I began translations from the Urdu with Afzal Ahmed Syed's poetry which had attracted me with its haunting themes. The first of these translations were attempted in 1992. Later, a few of them were published in the Annual of Urdu Studies. For the next several years I continued translating Syed's poetry as he published it. These translations were limited to his nazms and parables; I did not attempt to translate his beautifully complex ghazals. My translation of his selected poetry was finally published eighteen years later, as the book Rococo and Other Worlds by Wesleyan University Press Poetry Series. In 2015 Yoda Press published the collected poetry.

In 2009, I had published the translation of Syed Muhammad Ashraf's novella نمبردار کا نیلا as The Beast. It is an unusual work, both symbolic and real, that remains unparalleled in Urdu literature. Jai Arjun Singh has done a wonderful job of analyzing its unique strengths in his excellent review.

The translation of the Indo-Islamic epic داستانِ امیر حمزہ , which was first published in 2007 as The Adventures of Amir Hamza (2007) by Modern Library, took me seven years to complete. In the Introduction to the book I wrote about the childhood spent with this classic. It was to set the stage for my ongoing work on the translation of طلسمِ ہوشربا, another dastan, and the world's first and longest magical fantasy epic. A first volume, Hoshruba Volume 1: The Land and the Tilism, was published in 2009. The Hoshruba Project provides the history of this epic reconstructed from the available evidence, and some other information the reader might find useful.

While reading and translating these classical narratives, I tried to put together some thoughts about the dastan's structure and poetics. The study of the dastan and the years spent translating it proved invaluable to me as a writer as it suggested me new directions in storytelling and new methods of structuring narratives.




Classical Nazm

Modern Nazm