It is good news for Urdu literature aficionados, as 25 of the finest Urdu short stories can now be read in English. "The Greatest Urdu Stories Ever Told", compiled and translated by Muhammad Umar Memon, professor of Urdu literature and Islamic studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, features stories by litterateurs like Ismat Chugtai, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Munshi Premchand and Saadat Hasan Manto. In the introduction to the book, Memon traces the evolution of the Urdu short story -- from Premchand, who pioneered the genre in the language, through the emergence of the Progressives in late 1930s, and finally to the modernist era, and the current times of avant-garde and experimental Urdu fiction. Every story in the anthology illustrates one or the other face of the society -- be it death and poverty in Premchand's masterpiece 'The Shroud' or the horrors of Partition as reflected in Manto's 'Toba Tek Singh'. "The stories offered here are, quite simply, the stories I personally have enjoyed reading.
I can offer no better criteria for their inclusion than my own passion and prejudice," Memon says in the book. The collection also has stories by writers like Khalida Asghar, Naiyer Masud, Intizar Hussain, Zakia Mashhadi, Siddiq Aalam, Ikramullah, Jamila Hashmi, Ali Imam Naqvi, Qurratulain Hyder. However, Memon admitted that there were several Urdu writers who were not included in the collection, but noted that their exclusion was "not meant to belittle their importance in contributing to the richness of Urdu fiction." "To sample even one half of them would have required an investment in time and space quite beyond the ability of the present editor or publisher," he adds. Published by Aleph Book Company, "The Greatest Urdu Stories Ever Told" is available for Rs 699.