Books For You: When Khadija Mastur explores the Women’s Courtyard

Editor | Literary Fiction

Here is a feminist classic that powerfully explores the interior world of women. Khadija Mastur’s The Women’s Courtyard is set against the backdrop of Partition and raises questions on gender and identity that re relevant even today.

Aliya lives a life confined to the inner courtyard of her home with her older sister and irritable mother, while the men of the family throw themselves into the political movements of the day. She is tormented by the petty squabbles of the household and dreams of educating herself and venturing into the wider world. But Aliya must endure many trials before she achieves her goals, though at what personal cost?

Set in the 1940s, with Partition looming on the horizon, The Women’s Courtyard cleverly brings into focus the claustrophobic lives of women whose entire existence was circumscribed by the four walls of their homes, and for whom the outside world remained an inaccessible dream. Daisy Rockwell’s elegant and nuanced translation captures the poignance and power of Khadija Mastur’s inimitable voice.

About The Author:

Khadija Mastur (1927-82) was a renowned and award-winning Urdu writer from Pakistan, famous for her novels and short stories. She is best remembered for novel Aangan, published in Penguin Classics as The Women’s Courtyard.

The Translator:

Daisy Rockwell is an artist, writer and translator living in northern New England, USA. Apart from her essays on literature and art, she has written Upendranath Ashk: A Critical Biography, The Little Book of Terror and the novel Taste. Her highly acclaimed translations include, among others, Upendranath Ashk’s Falling Walls and Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas, published in Penguin Classics.

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