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Dhaka Tribune

'The Wonders of Vilayet' among 20 books that inspire

Kaiser Haq's translation chosen to be among 20 books that give hope

Update : 15 Jul 2018, 05:36 PM

In a recent literary item on books published in The Guardian, a question raised in this year's Hay Festival in the book town of Hay-on-Wye was referred to: How do we stay positive and fight for change? The item is about the answers that some 20 authors, thinkers provide: They reveal the books that inspire them to move on and keep up the fight.

Among the 20 books ranging from literary classics to philosophical treatises from all over the world, Kaiser Haq's translation of Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin's The Wonders of Vilayet: Wonderful Tales about Europe was mentioned by Sujit Sivasundaram, an eminent historian at Cambridge University, one of the 20 authors whose picks have been included in the item. 

The Guardian item is entitled "Books to give us hope: Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson, Rose McGowan, and more share their picks." About Mirza Sheikh's wonderful travelogue, Sivasundaram says in his entry that the book "makes one see the world through the honest eyes of a Muslim traveler in 1766, who undertook an extraordinary journey over sea. He left India as part of an embassy from the Mughal Emperor Shah Allam II to the British court as its Persian scribe, or munshi. His description of Britain is totally fresh—it allows the reader to rethink the familiar, but also to consider how cultural exchanges between east and west were central to the making of our modern world."

Kaiser Haq's translation is based mainly on a Bengali translation of Mirza's Persian account, done by Professor ABM Habibullah. Some parts from the 1827 English translation by James Edward Alexander, however, were used when necessary, Haq mentions in his translator's note. 

It was when one of his schoolmates declared that his ancestor had been the first Indian to visit Britain that Haq, the eminent Bangladeshi poet, essayist and translator, came about discovering this 18th century memoir, written in Persian by a Bengali who, while working under the British Commander-in-Chief Colonel Carnac, had been offered a position of munshi at the Mughal court of Emperor Shah Alam. 

Some of the other authors and the books they’ve picked: 

Phillip Pullman

The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton 

A 17th century pamphlet, part literature and philosophical text, it is an obsessively funny and energetic study of melancholy.   

Elif Shafak

Illuminations by Walter Benjamin

A collection of essays and reflections from one of the most critical and original philosophers of the early 20th century.

Laura Mvula 

The Famished Road by Ben Okri 

A fantastic account of African tradional realism from Africa’s leading surrealist. 

Anuradha Roy

Walter Spies: A Life in Art by John Stowell 

A biography of John Stowell, one of the finest painters of the tropical landscape

Amy Lamé

Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

A scintillating criticism on the trolls and misogynists who demean and attack women, online and in real life.

Akram Khan

Gratitude by Oliver Sacks 

A moving account of celebrating life when faced with cancer from the famous poet laureate of medicine. 

Andre Aciman

Austerlitz by WG Sebald

A critically acclaimed story of a man’s search for the answer to his life’s central riddle. 

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