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Blast from the Past

Express India

Blast from the Past

Paromita Chakrabarti

Posted: Dec 02, 2009 at 0445 hrs IST
Ibne Safi’s Urdu crime novels were a hit in newly independent India and Pakistan. Now they are making a comeback

A couple of years before Independence, as novelists wrote on nationalism and the Raj, a 17-year-old defied convention and wrote in a genre not so widely acclaimed in the subcontinent then — detective fiction in Urdu. Independence only furthered that fascination, as Asrar Ahmed Narvi, a graduate of Agra University and a resident of Allahabad, wrote about two sleuths, Kamal Faridi and Imran, who solved one mystery after the other — in India and South Africa, Spain and Scotland, Zanzibar and the US.

The books, which incorporated elements of both mystery and romance, were so popular that each ran into several editions within days of their publication. The young man became better known as Ibne Safi, his pseudonym.

In 1952, Ibne Safi left for Karachi, from where he continued to write the greater part of the 125 books of Jasoosi Duniya (The Spy World), and the 120 books of the Imran series. In India, meanwhile, the books were soon out of print. Since Ibne Safi was in Pakistan , the contract with AH Wheeler, his distributor in the early days, was not renewed. Now HarperCollins India is reprinting both the series, translated into Hindi.

“At the time when Ibne Safi was writing, he was a cult and a craze. To a large extent, the reason behind his popularity could be attributed to the fact that he wrote for the masses. The language was Urdu, but it was more spoken than literary and was extremely reader-friendly,” says Neelabh, series editor, talking of how even the grand dame of British crime fiction Agatha Christie was aware of Safi ‘s popularity in the subcontinent.

Translated by Chhoudhary Zia Imam and Rehman Musawwir, the first 15 books from the Jasoosi Duniya and Imran series are expected to be out in the market by January 2010, the year of the author’s 30th death anniversary.

Ibne Safi’s son Ahmad says from Karachi: “He mixed suspense and humor and was determined to prove that mass fiction need not rely on sex for popularity. He used to say his books were not meant to be on shelves, but under the pillows of the readers. People used to queue up to purchase the first copies as those hit the bookstalls.” His father, says Ahmed, did not speak much of his works — “my mother was the only one who read his books as it was written —but for he and his six siblings “Imran and Faridi were like family, two more brothers who were far more popular than us”.

There are plans to translate the books into English.

http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/blast-from-the-past/548825/

Corrections:

* " Kamal Faridi and Imran"

Should be Ahmad Kamal Faridi and Ali Imran


* "In India, meanwhile, the books were soon out of print. Since Ibne Safi was in Pakistan , the contract with AH Wheeler, his distributor in the early days, was not renewed."

This is not true... AH Wheeler were only the initial distributors and not the publishers. Nakhat Publications published these books (the complete Set in Urdu) till the mid eighties. They discontinued the publications business after the demise of both Shakeel Jamali and Abbas Hussaini. After a long time then the family has given permission to Harper Collins to re-launch the books in Hindi.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


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