How a contemporary Urdu writer dissolves the boundaries between traditional and modern

Haider Shahbaz in The Caravan:

I was slightly nervous before my first meeting with the author Mirza Athar Baig, in the winter of 2017, at the Big M restaurant in Lahore’s Shadman Market. I had recently signed a book deal for my translation of his 2014 Urdu novel Hassan’s State of Affairs, and I was meeting him to discuss the first round of edits.

When I entered the restaurant, he was already at a table, waiting for me. I was embarrassed about being late, but this would happen every time I met him. Baig is impeccably punctual in a city that runs perpetually late. He was wearing a grey suit, slightly big for his build, and an old leather bag was on the chair next to him. The manuscript of the translation I had sent was placed neatly on the table in front of him, and he was scanning it with what seemed to be perturbed eyes. His expressionless face appeared forbidding, but as I found soon enough, Baig easily bursts into laughter, adding an unexpected softness to his apparent stoicism.

The restaurant was nearly full the whole time we were there, but no one recognised Baig. People have long stopped recognising writers in this city, and even if they did, they probably would not notice Baig.

More here.

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