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This selection of poetry and prose by Mirza Asadullah Khan, known as Ghalib (1797-1869), provides an accessible and wide-ranging introduction to the preeminent Urdu poet of the nineteenth century. Ghalib’s poems, especially his ghazals, remain beloved throughout South Asia for their arresting intelligence and charming wit. His letters—informal, humorous, and deeply personal—provide a glimpse into his colorful character. These careful translations allow readers with little or no knowledge of Urdu to appreciate the wide range of his poetry, from his bursts of inimitable simplicity to the finer points of his richly layered aesthetic.
Beginning with a critical introduction of his life and work to nonspecialists and specialists alike, Frances Pritchett and Owen Cornwall present a selection of Ghalib’s works, carefully explaining details of poetic form in annotations distilled from years of scholarly engagement with the commentarial tradition. Their translation maintains line-for-line accuracy and thereby preserves complex poetic devices that play upon the tension between the two lines of each verse. The book includes whole ghazals, selected individual verses from other ghazals, poems in other genres, and letters. The book also includes a glossary, the Urdu text of the original poetry, and an appendix with a translation of every instance in his letters in which Ghalib commented on his own verses.