The English translation of ‘Gujarat Pakistan Se, Gujarat Hindustan Tak’, the last novel of eminent Hindi author Krishna Sobti, will hit the stands on her birthday on Monday.
Sobti, who died here on January 25th after long illness, would have turned 94 on Monday.
Touted to be her most “intensely personal novel to date”, set in the years following the Partition of 1947, and moving between Delhi and the princely state of Sirohi, the book tells the story of Manjhli, the feisty and fearless heroine, who must struggle to navigate her way amidst myriad challenges in a newly independent India.
“Where other authors have spilled buckets of ink writing histories and novels about the partition, Sobti attempts to use the smallest amount of ink possible, to cut the story of migrancy and violence down to the bone.
“Even Manto rarely managed so few words in his Siyah Hashiye (Black Borders), his ultra-short stories of the partition,” writes the translator Daisy Rockwell in her introduction to the book.
Born in 1925, Sobti was known for writing about issues of female identity and sexuality.
“Mitro Marjani”, “Zindaginama” and “Surajmukhi Andhere Ke” were some of her famous works. Her latest book “Channa” was launched at the New Delhi World Book Fair on January 11.
“It was actually her first novel, written 60 years ago. But due to some disagreement it was never published,” Ashok Maheshwari, a friend and managing director of Rajkamal Prakashan, had told PTI on the day she passed away.
Rockwell, who has also translated Bhisham Sahni’s “Tamas” and Khadija Mastur’s “The Women’s Courtyard”, writes “for better or worse, the novel will be most likely much easier to read in English than in Hindi”.
“…for worse, because of the lost textures of the Sobti-lect; for better, because a broad audience may now have access to this marvellous palimpsest,” he explained.
Published by Penguin, “A Gujarat Here, A Gujarat There”, claims to be an intricate fusion of memoir, novel and feminist anthem; which is not only a powerful tale of partition loss and dislocation but also a snapshot of a particularly fluid moment in Indian history.