An Uncivil Woman: Writings on Ismat Chughtai
Few authors have blasted open the doors of convention as forcefully as Ismat Chughtai (1915–1991). In doing so, she brought to life stories seldom heard outside the zanana. Her unabashed, often risqué style of writing fetched her much notoriety in her lifetime, but today she is adulated as a radical voice well ahead of her times.
One of the four pillars of the modern Urdu short story, along with Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chandar, and Rajinder Singh Bedi, Chughtai has become enshrined in the canon of Indian literature. Yet, even twenty-six years after her death, her primary identity remains that of a pioneer of women’s fiction.
This collection of writings on Chughtai, a hundred years after her birth, curates critical readings of her by modern scholars as well as her contemporaries. Read along with her interviews, where she speaks her mind in her own inimitable style on a range of thorny issues from lesbianism to communism, these writings offer a more holistic way of understanding Chughtai beyond narrow gender terms—as a politically aware and socially engaged writer, a champion of individual liberty, and, ultimately, an artist concerned with humanity.
About the Editor
Rakhshanda Jalil is a writer, critic, and literary historian. She has published over 15 books and written over 50 academic papers and essays. Her recent books include Liking Progress, Loving Change: Literary History of the Progressive Writers’ Movement in Urdu (2014); a biography of Urdu feminist writer Dr Rashid Jahan, A Rebel and her Cause (2014); a translation of 15 short stories by Intizar Husain entitled The Death of Sheherzad (2014); and The Sea Lies Ahead (2015), a translation of Intizar Husain's seminal novel on Karachi. She runs an organization called Hindustani Awaaz, devoted to the popularization of Hindi–Urdu literature and culture.