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Above: The novelist, Nanak Singh (Courtesy: Amarjit Singh Chandan Collection).. Below, three of his books now available in English translation.


Another Nanak Singh Novel Now In English Translation





The genius of legendary litterateur Nanak Singh will be revealed to vast sections of the diaspora who cannot read the Punjabi language, through a translation of another one of his works into English.

Set to hit the book-stands today is the first-ever English translation of “Adh Khidiya Phul”, a classic from the rich and diverse repertoire of Nanak Singh, the Father of the Punjabi novel.

The book titled “A Life Incomplete” has been translated by Navdeep Singh Suri, Nanak Singh’s grandson. 

As grandson of Nanak Singh, he has strived to introduce the legendary Punjabi writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner to an untapped international audience.

“In 1997, when the centenary of my grandfather was being commemorated ... I found that reverence for him was phenomenal. The Punjabi diaspora is a potential market for English translations of Nanak Singh’s works. That’s what triggered the pursuit,” Navdeep said on the eve of the book’s global launch, happening in New Delhi  tomorrow. It is being hosted by the Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, the premiere Punjabi literature organisation of India.

Published by HarperCollins, the work recreates the magic of Nanak Singh through a poignant story set in Peshawar of the pre-Partition era. The last few stanzas of the translation bring out the work’s relevance in today’s times when communalism is straining the country’s secular fabric.

In conclusion, the story talks of Kuldip Singh, the Sikh protagonist handing over his infant son to a Muslim.

“Kuldip Singh returns from jail only to discover that his wife has died. He decides to hand over his son to his Muslim friend Ahmad and his wife Zubeida. The beauty of the story lies in Ahmad’s admonition to Zubeida to observe Sikh taboos [such as against] tobacco ..." says Mohinder Singh, honorary director of the Sahitya Sadan, who will introduce the book at tomorrow’s high-profile launch which several Punjabi stalwarts will attend.

Mohinder rates "Adh Khidiya Phool" as the best among Nanak Singh's 59 works.

The translation is expected to be hogged by literature lovers in Pakistan where the publishers plan a promotional event.

Another high point of the book is that it challenges superstition, bigotry and godmen. “The original has a lot of autobiographical content. As a youngster, my grandfather loved a child widow named Savitri, on whom the character of Saroj is modelled in the novel. The writer’s message against child marriage is loud and clear,” Navdeep Singh says.

The challenge for him was to keep the soul of the original, which is in its 30th reprint this year.

“Fidelity with the original and reliability in the new - that was the challenge. Equally difficult was to capture a 1920s context in time, geography and language and to faithfully reflect the story to the 21st century audience anywhere in the world,” the translator says.


[Courtesy: Tribune. Edited for]

February 21, 2012

Conversation about this article

1: Roop Dhillon (Reigate, United Kingdom), February 21, 2012, 11:28 AM.

I have to be honest, although the first Punjabi novel I read was "Pavitar Paapi" and I also tried "Aastak Naastak", I found the writing (Punjabi version) dull and not too inspiring. Maybe I need to go back to it ... but I find other Punjabi language writers more mature and skilled. That said, Nanak Singh is indeed the most popular ... clearly!

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), February 21, 2012, 2:56 PM.

This has brought back a flood of nostalgic memories about Nanak Singh - the par excellence novelist with no equal. I remember reading his autobiography but can't lay my hands on it now. His closest pals were Sohba Singh and Mangat Rai. They had such a hilarious time together when the common denominator was lack of money but the trio remained rich in humour. The list of his admirers is long; it included Balraj Sahni who used to come all the way from Bombay to spend some time with him and lovingly addressed Nanak Singh as a brother or yaar. Another was Gurbaksh Singh of "Preet Larri". The English translation will undoubtedly set a new bench mark. In the novel the description of the unique prisoner in Borstal Jail in cell number 3 is poignant, where he strikes a close personal relationship with one of the Muslim jailers, Ahmad Khan, both being from their home town of Peshawar. Awaiting anxiously for my copy of "A Life Incomplete"

3: Harman Singh (California, U.S.A.), February 21, 2012, 9:56 PM.

Great endeavor by Navdeep Singh. Is this book available for purchase online?

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