Just finished reading Dozakhnama.
It is a very interesting novel. Originally written in Bengali by Rabisankar Bal, translated to English by the prolific translator Arunava Sinha, the novel has the legendary Urdu poet Ghalib and the famous Urdu writer of 20th century Saadat Hasan Manto conversing from their graves in Delhi and Lahore respectively. They talk about their lives, about the futility of history and glory of stories; they play with words and bemoan their lives; they make the gore and panic and pain of 1857 and partition come alive; they recite poetry, tell stories and spout philosophy. Despite being separated by a century in time and social consciousness, the bond they share, the parallels in their lives is striking.
What I have been wondering about is if the personalities, thoughts, and life events depicted for the two historical characters are mostly real, or are they author’s imaginations. Is it history in fiction? Or is it historical fiction?
The content can be depressing, but worth a read.
To lighten up the mood, here are some highlights from the book
- No writer matches the image his writing suggests.
- History turns to dust, stories live on.
- We cannot give birth to anything beautiful without causing pain. Then how can God? All the games of creation and destruction in his world are played to give birth to new kinds of beauty.
- Peace comes from abandoning hope.
- But a man does want to understand another. That’s where they go wrong. When a man cannot even understand himself – when all he can see is only the tip of the iceberg – isn’t the attempt to understand someone else laughable?
- Is there anyone who doesn’t want to hear his own story?
- The desire to be different from everyone else is nothing but the arrogance of youth. The truth is that every person is unique; no two persons are alike. Everyone is different in their own way.
- Firdausi among poets, Hasan Basri among sages and Majnu among lovers – these were the three beacons of the world.
- Nothing can be created, not even love, without madness, without abnormal behaviour.
- Has anyone in this world given birth to beauty on a starvation diet?
- Some people can smother their dreams, others cannot; the one who cannot goes mad.
- Heaven exists within women; but the very same women become bloodsuckers within the confines of family and society and a cloistered existence.
- One person’s truth is of no use to another.
- He who cannot leave his home and go out on the road will never find happiness. A prolonged existence within human society turns even god men into sinners.
- Madness is nothing but the name of a soul without an address.
- May be the history of civilization is nothing but the history of barbarity from another perspective.
- The truth can only be spoken by individuals. Collective opinion is inevitably a lie.
- Whatever colour there is in life comes from lies.
- The truth doesn’t sound entertaining unless lies are added to it.
- Those who God favours are the ones who squander their talent the most.
- The only thing you can do with power is to mock it.
- The soldiers can fight wars and raze cities, but they can never usher in freedom.