ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Haq Chheen Liya Jaaye: Potentialities in Jaun Elia’s Radical Urdu Poetics


Iqbal HAMZA - University of Texas at Austin, Comparative Literature, Austin, United States


26 – Radical Poetics in the Literary Cultures of South Asia


 Ever since the Hindi-Urdu’s progressive episode in the early 20th century, numerous poets have expressed sincere commitments to radical politics and social dissent. While names such as Faiz & Jalib readily come to mind, figures such as Jaun are overlooked almost entirely. Jaun was a staunch revolutionary but unlike the former he had a more quietist approach towards translating political dissent into praxis, i.e. to say, he wasn’t beaten on the streets, arrested, or exiled in the way others did. Yet, throughout his life, his poetic subjectivity oscillated between a hopeful revolutionary and a leftist melancholic and he tirelessly dreamt about “a political democracy along with a social republic,” as he calls it towards the end of his first poetry collection’s prologue-essay. In it he also fascinatingly humanizes Marx which was novel for an Urdu poet. Moreover, Jaun and his brother, Taqi, hold the remarkable honour of translating Marx into Urdu in early 60s. My discussion will center on Jaun’s radical poetics and contribute to the growing archive of the aesthetic ‘forms of the left’ in postcolonial South Asia. While his poetics have recently garnered considerable attention for their performativity, bittersweet sentimentality, and accessible idiom, I will attend to the nachleben of Jaun’s poetics from the standpoint of radical political potentialities one of which, as Taneja (2022) argues, was seen being materialized at the scenes of the recent anti-CAA protests in India.