These vibrant new versions of Ghalib’s ghazals bring his wit and irreverence, as well as his devotion, to a 21st-century English-language audience afresh. In presenting multiple versions of many of these poems, Alam highlights the tonal complexity of Ghalib’s work and both the limitations and possibilities of translation.
M. Shahid Alam is Professor of Economics at Northeastern University. His translations from the Urdu of Ghalib have appeared in numerous periodicals, including Blackbird, The Critical Muslim, Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, and Western Humanities Review. Alam is the author of Poverty from the Wealth of Nations and Governments and Markets in Economic Development Strategies.
“This not just a translation but a reimagining of the entire rhetorical situation, bringing Ghalib’s performance—his verse in all its orality—into the twenty-first century. This book goes a long way not only to redefining Ghalib but also to reconfiguring the immense potential of the ghazal as a new cadence in Western ears.” —M.A.R. Habib, Professor of English, Rutgers University
“Translation loses things, and readers from outside a writer’s culture lose a great deal more. But translators help us recover some of what we’ve lost or otherwise could never have at all. I’m thankful to M. Shahid Alam for bringing so much of Ghalib‘s world and the world of the ghazal to the English page. I think other readers will be grateful, too.” —Guy Rotella, Emeritus Professor of English Literature, Northeastern University
“M. Shahid Alam’s elegant rendering of Ghalib’s poetry will delight its readers. It will acquaint them with the sensibilities and abstract vision of one of Urdu language’s greatest poets, which the translator has ably captured in a fluid language. This book will make a wonderful introduction for the students of world poetry, and claim a prominent place among the few excellent translations of Urdu classical poetry.” —Musharraf Ali Farooqi, translator of The Adventures of Amir Hamza
“M. Shahid Alam’s translations of Ghalib are brilliant flashes of poetic illumination. Again and again, they convey the rich polyvalence of the original ghazals—from metaphysical insights to wordplays. His work brings to life the Divan’s meanings and forms in poems reminiscent of the Urdu ghazal in their tenor and English lyric in their resonance. Alam has read Ghalib religiously over decades and is an accomplished poet of English in his own right—both these traits are reflected in the exquisite gems bound in this volume. Alam’s acumen as a translator-poet is breathtaking, and this volume is a gift to world literature.” —Taimoor Shahid, translator of The Madness of Waiting