Pakistan-Japan Literature Forum, a platform that endeavours to introduce both the countries to each other’s’ literary and cultural activities, has recently published the Urdu translation of the world’s first novel, “Genji Monogatari”, known as “The Tale of Genji” in English.
“Genji Monogatari”, written by Murasaki Shikibu is known to be the first novel ever written. Coming out of Japan, the novel deals with the ways of Japanese aristocracy as they were around one thousand years ago. Translated into multiple other languages, “Genji Monogatari” had not been seen in Urdu language up till now, except for only nine chapters translated by a Hindustani scholar, Syed Ehtesham Hussain, while the novel carries fifty four chapters. Thus, this translation published from India was but a half-done job. It is through Raheel Publications from Karachi, Pakistan that the first complete Urdu translation of “Genji Monogatari” has come into print. Titled as “Genji Ki Kahani”, the translation project was conceived by Khurram Sohail who is a journalist, a radio broadcaster and a translator by profession, with multiple Japanese works translated into Urdu to his name. Sohail also happens to be the founder of Pakistan-Japan Literature Forum based in Karachi. It was owing to this keen interest in Japanese Literature that Khurram Sohail asked a notable translator and a dear friend of his, Baqir Naqvi, to take up the task of translating this hefty novel. Unfortunately, Naqvi sahib passed away after preparing the first, rough draft of the translation, leaving the huge responsibility to Khurram Sohail, who left the job as it was for the time being and took it up again in the first Covid-induced lock-down.
Sohail prepared multiple drafts before presenting it in its final form, which we now have in the shape of a voluminous book dedicated to Baqir Naqvi’s family, the foreword of which has been penned by Khurram Sohail himself. Following it is a short preface written by Toshi Kazu Isomura, the Japanese Council General from the country’s consulate based in Karachi. The Japanese ambassador to Pakistan, Kuninori Matsuda and the Pakistani ambassador based in Japan, Imtiaz Ahmad have also expressed happiness on the Urdu translation of the most important Japanese piece of Literature, the significance of which is stated in the following pages by two Urdu language professors based in Japan. Both are of the view that the readers will attain a lot of information regarding Japanese culture by reading this book. Moreover, they will get acquainted not only with the way the royal families in Japan existed around one thousand years ago, but also with the way the Japanese deal with their emotions.
Before the actual text begins, the readers are also given a note to read by the publisher, Muhammad Ilyas and an introduction to the translator, Baqir Naqvi, the life and thoughts of whom are elucidated even more using an interview of his that Khurram Sohail did himself in the year 2015. Before the content list, a small introduction to PJLF is also given, detailing how the forum’s objective has been to respect and promote both the countries’ literary pursuits in their respective languages, and then introduce them to each other through translation projects.
It is undoubtedly a pride for Pakistanis that the world’s first novel now finds translation in their national language. An important contribution to the fields of Urdu literature and translation studies, “Genji Ki Kahani” is now available in the bookstores for people to buy and read.