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Umrao Jan Ada


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One of the pioneers of the modern Urdu novel, Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa was a versatile genius. He wrote fiction, poetry, plays and treatises on religion, philosophy and astronomy. In his celebrated Umrao Jan Ada, Ruswa achieved an artistic success unequalled in his own time and after. Mirza Muhammad Hadi Rusva (1857-1931) was born in Lucknow in the very year which saw the collapse of the kingdom of Avadh. There is nothing remarkable about his career which took him from teaching in schools to the Nizam's advisory board on language matters. Like many of his contemporaries, he composed Urdu poetry and seems to have acquired a reasonable reputation in the art. He wrote a number of novels, but now his fame rests solely on Umrao Jan Ada. Throughout the pages of his book the life of the Nawabs are vividly portrayed with great affection and nostalgia for a glorious past which is no more. David Matthews is Senior Lecturer in Urdu and Nepali at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University. His published works include A Course in Nepali, studies on Iqbal, Hali and Anis, as well as An Anthology of Urdu Love Lyrics and A History of Urdu Literature. Among his translations from Urdu are Hayat-e-Javed, The Battle of Karbala, Shaukat Siddiqi's God's Own Land (Khuda Ki Basti) and a selection of Urdu poems in English verse with an accompanying Devanagari text. At present, he is working on the Persian verse of Amir Kusrao. q

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