The Crooked Line
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Born in 1915 in Badayun, a small Indian town, to a well-to-do family, ISMAT CHUGHTAI began writing about topics that were considered taboo in conventional Muslim society long before being published, but kept her writing hidden because of her traditional parents.

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The Crooked Line

Ismat Chughtai

Translated by Tahira Naqvi. Afterword by Tahira Naqvi.

This novel is the story of Shamman, a force of nature who rebels against attempts to raise her as a traditional Indian woman. Shipped off to boarding school by her family, she grows into a woman caught up in political unrest. Her passion for India's independence becomes entangled with her passion for an Irish journalist. Chughtai exposes the emotional turmoil of a woman and a country battling tradition, cultural expectations, and an uncertain future.

"This account of growing up in 1940s at the high point of anti-colonial struggles draws a crooked line across received notions of nationalist politics, Muslim family life, and colonial education. Questions of sexuality—and of Islam, India, growing up female—appear in unexpected new formations in this setting. Chughtai has given us one of the most richly textured and original of partition novels."

—Susie Tharu

"This passionate, often searing novel has the tactile force of a great sculpture: what we think of as the inferiority of the self and the otherness of the world are brought together in torque after torque of perception and dream, revealing the growth of a woman, her desire, her rage, her sexual longing in a crowded world, in a time filled with tumultuous historical change. In The Crooked Line, Ismat Chughtai has given us a masterwork."

—Meena Alexander, author of Fault Lines: A Memoir,

"Long before feminism and Simone de Beauvoir were available to women writers here, Ismat Chughtai had her finger on the pulse of a changing cosmos."

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