their translations were free, that is, rhymed or unrhymed paraphrases of the original, without any direct verbal conformity. The best known example of this genre is the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward Fitzgerald, which, after an initial failure to please the public in England, has since become a well-loved classic of English verse.
However, Faiz has said that a verse is based on a rhythm which is first established or occurs to the poet, and on which the poet builds the ghazal or the poem. Much of the charm ofFaiz's poetry lies in his use of rhyme. The Rubai 'yat of Fitzgerald haunt the mind, amongst other things, because of their rhymes. It was therefore decided not to undertake a free translation (though much in vogue) but rather try to render, where possible, the rhyme and rhythm of the original. An effort was made to keep as close as possible to the Urdu text.
Faiz invented his own style of free verse which has been much, though unsuccessfully, copied. This style only appears to be "free", for it is a verse form controlled by both proximate and distant rhymes, cemented together by alliteration and assonance, and varied by changes in rhythm which enhance poetical effect (ex. "Colours in my heart", No. 25). The extreme musicality of Faiz's poems can be translated only very partially and is inherent to his poetic genius. An attempt is, however, made to recapture the charm of this style by using as far as possible similar rhyme schemes, metres and rhythms. It is hoped that these may contribute in creating some of the atmosphere of the original poems. Thus, in "We who were killed in obscure pathways" (No. 15) the elegiac atmosphere ofthe poem, where the dead martyrs speak, is rendered by the long moving metre used whilst the gaiety of a happy moment in “Spring has come” is accompanied by a shorter light-tripping measure.
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