Shafey Kidwai’s critical approach in the context of his book “Fiction Studies” — Meraj Rana


Notwithstanding its inherent infirmity modernism has upended every literary belief and attitude that produced a particular kind of uniformity in literature. Modernism ensured the freedom of expression and invested the creative being with the power to confront the outside world with all its might. Before modernism, progressivism laced with a political philosophy warned against covering up external issues in such a way that the individual lost its creative attributes and a robotic species acting like parts of a machine emerged. Here rationalism became so intense that human existence lost its basic instinct and the distinction between man and machine got blurred.

One of the important results of the First World War was the restoration of the suspended status of the human race. Existentialism was the philosophical locus of modernism and the main subject of existentialism is an individual who, with all his psychologies, seems to be the same in every region of the world. The beginning of modernism in Urdu owed much to the newness of expression that Ghalib brought forth in his time. Since modernism respected the expression of self, too much emphasis on external reality espoused by progressivism became its first goal though it was hardly a conscious attempt. Modernism not only created a new genre of literature but also revisited classical poetics. Perhaps this is why modernism not only debated new ideas but also insisted on creating new literature in line with it. It has given rise to new literature as well as new criticism. Modernism in the West began in the second decade of the twentieth century, as an aftermath of World War I, James Joyce’s Ulysses and Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room came to the fore.

Probably in 1922, modernism was introduced as a literary movement representing a variety of tendencies and trends, including the individual’s confusion, fear, sexual misconduct, deviation from religious beliefs, and skepticism. But modernism overwhelmed Urdu around 1960. Initially, modernism in Urdu targeted progressive literature, but later it criticized the literary attitude which did not allow spiritual growth. Modernism, as opposed to progressivism, put a premium on the personal life of an individual. The issue of expression of individuality was quite complexed as opposed to collectivity. Modernism was more concerned with symbolic and metaphorical expressions and it led to serious repercussions. One of the major pitfalls was the disappearance of the reader. It means that modernism has placed metaphorical expression to such a height where the reader could hardly reach. The tradition of refutation is not new in literature. Ghalib also faced the same fate in his time because for the first time he employed a rarity of expression hardy sync with the poetic tradition of Urdu and it was more compatible with the Persian tradition of Sabk-e-Hindi style. It is eloquently argued by Hali, who blazed a new trail in Ghalib cognition, as a result, Ghalib is considered to be the most valuable treasures of conscious readers today. The way, Ghalib’s poetry is being assessed today, is slightly different from the time of Ghalib. Modernism also removed all the cobwebs. The post-modern literary situation is, in fact, an extension of the intellectual basis of modernism. A thorough study of any one of the ideologies or philosophies of structuralism, deconstructionism, and intertextuality can be traced to modernism. The theory of intertextuality itself is the result of Eliot’s “tradition and the individual talent, ” with slight modifications. Modernism was a powerful creative movement that equated literature with criticism closely. Thus, in the Post-modern literary situation, there are few whose critical insights can be considered significant. Shafey Kidwai is considered important and highly regarded by modern critics. Although Shafey Kidwai is the author of several books in Urdu and English, the purpose here is to understand the critical ideas that surface in his book “Fiction Studies”. Shafey Kidwai wrote on every genre of literature and his various articles bear testimony to it. But he is inclined towards fiction though much of the criticism in Urdu has been about poetry. Fiction falters because it lacks a definite structure

The structure specified here refers to adherence to a prevailing principle. The emergence of fiction in the West was the result of the Industrial Revolution while when it was considered a boon for the colonial rule in our country. The history of fiction is not much older than poetry. Therefore, the critics of fiction do not have a different paradigm like the criticism of poetry. The criticism of fiction, unlike the criticism of poetry, was done by those who understood the fictional text and spelt out the new poetics of fiction. Whether it is a new criticism of English or Urdu, most critics seem to have been associated with poetry. Whether it is I. A. Richards or William Empson or T. S. Eliot, everyone has based their criticism on poetry. The examples of Muhammad Hassan Askari and Shamsurrehman Faruqi in Urdu are also noteworthy. Much of their critical writings harp on the artistic value of poetry. One of the major reasons seems to be the length of fiction and the nascent stage of fictional poetics. Fiction criticism is not as rich as the criticism of poetry. Unlike Urdu fiction, criticism of fiction does not have the power to attract serious minds. Shafey Kidwai seems enviable in the sense that he freed the fiction criticism from purely theoretical constraints. This means that in contrast to the gross limitation of a literary theory, positive interpretations and interpretations of its practical application have been sought. It infused a kind of self-confidence in his critical writings, and he ropes a strong argument that can either be accepted or denied but cannot be ignored. To understand the fictional theory, one must enquire about the text and the narrative. Literature in general and fiction, in particular, is artistic in itself as it not only transmits information but also exudes aesthetic sensibility. Roman Jacobson, a well-known Russian morphologist and linguist, is the first to discuss the artistic and aesthetic aspects of narrative and he uses applied linguistics as a tool for analyzing literary texts. In his well-known “Communication Model“, Jacobson seems to have broken down the distinction between the speaker and the audience in a message, code, context, and communication system in which each has its own set of tasks. According to Jacobson’s model, art is created when thought or message moves from concentration to chaos.

Shafey Kidwai looks close to Jacobson when he explores the Nation as a narrative in Manto’s story. Nation’s theory does not as simple as it seems, it is determined by the geographical location of individuals. Marx’s condition of the “base” or structure, which constantly affects the “superstructure” is the instinct of the nation. Where individuals, society, religion, civilization and culture are all under the influence of political oppression or beyond that oppression. In the text of “Toba Tek Singh“, he refers to the same undercurrent of hidden oppression. Manto’s story, in the context of insanity, seeks to disperse an individual’s concentrated past by juxtaposing it with the present and also through political coercion to change the attitude of the ruler and the subjugated in the terms of freedom. This shifting attitude is acknowledged by Shafey Kidwai as an inhuman attribute of national ideology. The notion of nationhood has more power than society (as described in great detail by the famous French analytical philosopher Michel Foucault) as it controls the individual’s physical movements as well as his mental freedom. Shafey Kidwai sees Manto’s story as a narrative, it means that he accepts the impression of the colonial system that has been in the Indian subcontinent for two hundred years. Toba Tek Singh describes the tragedy of the partition of India which in one way or another was the result of the colonial system. Shafey Kidwai writes:

 How Manto exposed the inhuman character and inherent contradictions of the most popular concept of the political and social discourse of his time, the “nation”, which is being presented as an eternal truth or a salvation ideology. It is the most powerful and popular concept”

 Shafey Kidwai makes a pertinent case because power discourse was very important in the earliest concept of society. There is a twisted form of power discourse in Manto’s story under discussion, and the coercive aspect of nationality is poignantly described, and it is unacceptable to the frozen mind. The death of a lunatic on the no man’s land is not the death of an individual but the death of good political values that have been undermined by the colonial system since 1757. The status of the author, Manto, assumes prominence here. Regarding the relationship between the text and the author, Edward Said uses a term strategic location that describes the author’s position in a text. Shafey Kidwai also uses other resources in the context of the text, he also takes into account the present status of the author as character development or its actions are subjected to the author’s intervention in an external context. While writing on Manto, he connects the author’s mental status with the character’s mental level so that the point of view in the story can be fully explained. The most important is to look at the existing relationship between the author and the character as non-existent. The best example of this is “the female character of the contemporary novel”. There has been a strong tradition of feminist criticism in the West. The formal beginning of the feminist movement is the book by the well-known English fiction writer Virginia Woolf

 “A Room of One’s Own”

 Occurs from the book is a compilation of two long Wolf essays, first published in 1929. The main message of this book is that if a woman wants to write fiction, she should have a separate room and complete economic freedom. And to prove this insistent attitude, Woolf discusses various political, historical and literary texts. She vehemently opposes the offer of an oppressed woman in poetry and fiction. She writes, quoting Napoleon and Mussolini:

“Napoleon and Mussolini both insist so empathetically upon the inferiority of woman, for if they were not inferior.”

Woolf wants to say that Napoleon and Mussolini both emphasized the inferiority of women. In one place she imitates the pope:

“Most women have no character at all”

 That is, most women have no role. In the post-modern era the critics focus on the role of the active woman in fiction. Thus, the history of world fiction is full of women who appear to be subordinate to men in a male-dominated society. There is a definite field of action and reaction, but they do not have the strength of constant struggle that is found in male characters. As a result, she suffers from a sense of inferiority. Shafey Kidwai more or less explains this attitude and denies it. He writes:

“The female characters of Qurratul Ain Hyder, Jamila Hashmi and Bano Qudsia assume an existential form, but the starting point of feminine discourse in Urdu novels is “Makan “. No one can disagree with the first part of this quote because most of the female characters of Qurratulain Hyder and her contemporaries, despite their loud protest streak, eventually bow down before the patriarchal system. Despite being a strong character, Sita Mir Chandani cannot get out of her feminine sensibility. Perhaps this is why Sita Mir Chandani, a graduate of Western University, endures the pains of a failed love affair with Jameel for the rest of her life. Sita’s practice is in no way compatible with a feminist recitation or Virginia Woolf’s theory. One hardly goes along with Shafey Kidwai who says that Paighaam Aafaqi novel’s Makan is the starting point of feminist discourse. Abdul Halim Sharar’s novel “Firdaus-e- Bareen” is the first Urdu novel that sets the feminist discourse in motion with an important character of the novel “Bulghan Khatoon”. This character is far more active and dynamic than “Husain” and “Zumurrud”. Bulghan Khatoon transcends her feminine limitations and triumphs all the hardships of a male-dominated society. The strongest and diverse character of the Urdu novel “Sheikh Ali Wajoodi” is subjugated by Bulghan Khatoon. The supplication reveals the veil of paradise. The paradise was the center of the religious distinction between the outward sect and the inward sect, under the guise of which, many religious scholars were killed by Husain. Bulghan Khatoon is not only a character but also a symbol of the power of goodness, which defeats religious evil with her power. If the question of the chronology of feminine discourse is forgotten for a while, then another Urdu novel and one of its characters, “Chummi”, become central in terms of feminine discourse. Chummi too, like Bulghan Khatoon, defines her field of action by transcending femininity. The central character in Khadija Mastoor’s novel “Aangan” has immense power to clash with the patriarchal system. Khadija Mastoor demonstrates her creativity in such a way that the mental and physical strength of the main character (Alia) of the novel get weakened. These female characters prove that the chronology of feminine discourse has not been properly attributed by Shafey Kidwai. This aside, a discerning reading runs through the article. In the heydays of Modernism abstraction dominated Urdu fiction and the plot was relegated to the margins. That is to say, fiction had become a statement of the author’s symbols. It left a large gap between the reader and the reader. This sort of experimentalism was rejected by the pioneers of modernism themselves and raised the question that there can be only one mystery apart from the fictional plot. The beauty of fiction is hidden in its narrative, whether that narrative is simple or symbolic. The return of the story in Urdu fiction was the return of the narrative. Shafey Kidwai, in one of his articles, “Return to the Story”, raises several questions directly related to the issue of storytelling in fiction. The most important point that comes to mind while reading this article seems to be related to the cause of the disappearance of storytelling. That is to say, the greatest proponent of modernism cannot deny that modernism has created a miasma of myths and personal symbols and non-communicative metaphors in the pretext of abstraction. Nothing was visible. In the early nineteenth century, the spot statement was insisted on in such a way that a kind of uniformity was created. For the first time this fictional style is rejected by Wayne. C. Booth who writes:

“We have looked for so long at foggy landscapes reflected in misty mirrors that we have come to like fog”

Booth asserts that the Pure Narrative tend to erase our lines of communication. . He further writes that the function of the novel is not to create fog but to issue a fog warning. Booth suggests a balanced attitude. He favours a narrative that focuses on the plot rather than dispersing it. Shafey Kidwai like Booth, emphasizes the concentration of the plot, as the whole discourse of fiction and its intellectual meaning is formed from it. Shafey Kidwai writes about Intezar Husain:

“In most of Intezar Husain’s stories, the storyline goes far beyond curiosity. . . Intezar Hussain’s stories emphasize cultural coherence rather than chronology, and the source of the storyline is not a multiplicity of events but a kind of intertextuality.”

Kidwai makes a pertinent point. Intezar Husain does not have any kind of curve in the story, so a world of curiosity would be built by itself which at first glance seems to have been created by the reader. It is not possible to have a lot of events in the story, but we also have some long stories in which different events seem to be tied to different time strings. If we do not go too far, the story of Surendra Prakash, an important contemporary of Intezar Husain, can be seen as an example of “Bazgoi“. From Malika Shabrozi to Qasim Bin Hoda, the turning point can be seen. The whole movement from court to economic politics is based on the stability of power. The point of the cultural presentation regarding Shafey Kidwai’ Intezar Husain is also enviable. Since Intezar Husain discovers the present from the womb of the past, it is a fundamental task for him to bring to light the non-existent state of cultural activities. Intezar Husain is also distinguished in the sense that he has created new texts in some of his stories based on intertextuality. His story “Kaya Kulp” seems to be close to Kafka’s longest story “Metamorphosis” on one level. But the main difference between the two stories is that Kafka has not created a new text on an old one, while Intezar Husain has constructed a new text based on a legendary text. But the process of transforming the existence of the main characters in both stories is the same. In one, the human being transforms into a fly and in the other, an insect. It is worth mentioning here that in the case of Intezar Husain, the cause of existential transformation is based on expediency, while in Kafka, the cause is based on an external problem. The transformation of human existence takes place at the end of Intezar Husain’s story. In Kafka’s case, the simile of human existence appears at the very beginning of the story:

“One morning, when Gregory Samsa woke from a troubled dream, he found himself transformed into his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections”

The fictional strategy behind doing so may have been to keep the reader in Gregory’s ordeal from beginning to end. Kafka’s action has created a vast world of meaning in the story. Whereas in Intezar Husain the tragedy of human existence begins at the end of the story. Therefore, Intezar Husain does not have an abundance of meaning but a wonderful drama that seems to be missing in Kafka. Shafey Kidwai discusses the cultural discourse concerning Intezar Husain. He also raises the question of the chronology of the story. Although for some people the issue of chronology is not very important in fiction, it is more important in fiction that is made possible by the thread of civilization and culture. But Intezar Husain has more cultural activities than time. The narrative period is of great importance in postmodernism. Stephen Heath is the inventor of this fictional theory. He wrote his first article, Narrative Space, in 1976. In which the application of the descriptive period was discussed. Similarly, Sheila Haynes writes in one of her articles in Narrative Space:

“I have been arguing, fiction happens in space, is the product of interrelations, emerges in the dimension of co-existence, and is always in a state of becoming. Significantly, both the argument and the term”

 This means that fiction is the product of a house-to-house relationship, and it emerges in the dimension of coexistence. Importantly, the argument and terms in which Haynes is establishing this argument are themselves a product of interconnection.

 In one of his important articles, “Rajendra Singh Bedi and the Narrative Space”, Shafey Kidwai has given a practical example of the theoretical discussion of the narrative space. His argument about Bedi not only explains the narrative theory but also highlights the spirituality that arises from it in Bedi’s stories. Here, Shafey Kidwai has analyzed the stories of Bedi in which there is a reflection of reader-response criticism. One end of the reader-centered criticism comes from the narrative space. Analyzing the spatial situation of the fiction and its details are considered an important responsibility of the reader. Shafey Kidwai also seems to be discovering a new reader from Bedi’s creative texts in this article.

 His critical intelligence and genius of reader-response criticism reaches its zenith when he expresses his views on magic realism in Nayyar Masood’s stories. My opinion about Nayyar Masood (which may be wrong) is as strong as the belief that despite all the merits of creative prose, there is a severe lack of concentration on the fictional plot, so from the fictional texts of Nayyar Masood. The confusion of meaning seems to be missing in the case of Intezar Husain and Surendra Prakash or Kafka. But Shafey Kidwai has shown an enviable display of his intellectual intelligence while writing on Nayyar Masood. That is to say, Shafey Kidwai has created a balanced critical text similar to the legendary text of Nayyar Masood in which a new form of interpretation has been revealed with a new form of narrative. Creating a new world of transcendental meaning is a fundamental function of the reader-response criticism, and this function is a fundamental feature of Shafey Kidwai’s criticism, an example of which is rarely seen in his contemporaries.

 One chapter of fiction studies is devoted to the “deconstructive reading”, under which a few stories have been deconstructed. The best study of this chapter is based on the story “Bajuka” by Surendra Prakash. The issue of deconstructionism in Urdu has been quite vague and complex. Because even here in Derrida there is a kind of ambiguity regarding this philosophy. Therefore, according to this philosophy, That is, the absence of a signifier is determined by the extension of the signifier. This means that in a text one signifier can create another. Therefore, the whole text is not discussed here. Kafka’s story in defense of his deconstructive philosophy  “Before the Law” presents Derrida’s study is included in his book, Acts of Literature. In this story, a man would be stopped by a janitor as soon as he reached the front door of the court. Then the porter tells him to sit at a table and wait. The man would grow old sitting there, but he would not have access to the court. The concluding lines of the story can be seen as the basis of the Derrida philosophical case:

 The doorkeeper recognizes that the man reached his end, and to let his failing senses catch the words roars in his ear: “Not one else could ever be admitted here since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it.

In the above quote, Derrida concludes from the last conversation between the person sitting at the door of the court and the janitor that justice, which means signified, is always on hold. And the whole process of seeking justice, from dying in old age to locking the door of the janitor, is a manifestation of the power of the state. And with this, phenomena or signifiers happen one after another. Everything here but no sign of signified. Shafey Kidwai too not favours the integrity of the text to be scattered anywhere. Therefore, in this article, along with the fluidity of the signifier, the signified also determines a suitable place. Therefore, in the light of all these discussions, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the basic concept of Shafey Kidwai seems to be of key importance in the criticism of the text. Therefore, his critical style seems to be based on logical argument. He consciously refrains from unnecessary details. This method of Shafey Kidwai has given him the power to make value judgments on a literary text.

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