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December 7, 2019

Urdu Conference launches critical edition of Faiz’s complete poetical works


December 7, 2019

The inclusion of a session at the ongoing Urdu Conference for the launch of complete poetical works (Kulliyat) by Faiz Ahmed Faiz had aroused curiosity in many as the great poet’s complete work has already been available in the markets under the title of ‘Nuskha Haye Wafa’.

However, upon attending the session on Friday, the second day of the 12th International Urdu Conference, it was revealed that the Kulliyat of Faiz being launched was something special and a feat never achieved in a similar fashion in the history of Urdu – for it was a critical edition of the complete poetical works by Faiz compiled and annotated by scholar Dr Nomanul Haq.

Explaining what was meant by critical edition, Dr Haq said it was an edition that was prepared by studying all the available manuscripts and published work of a writer and it helped critics and readers ascertain what the final shape of some text was as it was intended by its writer. He added that it took him around seven years to complete the critical edition of Faiz.

He added that often writers and poets made changes in their works even after they had became popular or published. He cited the example of a famous poem by Faiz, titled ‘Dhaka Se Wapisi Pe’. It starts with “Hum Ke Thehre Ajnabi…”. The scholar said the first two rhymes of the poem were Urdu words ‘MulaqatoN’ and ‘MadaratoN’ and they were later interchanged by Faiz.

The critical editions, since they are prepared with the help of the entire corpus, record such changes made by the writer later in his life, said Dr Haq. He clarified that it was not the job of the editor of a critical edition to correct the mistakes of a writer, if they found any. However, if there were clear signs of any misprint by the publisher, they were rectified, he said.

The scholar lamented that we were not accustomed to the tradition of compiling critical editions of our great writers, whereas, in the West, such editions had been prepared for their great writers such as Plato, Aristotle and Shakespeare.

He informed the gathering that earlier an effort was made to compile a critical edition of Ghalib’s works, but it could not be completely achieved. He said he also tried to ascertain for every poem by Faiz when and where it was first composed. Separate indexes have been included in the critical edition showing the time and place of the poems, he said.

The panel comprised notable names of Urdu literature, including poets Zehra Nigah and Iftikhar Arif, critic Ashfaq Hussain and Faiz’s biographer Mazhar Jamil. Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood also participated in the panel discussion on Faiz and his critical edition. The talk was moderated by artiste Arshad Mehmood.

Commenting on how sometimes publishers made errors in the text, Arif said Faiz had used some lines of other poets in his poems such as Sauda’s verse “Balakashan-e-Muhabbat Pe Jo Hua So Hua”, but he always wrote them inside quotation marks. However, sometimes publishers omitted those quotation marks due to which there remained no indication in the text that those particular lines were not originally penned by Faiz, Arif said.

Lauding Dr Haq for the critical edition, Zehra said a similar edition had not been achieved before for any major poet of Urdu. She also remembered Faiz’s humble personality who, after the death of his teacher Sufi Tabassum, would often say he felt uneasy to present his poetry, as earlier he would show it to Sufi for necessary corrections.

Hussain brought up another interesting point that some poems by Faiz were changed just because how they were sung by popular singers. When Noor Jehan sang Faiz’s famous poem ‘Mujh Se Pehli Si Muhabbat Mere Mehboob Na Maang’, she chose not to include two lines of that poem in her rendition as they appeared not fit for a musical presentation, he explained, adding that later the publishers started to omit those two lines from the poem just because Noor Jehan had not sung them.

Jamil spoke about Faiz’s association with Karachi. It was surprising for many to know that Faiz had served as the vice president of the Arts Council during his stay in the city between 1964 and 1972. He said at that time the commissioner was the de facto president of the council and the vice president was elected.

The biographer also mentioned some of Faiz’s contributions to the academic and literary scenario of Karachi, which included the foundation of the Ghalib Library. He said that when once Faiz was associated with a college, he refused to receive the monthly salary of Rs3,000, saying that the amount was too big and Rs1,200 would suffice for him. Later, the management forced him to draw a salary of Rs1,800, he said.

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