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Qurratulain Hyder: آخر شب کے ہمسفر (Fireflies in the Mist)

While not nearly as good a book as آگ کا دریا (River of Fire), this is still an interesting novel, even if Hyder is more focused on the politics than the literature. It tells the story of the Indians of Bengal (though many of them later become Pakistanis) who fought against the British in the early forties. In particular it focuses on the stories of a few women who were active in this fight. Many of them come from well-to-do backgrounds and their involvement in the struggle is often a disappointment to their parents, who have more conventional views. Besides the stories of these women, we also see the gradual decline of the minor aristocracy of Bengal, as they are overtaken by events and, of course, the rise of the new post-independence aristocracy. Hyder follows the women from their involvement in the struggle to their later life up to the 1970s. They end up married, abroad and, of course, dead, all of them somewhat disillusioned and despondent with what they went through but reluctant to look back. While the story is not bad – though a bit soap-opera-ish – it really does not hold together nor have the beauty of آگ کا دریا (River of Fire) and seems to gradually fade away. But it is worth reading if only for a bit of history of which most Westerners know nothing.

Publishing history

First published in Urdu 1979 by Kitab Ghar
First published in English 1994 by Sterling
Translated by the author