May 1857. The Indian city of Shahjahanabad, today called Delhi, is tense. British officers are worried about rumors of insubordination and rebellion elsewhere in India, while the local residents both await and fear a coming storm of revolutionary fervor.
Trying to make a living in this setting is Mirza Ghalib, one of India’s most celebrated poets, well known for his works in Urdu and Persian. He is also the protagonist, at least in a fictionalised form, of Murder at the Mushaira (Aleph Book Company, 2021) by Raza Mir. The novel is a murder mystery: a particularly disliked poet is murdered at a poetry recital, forcing Ghalib ito play detective, balancing both haughty English officials and passionate Indian mutineers as he attempts to seek the truth.
In this interview, Raza introduces both Ghalib and Shahjahanabad. We talk about the historical roots of his story, including where he diverges from historical accuracy. Finally, we discuss why literary figures like Ghalib are so popular as detectives.
Raza Mir teaches management at William Paterson University in the USA. He has written a few academic books, and three books of translation and literary criticism about Urdu poetry and poets. Murder at the Mushaira is his first novel.
Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. 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.