Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Towering Figure in Urdu Literature, Dies at 85

Mr. Faruqi was also a noted critic. He published several books of commentary, the most famous being his four-volume exploration of the 18...


Mr. Faruqi was also a noted critic. He published several books of commentary, the most famous being his four-volume exploration of the 18th-century Mughal poet Mir Taqi Mir. That collection, “Sher-e-Shor-Angez” (“Soul Stirring Verses”), “not only made vivid why Mir was so admired by all poets of the past but also hugely informed us about the poetics of the classical Urdu ghazal” — an ancient style of Arabic poetry — C.M. Naim, a professor emeritus of the University of Chicago, said in an email. “Fundamentally, these writings instructed the reader in reading classical poetry and prose fiction with a much richer sense of what those earlier authors had tried to achieve.”

Mr. Faruqi also brought awareness to Dastangoi, a storytelling performance art form believed to have originated in the eighth century that culminated with the publication, in the 19th century, of the Amir Hamza Dastan, a 46-volume account of the adventurer Amir Hamza and his many romantic and heroic exploits. Over 20 years, Mr. Faruqi painstakingly collected and researched every volume and published several books, inspiring his nephew Mahmood Farooqui to revive the forgotten art.

“What he achieved by delving so deeply in the world of Dastans, and charting his solitary path through that,” Mr. Farooqui wrote in an essay published in 2019, “is akin to finding a whole chest of treasures from a mound that had been left for garbage by other onlookers.”

Mr. Faruqi’s book “Early Urdu Literary Culture and History,” written in both English and Urdu and published in 2001, has been described by scholars as the best available account of the history of Urdu language and culture.

For his contributions to Indian literature, Mr. Faruqi received two major honors, the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1986 and the Saraswati Samman in 1996. He was also awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian honor, in 2009.

Shamsur Rahman Farooqi was born on Sept. 30, 1935, in Pratapgarh, in what is now Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India. His father, Khalil ur Rahman Farooqi, was a deputy inspector of schools, and his mother, Khatoon Farooqi, was a homemaker. Life was not easy in the household; food was rationed carefully among Shamsur and his 12 siblings.

“He liked melon a lot and longed for an extra slice,” Ms. Farooqi, his daughter, said in a remembrance on Twitter, “but was always denied.”



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Newsrust: Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Towering Figure in Urdu Literature, Dies at 85
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