Now get ready for Safi`s `Jasoosi Duniya` series in English

Updated: Apr 24, 2011, 15:29 PM IST

New Delhi, Apr 24 (PTI) The works of one of the subcontinent`s best-known fiction writers Ibne Safi, who had a cult following including the likes of Agatha Christie, will now be available in English.

Safi`s "Jasoosi Duniya" is a dysfunctional world of titanic villains, mad-genius detectives, and alluring femme fatales and a series spanning 125 novels published between 1952 and 1979.

Four titles ? "Poisoned Arrow", "Smokewater", "The Laughing Corpse" and "Doctor Dread" ? translated by Urdu scholar Shamsur Rahman Faruqi and released here by Safi`s son, Ahmad Safi, have been brought out by Blaft Publications and Westland.

Agatha Christie once said of Safi, "I don`t know Urdu, but have knowledge of detective novels in the sub-continent. There is only one original writer ? Ibne Safi." His "Jasoosi Duniya" and "Imran" series have brought him fame as a writer of crime and detective stories.

Translating Safi`s works was both easy and difficult for Faruqi.

"It was easy in the sense that there was no complexity in Safi`s writings. But translating the Urdu humour which he used so often and the cultural aspects were difficult," Faruqi told PTI.

"My basic aim was to keep the language correct," he said.

According to Ahmad Safi, Faruqi has done a great job.

"Translating Ibne Safi was a challenging job because of the frequent use of Urdu couplets and wry humour.

"I hope this effort will bring all of us closer to my father. This is a great step and will help in bringing to the forefront his works and also address a large audience that was previously alien to my father`s writings," he said.

According to Westland CEO Gautam Padmanabhan, Safi continues to have a strong fan following among Urdu readers and these translations will make his works available to a larger audience across the country.

"The choice of publishing Ibne Safi`s works was due to a co-publishing arrangement we have entered into with Blaft. They earlier published the very successful anthology of Tamil pulp fiction and based on its success started scouting for pulp fiction in other languages as well," Padmanabhan said.

"We would first like to see how these four titles perform in the market. Depending on their success and in consultation with Blaft, we would certainly look at translating more titles. Ibne Safi was very prolific and there are more than 120 novels to choose from for the future," he said.

"He is somewhat legendary in Urdu reading circles. My own Punjabi uncles used to hide his novels behind their math textbooks and read him in class. After Blaft started work on Tamil pulp fiction, we started asking around about detective fiction in other languages, and when you ask that question about Urdu the first name you hear from everyone is Ibne Safi," says Rakesh Khanna, founder and editor of Blaft.

One of the most prolific Urdu writers of the 20th century, Safi was born as Asrar Ahmed in Allahabad in 1928. He started writing at a young age. When he was in class VII, his first story appeared in the weekly Shahid.

During the independence movement and afterwards, he was also branded a progressive for his ideas, and warrants were issued in India for his arrest.

Then in March 1952, he began the detective novel series "Jasoosi Duniya". Containing his original characters, Inspector Faridi and Sergeant Hameed, the first novel was "Dilaer Mujrim" (The Brave Criminal) was published in March 1952. The central idea and theme of this novel was taken from Victor Gunn`s novel "Ironsides Lone Hands". However, the main characters were Safi`s own creation.

After finishing his education, Safi migrated to Pakistan with his mother and sister in August 1952. He founded Asrar Publications and started publishing "Jasoosi Duniya" simultaneously from Pakistan and India. The political border between the two countries did not divide the relationship he had formed with his readers.

In 1955, Safi created a new character, Imran, and started publishing the Imran Series. The first novel of this series "Khaufnaak Imarat" (The Frightening Building) was published in August 1955 by A & H Publications, Pakistan whereas the Indian edition was published in November 1955 by Monthly Nikhat, Allahabad. He died on July 26, 1980.

PTI

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