When the first three volumes of the Stories about the Partition of India were published close to a quarter century ago, they were widely acknowledged as the most comprehensive collection of texts in English translation from the three countries of the subcontinent. Ever since the anthology has remained an invaluable resource for historical and literary studies trying to understand the politics of religious identities, colonial predatoriness, linguistic chauvinism, or the partitions of large states to resolve ethnic conflicts anywhere. The new edition of the collection enlarges the range of the anthology by adding a fourth volume which includes a large number of stories from Bengali and Sindhi that speak eloquently about the continuing sorrows of separatist and fundamentalist world-views which destroy old neighbourhoods, encourage despair and add to human misery. The additional volume should enable scholars to add fresh insights into the history of the partition as it affected two regions which have yet not become the subject of serious literary and archival research. The anthology is further enriched by including stories by many of the finest writers in Urdu, Punjabi or Hindi which have become available recently in English translations. This volume has also made a special effort to include more stories by major women writers from different languages like Qurratulain Hyder, Khadija Mastur, Popati Hiranandani, Dalip Kaur Tiwana, Nisha Da Cunha, Rajee Seth, Farkhanda Lodhi and Syeda Farida Rahman
In a review of the first edition of this collection, the New York Times said that Alok Bhalla's anthology had done a 'fine . . . job of evoking the terror, the bewilderment and the remorse that still shadow so many lives on the subcontinent.'
Alok Bhalla obtained his Master's from Delhi University and Ph.D from Kent State University, USA. He was a Lady Davis Visiting Professor, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Fellow at the Rockefeller Centre, Bellagio, Italy and Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. Among his various publications are Partition Dialogues: Memories of a Lost Home and The Place of Translation in a Literary Habitat, Life and Times of Saadat Hasan Manto (edited). He is the author of The Cartographers of Hell: Essays on the Gothic Novel and the Social History of England and The Politics of Atrocity and Lust: The Vampire Tale and a Nightmare History of England in the 19th Century. He has translated Dharamvir Bharati's Andha Yug into English verse, as well as Nirmal Verma's Raat Ka Reporter (Dark Dispatches) and Intizar Husain's Chronicle of the Peacocks, Ram Kumar's The Sea and Other Stories and the poems of Udayan Vajpai, Kedarnath Singh, Kunwar Narain, among others.
Acknowledgements are generally a scholarly pleasure — especially for a work which is so full of grief and grieving, memories and melancholia. They help one to make, for a brief period at least, a 417 community of learning, thinking and debating with colleagues who have knowledge of a brutal period of our history which has left its scars on each of us. Acknowledgements also direct attention 421 sufficiently away from the narcissism of work, religious selfhood, national arrogance and one's refusal to believe that others have an equal right to occupy their small space of the earth for a few 433 days. That is, perhaps, why the word "acknowledge" carries moral intimations of the word "gratitude".
I am acutely aware of the fact that, like the first three volumes of 439 this anthology of fictional texts about the Partition of India from different languages of the Indian subcontinent, the fourth volume too would have been quite impossible without the gracefulness of 449 a number of scholars, writers and translators. My search for stories brought me into contact with some of the finest and most generous of writers and thinkers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Their 457 willingness to help, without ever asking me to declare my own religious or national affiliations, affirmed once again my conviction expressed without ambiguity in my "Introduction" to the first 465 three volumes, and repeated, after critical revaluation in my book, Partition Dialogues, that the Partition had no substantial cause, 473 reason or religious purpose — at least not enough for anyone to have endured so much suffering. The Partition did not make us holier; it 481 did not make it easier for us to find our god/a god/any god in temples, shrines or mosques. There is, I am still convinced, a gap between the infirmities of a politics based on religious identities and the daily lives of people. During the decade leading up to the Partition, religious politics was bloody in tooth and claw. There were, in some specially chosen areas, well coordinated riots organized to provoke stigmatization and abuse followed by rage and revenge. The attempt was, of course, to reveal that India's image of itself as a syncretic civilization was a pernicious myth; that the myth was invoked only to create out of mutually antagonistic fragments of religious cultures a delusive sense of a tolerant and richly diverse habitat. Politically, the violent combination of street goons, semi-literate priests, and politicians unmoved by pain succeeded in dividing the subcontinent.
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