The Crooked Line – Ismat Chughtai ; Translated by Tahira Naqvi


This masterpiece by one of India’s foremost woman writers is also one of the most celebrated works of Urdu fiction.
‘[chughtai] wrote with an authenticity no male writer could have matched. She brought into the ambit of Urdu fiction The hitherto forbidden terrain of female sexuality more than one way, she changed the complexion of Urdu fiction.’— Mushirul Hasan, Outlook

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The youngest in a large but indifferent family, Shaman is a lonely child who convinces herself that she is unlovable. Her adolescent fears and desires mutate and mature as she grows from childhood to womanhood. From unruly child to diffident student leader, then idealistic school principal and finally bitter wife to an Irish Army Captain with whom she—a staunch nationalist—is fundamentally incompatible. Although able to form some deep friendships, Shaman’s sexual and romantic passion remains unfulfilled, deeply impacting her sense of self.

The social mirrors the personal and as her beloved Hindustan struggles towards self-reliance and a new identity in the burgeoning Independence movement, so Shaman too gropes for some unifying narrative that will help her make sense of an unhappy life.

In The Crooked Line, Ismat Chughtai reveals the core of the female psyche. She exposes all. Shaman’s story, nuanced with extraordinary psychological detail, is a ringing triumph of Urdu literature.

About the Author

Ismat Chughtai (1915-1991) was born in Badayun and is counted among the earliest and foremost women Urdu writers. She focused on women’s issues with a directness and intensity unparalleled in Indian literature among writers of her generation. She is the author of several collections of short stories, novellas and novels—including, besides Terhi Lakir (The Crooked Line), Ajeeb Aadmi (A Very Strange Man) and Masooma —a collection of reminiscences and essays and a memoir, Kaghazi Hai Perahan (The Paper-thin Garment). With her husband, Shahid Latif, a film director, she produced and co-directed six Hindustani films and produced a further six, independently, after his death.
Tahira Naqvi (translator), a translator of Urdu fiction and prose, taught English for twenty years, has taught Urdu at Columbia and now heads the Urdu programme at New York University. She has translated Ismat Chughtai’s short stories, novels and novellas and essays. She has also translated the works of Khadija Mastur, Sa’dat Hasan Manto and Munshi Premchand. Naqvi also writes fiction in English. She has published two collections of short fiction, Attar of Roses and Other Stories of Pakistan and Dying in a Strange Country. Her short stories have been widely anthologized.