This essay offers a response—part plea, part protest—to recent events in Pakistan, looking to Agha Shahid Ali's lyrical translation of an Urdu poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz that asks compellingly, “Friends, what will happen now?” Faiz in his day ignored Eisenhower's empty talk of “mutual understanding” and wrote instead of revolution, adapting the ghazal tradition to include horrifying details of state-sponsored violence. How do we assess such efforts today in translation as the violence cycles on? Historically translations have been judged solely by their faithfulness to a prior original, an approach that makes it difficult for us to take part in what Adorno once called “the dream of a world in which things would be different.” Shahid instead widens the circle of “friends” addressed in Faiz's Urdu and in the process renders creative interpretations of fidelity revolutionary in a way that has relevance for more than this single poem.
Christi Ann Merrill; The Lyricism of Violence: Translating Faith in Revolution. boundary 2 1 August 2011; 38 (3): 119–145. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-1430845
Download citation file: