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Intimations of Ghalib

Translations from the Urdu by M. Shahid Alam
Foreword by Guy Rotella


paper  /  60 pp.  /  $16.00
Orison Books
ISBN 978-1-949039-19-1
Distributed to the trade by Itasca Books
1-800-901-3480  /
Publication Date: December 4, 2018





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.





"[A] delightful rendition of Ghalib in English. ... [T]he real feat of Alam is to acknowledge the multiplicity of meaning in Ghalib’s verse. ... [T]he choice of verses itself is a testament to the fact that the translator is a jeweler who can identify the best gems from a sack of precious stones."
Raza RumiThe Friday Times (Pakistan)


“With his fidelity to the original form of the ghazal […], his alertness to contemporary linguistic norms and habits, and his own finely honed aesthetic sensibility and grasp of cultural nuance, Alam captures Ghalib’s wit and lyricism with impressive confidence, integrity and resourcefulness.”
Ahrar AhmadThe Daily Star (Bangladesh)


“[M]ore than 200 years after his birth, non-Urdu speakers still have no definitive translation of Ghalib to fall back upon. But M. Shahid Alam’s exceptional English translation of some of Ghalib’s poetry, published late last year as Intimations of Ghalib, was a step in that direction.”
Baran FarooqiThe Hindu (India)


“But transcending Ghalib also means rendering him into English freely and, instead of providing notes and explanations, constructing more than one version of the rendering. A remarkable pioneering example of this method is the recent work of M. Shahid Alam, Intimations of Ghalib, published by Orison Books. […] This is an acknowledgement that the original cannot be rendered into English in any exhaustive single manner. Thus, by providing several possibilities, and doing so in verse, saves the author from having to interrupt his line’s poetic flow by interposing notes and annotations. This is highly ingenious.”
Syed Nomanul HaqDawn (Pakistan)


"[I]n Alam's hands, Ghalib's writing comes across as deeply felt, wry, irreverent, and even witty. […] Alam has taken the original to create an important contribution to our understanding and appreciation of a leading Urdu poet."
Talia Bloch, Religion and the Arts


“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





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 Nationsand Governments and Markets in Economic Development Strategies.

Intimations of Ghalib, translations from the Urdu by M. Shahid Alam

$16.00 Regular Price
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