"Originally written in Urdu, these 15 short stories are of seminal importance in illustrating the development, acceptance, and historical progress of Indian women writers. They also delineate the reluctant approval of several topics in fiction, particularly lesbianism and homosexuality, which had been only tacitly recognized earlier in Indian life and literature. The title story, The Quilt, is a pioneering achievement; when it was first published, Chughtai had to defend herself before the Imperial Crown Court of India. Other stories, such as Sacred Duty, Scent of the Body, and The Morsel, also demonstrate the author's accomplishments, for her fiction is outspoken, humorous, sometimes cynical but always energetic and convincing. A highly significant account of women's longtime struggle to find their place in Indian society, with Chughtai leading the endeavor in both her writing and her life; recommended for public libraries."—Library Journal
"Writing in Urdu, Chughtai (1915-1991) paved the way for modern Indian and Pakistani women writers to harshly probe their social milieu's double standards for men and women, rich and poor. Each of these 15 stories concerns marriage in one way or another, and most begin or end with a wedding. But don't expect happy romances; these are arranged, often brutal unions. . . . Chughtai's stories offer insightful glances into the conflicts faced when Muslims, Hindus, and Christians live side by side."—Kirkus Reviews
In 1944 Ismat Chughtai successfully defended herself before the Imperial Crown Court against a charge of obscenity for her short story Lihaaf —The Quilt. The narrator of this story, a precocious nine-year old child, is sent to visit an aunt. This aunt, ignored by a husband whose only interest seems to lie in entertaining slim-waisted young boys, suffers from a relentless bodily itch, an itch, her niece discovers, no doctor can cure and only her maidservant can relieve.
Frank and often wickedly comic, Chughtai’s stories were the imaginative core of her life’s work, drawn from memories of the sprawling Muslim household of her childhood. With her mastery of the spoken language, economy of form, and her fine eye for the details of the intricate and hidden world of women’s experience, Chughtai captured the evolving conflicts of Muslim India. Her exploration of the myriad and subtle tyrannies of middle-class gentility, and, equally, of those unexpected moments of sexual liberation and spirit, is unrivalled in contemporary Urdu literature.
About the Author
A bold daughter of Indian Independence, Ismat Chughtai was a master storyteller and Urdu's most outspoken woman writer. Born in 1915, Chughtai came from a family of intellectuals and writers and was briefly associated with the Progressive Writers' Movement in Lucknow. An intense individualist and iconoclast, her output was prolific and her work widely acclaimed in both India and Pakistan. She died in 1991.
Distributed for The Sheep Meadow Press
6 x 9, 176 pages