Basti has ratings and 42 reviews. Zanna said: My first and last journey with her. We left Vyaspur before dawn, but when the lorry reached Bulandshahr. A review, and links to other information about and reviews of Basti by Intizar Husain. : Basti (New York Review Books Classics) (): Intizar Husain, Frances W. Pritchett, Asif Farrukhi: Books.

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Even for someone who grew up reading English almost exclusively it was impossible not to know that Basti was one of the great novels of Pakistan.

How strange to discover it started in the days of the Raj! But it was that too. How was such a thing possible? How could any novel, let alone such a slim volume, carry within it the story of both Partitions—that of as well husqin —without becoming entirely weighed down?

But of course, I quickly remembered as I read on, it is the particular genius of the greatest of writers to find ways to change our concept of what a novel can do between its bindings. Such a writer is Intizar Hussain; such a novel is Basti. Basti, a word which might refer equally to a group of houses or a sprawling metropolis, works beautifully as a title for a novel that is vast and yet concentrated on the life of an individual, Zakir, who starts as a boy in British India, is yusain young man in East and West Pakistan and approaches middle-age when imtizar already truncated nation is further truncated into simply the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Of course, the wise creative writing teacher would tell students that there is only one rule of writing: But why does it work? This is the more difficult question to answer but it must start with the language of the text which sets the story up as both creation myth and prelude to the Fall of Man. When the world was still all new, when the sky was fresh and the earth not yet soiled, when trees breathed through the centuries and ages spoke in the voices of birds, how astonished he was, looking all around, that everything was so new, and yet looked so old.


One tells him the earth rests on the head of an elephant which stands on a tortoise.

The other tells him no, the earth rests on the horn of a cow which stands on a fish. Zakir gathers up the stories, and finds no contradiction, only an expansion of his image of the world. No polemic about plurality is necessary. When Pakistan was still all new, when the sky of Pakistan was fresh like the sky of Rupnagar, and the earth was not yet soiled.

In those days how the caravans arrived from their long, long journeys! Despite all that is lost to Zakir when he leaves behind his childhood home and arrives basgi a new nation, it is still a place of wonder, of possibility and generosity.

Kamila Shamsie On Intizar Hussain’s Novel, Basti | Literary Hub

The Fall of Man is also an arrival in a New Eden. It is only when the second Partition occurs that Basit is truly lost. At the time of its publication inBasti was criticised for its apolitical nature—the great events of history are far more likely to be given to us in this novel in a flowerpot knocked over by a group of protestors than in a direct comment about intzar.

The oppression faced by the people of East Pakistan leading up to the war is alluded to in historical metaphor rather than head-on. By the late part of the novel, when the war has broken out, Zakir takes to writing a diary, and the entries drift between the present, history and myth—as though the only way to understand or express the moment is by reaching back to stories that inizar the weight of centuries.


The story of merges with the story of the Fall of Delhi in which merges with the story of Nandi the Bull on whose back the god Shiva rode which merges with the Thousand and One Nights. A new reality called for a new form of storytelling, which also pays homage to the old forms—oral and written. And what the old forms love most of all is a story of husaij love.

If there is an anchor in this novel which so often floats free of expectation it is the story of Zakir and Sabirah, the cousin he once dreamed of intizra. On the other side of the border, in India, she is glimpsed, with longing, from the corner of his eye—and it is entirely in his hands to turn and face her directly. In any conventional story, the ending would be precisely that moment of turning—a moment in which the novelist chooses if the story is romance or tragedy.

Translation of celebrated Urdu novel Basti reveals search for a homeland – The National

And what does Intizar Hussain do? Read Bastiand find out.

Created by Grove Atlantic and Electric Literature. Article continues after advertisement. Kamila Shamsie Kamila Shamsie is the author of seven novels: She grew up in Karachi and now lives in London. Next Article Remembering Intizar Hussain: One of the Great Urdu Writers. Win a Lit Hub tote bag!

Translation of celebrated Urdu novel Basti reveals search for a homeland

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