By Yasir Khan
Faces engraved with dirges, thoughts baffled by confusion, eyes filled to the brim with hopelessness, postures weighed down by wait; these are some of the traits that mark the characters of Mazhar ul Islam’s Urdu stories.
The Season of Love, Bitter Almonds and Delayed Rains —a short story collection— is one of the many works of this Pakistani short story writer and novelist. Mr Islam is the recipient of President’s Pride of Performance award for Literature, and a medalist for his contributions to Folk Studies.
The collection has been edited and translated into English by Dr. Christopher Shackle, retired Professor of Modern Languages of South Asia in the University of London. Dr. Shackel is an orientalist who is considered to be a foremost linguistic authority on Urdu, Seraiki and Punjabi.
The plots of stories in this collection are but plain stretches of moments extracted out of common lives. But it is in between these small intervals that a mastery over words can be seen. His pen sinks into the apparently ordinary lives of the common men and returns to the surface only when they have been made extraordinary.
As if in defiance of spatial and temporal restrictions, the characters in his stories dance ecstatically on the notes defined by plots, setting themselves free from the dimensions that shackle us. Thus it is a matter of no surprise if Sylvia Plath is sitting right beside the death bed of a protagonist who had committed suicide, or a girl suddenly turns into a bird and flies off the window, for Mazhar ul Islam’s imagination knows no limits.
The underlying themes might originate from emotional, social, economic, political and moral grounds but the net of words cast by the author never fails to wrench the hearts of its readers. Impregnated with abstractions, The Season of Love is a saga of conquered subtleties whose author’s voice deserves to reach a broader audience.
Goodreads link for the book.