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Ghalib Selected Poems and Letters by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib

Ghalib Selected Poems and Letters

Part of the Translations from the Asian Classics Series

RRP £41.95


Ghalib Selected Poems and Letters by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib

This selection of poetry and prose by Ghalib provides an accessible and wide-ranging introduction to the preeminent Urdu poet of the nineteenth century. Ghalib's poems, especially his ghazals, remain beloved throughout South Asia for their arresting intelligence and lively wit. His letters-informal, humorous, and deeply personal-reveal the vigor of his prose style and the warmth of his friendships. These careful translations allow readers with little or no knowledge of Urdu to appreciate the wide range of Ghalib's poetry, from his gift for extreme simplicity to his taste for unresolvable complexities of structure. Beginning with a critical introduction for nonspecialists and specialists alike, Frances Pritchett and Owen Cornwall present a selection of Ghalib's works, carefully annotating details of poetic form. Their translation maintains line-for-line accuracy and thereby preserves complex poetic devices that play upon the tension between the two lines of each verse. The book includes whole ghazals, selected individual verses from other ghazals, poems in other genres, and letters. The book also includes a glossary, the Urdu text of the original poetry, and an appendix containing Ghalib's comments on his own verses.


Ghalib is the first ample and compact introduction to the Urdu oeuvre of the last great 'Mughal
poet of India. It fills a long felt lacuna, and does so admirably well. The translators have provided all that a reader might need to get closer to the poet and the man, including Ghalib

's own comments on many of his 'difficult'

. -- C. M. Naim, University of Chicago Ghalib once described himself as A nightingale of a yet to be created garden, singing with the white heat of an ecstatic imagination. Gifted with the vision of a seer, he could well be describing how this elegant and dazzling translation makes his poetry come alive in English, a world apart from his nineteenth century Delhi. This is a superb introduction to this marvelous poet, resonant with his subtle nuances and exquisite meanings. -- Asif Farrukhi, editor of An Evening of Caged Beasts: Seven Postmodernist Urdu Poets Ghalib: Selected Poems and Letters is a tour de force, an offering of love by one of our most prominent contemporary scholars of Urdu poetry. Pritchett brings to this anthology a lifetime of scholarly devotion to Ghalib, while Cornwall demonstrates his promise as an emerging scholar. This volume offers new insight to fellow devotees of Ghalib's poetry through extraordinary translations, all contextualized by a rich body of historical, cultural, biographical and secondary literary materials. To the interested novice who takes this book up, a door will open revealing a beguiling and wondrous world. -- Carla Petievich, The University of Texas at Austin The engaging tone of this rigorous volume will make Ghalib accessible to a wide-ranging audience that does not speak Persian or Urdu. It successfully brings into focus the reigning tropes and motifs of Perso-Urdu poetry and Islam. Yet the real importance of the work lies in its profound approach to translation; Pritchett and Cornwall extract beauty from a close reading of the texts without venturing into a discourse that does not accord closely with the original Perso-Urdu words and idioms. -- Syed Akbar Hyder, The University of Texas at Austin Translation is a labor of love; it is the breaking of silence between languages. It poses unique challenges. Ghalib's multivalent, convoluted poetry is loaded with delicate metaphors and word play. Much of it is not even translatable. Frances Pritchett and Owen Cornwall have carefully chosen some of the best ghazals that are most translatable, and done a marvelous job of rendering them into idiomatic English. An indispensable part of the book are the endnotes that explicate nuances that were either impossible to capture or require cultural knowledge to understand. Valuable information about possible readings and further discussion is also provided. -- Mehr Farooqi, University of Virginia

About the Author

Ghalib (the pen name of Mirza Asadullah Khan) lived from 1797 to 1869. Primarily famous for his Urdu ghazals, he is also known for his letters, which paint a vivid picture of life in nineteenth-century Delhi. Frances W. Pritchett is professor emerita of modern Indic languages at Columbia University. Her books include Nets of Awareness: Urdu Poetry and Its Critics (1994), The Romance Tradition in Urdu: Adventures from the Dastan of Amir Hamzah (1991), and Ab-e Hayat: Shaping the Canon of Urdu Poetry (2001), translated, edited, and introduced in association with S. R. Faruqi. Owen Cornwall is a visiting lecturer at Columbia University in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies. He is currently working on a book manuscript about Alexander the Great in the premodern Persian literary tradition.

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Book Info

Publication date

28th March 2017


Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib

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Columbia University Press


224 pages


Literary studies: poetry & poets



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