A STORM IN A TEACUP
by Muhammad Umar Memon
Few books in recent memory have generated as much heat and controversy as has Yunus Jawaid's history of the Halqa-e Arbab-e Zauq ("Circle of the Persons of Good Taste;" henceforward, HAZ).* Since its publication a few months ago, its author has been subjected to relentless verbal mauling. Some of his detractors have been so outraged they have publicly recommended that the book should be seized by the authorities, and the loudest such demand has come from some ardent members of the HAZ. Whereas the condemnation of the book has been both vociferous and public, few brows have been furrowed over the propriety of the condemnation. As for the book's defense, it has been practically nonexistent.
One example. Intizar Husain's column in the daily MaSriq (Lahore) is an epitome of non-committal and overly-cautious comment; it confounds, rather than placing in bold relief, the issue of the freedom of speech in present-day Pakistan's repressive political climate. You may read the column twice over and never know Husain's own stand on Jawaid's book, though you may come away with the haziest impression that Husain is trying to be polite to a fellow-writer. But he gives himself away, in my opinion, when he makes a comparison of Jawaid's book with the recently banned Urdu translation of Simone de Beauvoir's The second sex. "Get your book bannedl" is Husain's recipe for gaining instant name and success, A disgraceful attitude, to say the least. One may, by some contortion of imagination, explain away the banning of The Second Sex in contemporary Pakistan, but one cannot do so in the case of a doctoral dissertation approved by one of the oldest universities in the subcontinent on what purports to be no more than the history of a literary group.
What is the nature of Yunus Jawaid's "offence?" The present fury over the book leaves one uninformed about it. Was it improper of him to write a history of the HAZ? Should no one write about the HAZ? Is there something wrong with Jawaid's methodology? Is the book not well-researched? Are his remarks in bad taste in any way? Or is it, finally, that the book exposes, inadvertently or otherwise, the sleazy machinations of some prominent HAZ members who, as the record indicates, subverted the HAZ's charter, transformed its character from a "literary" to a "political" body, and drove it towards its inevitable death. None of these questions is raised. No other reasons are offered
* Yunus Jawaid. Halqa-e Arbab-e Zaug. Lahore: Majlis-e Taraqqi-e Adab, 1984. 16, 395 pp. Rs. 45/-.
[The HAZ may be the oldest continuously active literary group of its kind in the world. Editor,]