The kind of crisis that the Second World War—with its moral horror, its barbarism, and its death camps—has been to the West, Partition has been to South Asia. Intizar Husain's novel Basti, considered one of the finest works written on the theme of partition, recalls and re-evokes the story of Pakistan, from Partition until the loss of Bangladesh. Originally written in Urdu and first published in 1979, Basti poignantly captures the tragic succumbing of paradise to the corrosive powers of time through the emotional journey of its main protagonist Zakir.
The novel looks beyond the interpretation of Partition as just a political decision, and succeeds in capturing the human side of the historic event—the sense of loss at being uprooted from one's ‘home', the hope of a new beginning that accompanies the creation of Pakistan, the feeling of helplessness at the progressive deterioration of the newly created nation as a moral ideal, and the frustration at the ‘fall of Dhaka'. In view of the sensitivity of the issue, Basti also makes a rather strong statement by questioning in retrospect the religion-based partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947.
This new edition of the English translation by Frances Pritchett comes with an exclusive interview with the author, who revisits his work in view of its contemporary relevance and connotations.
Basti will appeal to students and scholars of South Asian literature and culture, as well as general readers.
Frances W. Pritchett Professor of Modern Indic Languages, Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University.