Mirza Ghalib is one of the most celebrated poets in the Urdu literary canon. Yet, at the time, Ghalib was prolific in both Urdu and Persian. His output in Persian output dwarfs his Urdu writing (at least in its published form), and he often openly dismissed his Urdu works, once writing:
Look into the Persian so that you may see paintings of myriad
shades and hues;
Pass by the collection in Urdu for it is nothing but drawings and
Ghalib: A Wilderness at My Doorstep: A Critical Biography (Allen Lane, 2021) by Professor Mehr Afshan Farooqi explores the work of Mirza Ghalib to perhaps explain why the poet made the switch from Urdu to Persian and back to Urdu.
In this interview, I ask Mehr to introduce us to Ghalib and his work. We explore Ghalib as both a poet and a person, and why he made the switch from writing in Urdu to Persian and back again.
Mehr Afshan Farooqi is currently an associate professor of Urdu and South Asian Literature at the University of Virginia. Her research publications address complex issues of Urdu literary culture particularly in the context of modernity. A well-known translator, anthologist, and columnist, she is the editor of the pioneering two-volume work The Oxford India Anthology of Modern Urdu Literature. More recently, she has published the acclaimed monograph The Postcolonial Mind: Urdu Culture, Islam and Modernity in Muhammad Hasan Askari. Farooqi also writes a featured column on Urdu literature of the past and present in the Dawn. Mehr can be followed on Twitter at @FarooqiMehr
You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of Ghalib: A Wilderness At My Doorstep. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.