Transgressions and Transformations

Book Review

Book Review

Dr. Anjum Altaf, author of the book ‘Transgressions: Poems Inspired by Faiz Ahmed Faiz’ was Dean at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and Provost at Habib University in Karachi. The book contains 30 poems and each poem is followed by notes. The poems correspond to the poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz but are not translations. The poems reflect the author’s thoughts on the themes of the poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. It is a good tribute to a great poet like Faiz. The book was first published by Aakar Books in 2019 in Delhi. It was reprinted by Liberty Books in Karachi in 2020.  

By Noor Ahmed Janjhi

Poetry is a heart touching expression of human feelings, aspirations, dreams and much more. It has been a great and strong medium of human thought and conveys successes as well as the failures of human endeavor. It is spontaneous and overflowing thought in form of words. Like other human creations, inventions and discoveries, the poetry also tries to control the framework of time and space. All the human endeavors move in this regard to jump it over the framework. The poetry in this sense goes beyond the time boundaries and objectivity. Robert Frost has rightly said, “I have never started a poem yet whose end I know. Writing a poem is discovering.” The poetry is discovery not only of self but also human behavior in the wider context of nature and modus operandi of forces of nature. Great poets have left great legacy of great thoughts and ideas surpassing the limits of time and space. The poetry appeals human feelings and people desire to express their feelings by composing poetry. However, the genuine creative composition neither can be imitated nor it can be translated in true letter and spirit. Considering the complexity of the poetry, people try to transform the thought in their own words or reflect on it and come up with a new creation. It also attracts the audience as it conveys the potential of thought.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz is a great Urdu poet of his own tone and tenor. He has composed poems depicting love, freedom of thought and inherent dissidence of human will. Popularity of the poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz is because of his genuine thought. He has juxtaposed human dreams with realities of life in his poetic expression. The unique thought and expression of Faiz Ahmed Faiz appealed Anjum Altaf in a way that he has tried to produce the poems reflecting thematic transformation of the poems of Faiz. Mr. Anjum Altaf is a poet and names his collection as Transgressions because he thinks it so and tags it creatively. The book contains 30 poems and each poem is followed by notes. The poems correspond to the poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz but are not translations, as written by the author of the book. The poems reflect the author’s thoughts on the themes of the poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. It is a good tribute to a great poet like Faiz. The author tries to converse with Faiz Ahmed Faiz through his tributary creations and desires to convey the thought of resistance to the succeeding generations and says, “The poetry of resistance needs to be constantly refreshed to make it speak to our times.” In his words, it is “the engagement with poetry to make it congruent with the present.” Let us go through some examples. In the first poem ‘Why’ (Kutey), these lines are very influencing …..


What myth is it

That keeps you


Amongst yourselves

That keeps you


To your strength

It corresponds to the poem Kuttey written by Faiz and in that poet he has symbolized laziness of dogs and asked to tug on their tails as they might awaken. Anjum has used the theme with interrogation that why the myth has kept people divided and they are not in a position to realize their potential. ‘Resist’ is taken from the poem ‘dar e umiid ke daryuuza gar’ by Faiz and it tells the human dare and courage that enables them not to kneel down before others. People become used to with their cage and don’t want to leave it. They show all of the left overs of the servitude with pride. It reads as:

Hordes swarm the streets

Goose stepping, flaunting steel

Threatening, intimidating those

Who dare to refuse to kneel!


We collect the shreds they tore

Dyed red in our blood

Sew them back in a banner

Bigger, brighter than before


Some other examples are as follows:

Speak ( bolبول )


For truth and honor shall not wait


Say all that needs be said today


Go (aaj bazaar mein  pa ba jaulaan chalo آج بازار مين پابجولان چلو )

Unwept tears, inner torments


Hidden desires, silent accusations



Killing fields (ham jo tareek rahoon mein maarey gaye هم جو تاريک راهون مين ماري گئي )

Sweet was the seduction

To live to die for a promise


Memories and desires

Shall cast

Again and again

Legions of lovers

In the killing fields


Bangladesh (Dhaka se waapsii par ڊاکه سي واپسي پر )

What would it take

To trust again

To feel

Without the need

To say


Beauty (mauzu e sukhan موضوئي سخن )

Wait, you say

There are words

Beyond henna and anklet

Beyond lovers and beloveds

Pestilence, war, death, deprivation

Inequality, injustice, oppression, starvation

The writer of this book has strived all of it to transform the dissident thought to the succeeding generations. However it is too difficult to translate the genuine word because it has its own voice effectiveness and phonetic impression. Mr. Anjum Altaf has mentioned a quote of Faiz sb on the translation particularly the languages differing in cultural, historical and linguistic outlook. I am thinking it necessary to reproduce here.

“Translating poetry, even when confined to a cognate language with some formal and idiomatic affinities with the original compositions, is an exacting task, but this task is obviously far more formidable when the languages involved are far removed from each other in cultural background, rhythmic and formal patterns, and the vocabulary of symbol and allusion as Urdu and English.”

By and large, it focuses on the thought of Faiz Ahmed Faiz as the author thinks the poetry of Faiz sb is a touchstone by its tone, tenor and style. He wants to transform the very thought of dissidence and creativity to the coming generations especially to those who don’t know Urdu. It is irony of the world that market is dictating the cultural profile of people without their consent and consideration of the point of view in decision making. Thus, a replacement of the cultural infrastructures is going to be activated to take off intended cultural coverage ….intended by the market not by the people. The trend has affected the languages too. It is a transgression towards nature and people. So transgressions for transformation of thought may work to some extent. However, the originality of thought in its actual expression impresses and brings the revolution in thought process otherwise thought process is universal and identical with its expressing diversity. The book may appeal and attract the young generation interested in literature and poetry.


Mr. Noor Ahmed Janjhi is a senior educationist and author of several books on folk literature of Sindh and several other topics.








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