Beyond the Stars
| Book Awards 2022 | Translated into English
Beyond the Stars (Sitaron Se Aage)
Written while she was still in her late teens, Beyond the Stars (Sitaron se Aage) was Qurratulain Hyder’s earliest published anthology of stories, now available in English for the first time. This collection of short stories reflects the genius of young Hyder’s literary imagination. There is an extraordinary blend of the personal and the social that raises critical questions about labels that restrict human essence.
The 14 stories presented here offer a rare glimpse into the workings of a young writer’s imagination as she explores literary devices and techniques, and experiments with stream-of-consciousness, interior monologue, and multivocal narration. Hyder can be playful and sardonic, deeply reflective or wistful, but never predictable. Her protagonists, a group of young college-going men and women in pre-Independence Lucknow, Mussoorie and Dehradun, know that enormous changes are imminent in their privileged lives, as WW II draws to a close and freedom from the British draws near. Hyder captures both the innocence and the piquancy of their situation in prose that was far ahead of its time. Beyond the Stars is steeped in modernity and stunningly original.
‘Hyder’s prose is lyrical and witty; occasionally idiosyncratic, it is always alluring and allusive.... Now Anglophone readers can see whether the fierce beauty of her imagination transcends the limits of language and nation.’ — Aamer Hussein
Qurratulain Hyder is one of Urdu’s greatest fiction writers. Her published work consists of four collections of short stories, five novels and several novellas. She was a journalist, scriptwriter and broadcaster with BBC, as well as Producer Emeritus, AIR, and copywriter for an advertising agency. Among her many awards and honours are the Bharatiya Jnanpith, the Padma Shri, the Sahitya Akademi Award, and the Padma Bhushan.
It’s almost two o’clock in the morning and near the electric stove empty coffee cups are strewn carelessly on the floor. Monotony overtakes us all. Just a week remains for our exams and a lot needs to be studied. I wonder what I’ll do with so much studying. That old gate built by the kings of yore looks taller and more awesome by night. Its grandeur is formidable; all day, beneath its stately arches, UTC jeeps ply to and fro and groups of girls walk to or from the library. I’m painting instead of studying, and Zeenat asks me why I paint. I shouldn’t paint; I should do something more useful instead, like preparing cauliflower beds in the kitchen garden. Then the governor’s wife and his memsahib will sing our praises at Governor House tea parties. Throwing her fat economics books aside, Zeenat sprawls on the carpet, idly flipping the pages of her music book while humming a silly, irrelevant couplet by Salam Machhli Shahri: “An Avadh evening will return if I live…” or something like that.
Really, we’re all quite silly!