• Title  – Angarey : 9 Stories and A Play Book-Angarey
  • Author – Translated from Urdu by Vibha S. Chauhan and Khalid Alvi
  • Publisher – Rupa Publications Ltd.
  • Genre – Fiction
  • Pages – 101
  • ISBN – 978-81-291-3108-9
  • Price – 199 INR

Blurb on the Book –  Angarey was banned by the government of the United Provinces a few months after it was first published in 1932. Almost all the copies printed were seized and set on fire. The release of the book had been marked by protests and the government was convinced that it would offend the sensibilities of society.

Written by four young firebrands—Sajjad Zahir, Ahmed Ali, Rashid Jahan and Mahmuduzzafar—Angarey comprises nine stories and a play. ‘Heaven Assured’ pokes fun at a moulvi’s excessive piety, while ‘Masculinity’ effectively uses the interior monologue to skewer patriarchy. The stories ‘A Night of Mahavatt, the Winter Rain’ and ‘The Clouds Don’t Come’ are brilliant instances of the stream-of-consciousness technique being used to evoke an epic desolation and the uselessness of religion as a prop when faced by grinding poverty.

Angarey, the book which invited one of the earliest bans on free speech in India, and a precursor of the Progressive Writers’ Movement, was re-published in Urdu in 1995. Sensitively and brilliantly translated, this is the first time that the book is being published in the English language.

Review – The book has a cover suiting it’s title perfectly and the biggest irony is, the title Angarey (burning charcoal pieces) came to life when the book was released with the controversy the stories sparked.

The book sheds light on the history, social beliefs and the circumstances that brought about the banning of Angarey in the 40 page introduction that precedes the short stories. I think the introduction could have been limited to fewer pages, because it did steal my enthusiasm to read the book.

The short story collection wonderfully defies the social conventions and also brings to light the unsaid. The short stories featuring in this collection throw light on sexual desire, its repression and how restrictions, whether social or religious affect the human mind. The stories are first person narratives bringing out the intricate details of the mindset, beliefs and social settings prevalent in those times with most unexpected twists and views.

I wish to congratulate the authors for the effort put to understand religion, society, gender, customs, sensitively.  The modern outlook in the approach of short stories didn’t fail to amaze me. The authors have vented their dislike for the putrid customs and beliefs that treated women as mere objects of recreation and procreation with no respect spared for them.

Reading this book has been a journey through a century of social beliefs written with modern outlook that adds a spark of optimism to the stories highlighting the stinking social beliefs. The sad part being, some of those social beliefs are still prevalent in today’s times.

The translation is good and the foreword is written by Nadira Babbar the daughter of Sajjad Zahir one of the prominent figures of the Progressive Movement.

About the Author: Dr Vibha S. Chauhan – teaches English at the Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi.
Dr Khalid Alvi – teaches Urdu at the Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi.

Rating : 3/5