Translating Bhed (The Secret) by Muhammad Asim Butt
- Zain Mian
- Program for Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, School of Arts & Sciences
Zain Mian will translate the 2018 Urdu novel Bhed (The Secret) into English. The work, by Muhammad Asim Butt, is a highly sophisticated example of metafiction in the tradition of Kafka and Borges, writers whom Butt has himself translated into Urdu. Bhed follows the story of a first-person narrator who, within the first few pages, discovers a tattered multi-generic manuscript beneath a bus seat. This strange manuscript befuddles the narrator, who uses it to explore the meaning of reading and writing through the story he tells. As we reach the end of the novel, we realize that not only is our narrator really the writer of the manuscript he discovered, but also that this manuscript is the very book we hold in our hands. Butt’s Bhed thus, in the manner of the best metafiction, blurs the boundary between character, author, and reader, between its literary world and the ‘real’ one we inhabit. The modern Urdu literary tradition, despite its rich history of formal experimentation, is severely under-translated and under-published in the Anglophone world. English translations are generally published for circulation only within South Asia, and most are of works published up till the early 1980s. Translations of 21st century Urdu writing are nearly non-existent. Zain will produce a literary translation of Bhed that stresses rather than smooths over its challenging narrative style. Both the source text and translation technique are thus inventive and innovative. This is especially true given that, for a host of institutional reasons, South Asian literature in North America usually means literature originally written in English.
- Program for Comparative Literature and Literary Theory
- School of Arts & Sciences
- Student Grant
- Student Creative Production