This autobiographical novel, originally entitled Nashtar ( Surgeon's Knife ), was first published in Farsi in 1790, then translated into Urdu in 1893. Known as the first modern Indian novel (influenced by British fiction), this work narrates the tragic love of talented dancer Khanum Jan and Hasan Shah, aide-de-camp to a British officer. After a secret marriage, Khanum Jan becomes ill and dies before her husband can reach her. The author's creative achievements include his interweaving of Indian history of the late 1700s with customs, traditions, and romantic poetry--transforming this tale of doomed love into a creative jewel. Editor/translator Hyder includes helpful footnotes, a foreword, and an afterword. A significant contribution to Indian fiction and its history. Recommended for scholarly collections.
- Glenn O. Carey, Eastern Kentucky Univ., Richmond
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This 200-year-old autobiographical romance has something many contemporary romances, with their graphically presented sex and, often, violence, lack--an authentic sweetness of heart that charms with its directness and simplicity. Set in India in the 1780s and written in 1790, this tale of flirtation, love, and secret marriage presents the reader with not only a moving story but also the beginning of an era--Britain's colonial rule in India--and the intermingling of two very different cultures. Shah, aide-de-camp to a British officer of the East India Company posted in Oudh in northern India, falls in love with beautiful and talented Khanum Jan, a dancer of the courtesan caste, one of a troupe of camp followers and entertainers. The young man mingles with troupe members while they are employed by the officer for a year and encamped on his grounds. When they are dismissed upon the officer's transfer, the lovers separate, with tragic consequences. This story of love in a time of multicultural change, which set the stage for the modern Indian novel, seems surprisingly timely, compellingly fresh. Whitney Scott