Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book Review: Angarey- 9 Stories And A Play

Title:            Angarey: 9 Stories and a Play
                       (Translated Anthology)
Year:            2014
Publisher:    Rupa
ISBN:           978-81-291-3108-9
MRP:            Rs 195/-

My latest read is a bit special! It is an English incarnation of a collection that in 1930’s became the harbinger of a new era in Indian literature. You guessed it right! I am talking about the “Progressive Writers’ Movement”. This book, originally authored in Urdu, laid the foundation of a liberal and progressive stance in Indian Urdu and Hindi writing that heavily influenced the literatures in other Indian languages as well. The Urdu word Angarey literally means ‘embers’ and so was the book that generated a lot of heat and arguments due to its out-of-the-box style and ideas.

(Mr. Ahmed Ali)
Angarey’, an anthology of Urdu short stories, was published in December 1932 in Lucknow and was banned in March 1933 for its ‘ultra-progressive’ and ‘blasphemous’ ideas by the government of ‘United Provinces’. Amazingly, the four contributors- Sajjad Zahir, Mahamuduzzafar, Ahmed Ali and the only woman in this brigade, Dr. Rahid Jahan were publicly excoriated but they did not apologize and stayed firm on their stance. The entire stock of this title was burnt and only five copies could be saved. There is much more about it but I would not disclose anymore here, for it will be a spoiler for readers.

Coming to the contents, there are nine stories and one play. The stories give a good peek into the veiled life of Muslim women of that era. The one-act play by Dr. Jahan ‘Behind the Veil’ is set as a dialogue between two upper class Muslim women that reveals a lot about their lives and issues in those times. Another story, ‘Dulari’ By Sajjad Zahir shows how a rich brat spoils the life of his young maid. ‘Heaven Assured’, one of my favorite stories, is a comic take on obsessively religious people. Another favorite of mine is ‘Masculinity’ where a man loses his wife only because he is too touchy and insecure of his reputation in the society. Other stories too, are worth reading. 

(Dr. Rashid Jahan and Mr.Sajjad Zahir)

Through techniques like ‘stream-of-consciousness, ‘interior monologue’ etc. the four authors have vented out their disgust towards the clogged and putrid society that had reduced women into mere objects fit only for recreation and procreation. Overall, ‘Angarey’ shows disdain for puritanical and rotten religious dogmas and ideas and was truly, quite ahead of its times. The translation is good and the foreword has been written by the actress Nadira Zahir Babbar, daughter of Mr. Sajjad Zahir, one of the contributors and major personalities associated with the Progressive Movement.  

 Images from:


  1. Sounds like an interesting read! I will check it out! Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. Hi Katrin

      yes, it is really very interesting! Do check out!


  2. Thanks for the nice review. Hope it is available at Amazoon.com

    1. Hi SG
      Thanks a lot! Yes, i hope so

  3. veyr interesting ...

    thank you for sharing