Published by: Harper Collins, 2018 / Liberty Publishing, 2022
Anisur Rahman is a translator, poet and comparative literature scholar who is currently a senior advisor at Rekhta Foundation, the world’s largest website on Urdu language and literature. Aficionados of Urdu poetry online will recognise Rekhta’s work in making Urdu poetry accessible to a diverse range of readers, with poetry rendered in the Arabic script and Roman Urdu and convenient access to a dictionary. The same spirit permeates this wonderful, comprehensive book that is a smorgasbord of Urdu poetry—a little something for everyone.
A foreword by Tabish Khair and a preface by Rahman set an academic tone, explaining the technical aspects of the form, along with its historical context. The work is divided into sections that chronologically follow the history and development of the ghazal, with a selection of poets representing each ethos. Each section begins with a brief introduction of the chosen poet, followed by two ghazals. The left page has the original ghazal, in Roman, flanked by Rahman’s translation on the right page.
For anyone wanting an introduction to the ghazal, Hazaron Khwahishein is an excellent resource. It covers a broad swathe of writing styles over eras, ending in ‘New Voices’, which is a refreshing inclusion of modern ghazal work. However, the absence of the original Urdu text is noted, particularly for the bi-lingual reader; unlike the Rekhta website or app, the book’s Roman is missing the detailed diacritical notation that is a very helpful guide.