Book Review: The Last Days of Café Leila

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, November 26th, 2017

“Exile is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted.” — Edward Said

Whether pushed by political turmoil, war, conflict or repression, or driven by economic compulsions, an exilic position invariably poses a multitude of challenges. The migrant — or the exile — negotiates a strange territory, substitutes the settled routine with new rhythms and rituals, confronts different realities, values and perspectives. And all the while the ‘homeland’ holds a deep affinity, almost a primordial attraction. Although with the passage of time the exile comes to terms with the new space, the new life, perhaps a pining and a ‘crippling sorrow of estrangement’, as articulated by Said, remains buried deep within the heart.

In her debut novel The Last Days of Café Leila, Persian-American author Donia Bijan tells an engaging story encompassing three generations of a family, woven around their life’s trials and tribulations in shifting spaces, times and cultures. The curtain opens in Tehran 2014, on Behzod — or Zod — an aging father who is waiting for the letter from his daughter Noor, now a woman of 40, residing in the United States since her teens, that will bring him the longed-for news of her homecoming.

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The Storyteller: On Elena Ferrante

Published in Dawn’s Books and Authors in November 2015

“I’m a storyteller. I’ve always been more interested in storytelling than in writing,” the Italian writer with the pen name Elena Ferrante said in one of her rare interviews conducted via written correspondence. No wonder that Ferrante’s writing is a phenomenon that has taken the world of literati and readers alike by storm. Termed as modern classics, her novels have attracted a huge readership. Originally written in Italian, the series has been translated into English by Ann Goldstein. Her much-awaited The Story of the Lost Child, the last book of the Neapolitan series, came out recently.

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Muhr-e-Sukoot: A Collection of Literary Translations

These Urdu translations were published in the literary magazing Aaj between 1990 and 2004, and were later collected and published in one volume titled Muhr-e-Sukoot by Aaj Ki Kitabain in 2007.

The link below contains the Urdu translations of the following:

1. The Continuing Silence of a Poet by A. B. Yehoshua (short story)

2. The Balloon by Donald Barthelme (short story)

3. The Wanderer by Quim Monzó (short story)

4. The Distance of the Moon by Italo Calvino  (short story)

5. City of Clowns by Daniel Alarcón (short story)

6. The Stranger by Yusuf Idris (short story)

7. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (first three chapters of the novel)