The Crooked Line

The Crooked Line

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Ismat Chughtai
A masterpiece by one of India's foremost woman writers.

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Publication Date: 06-01-2006

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Translated by Tahira Naqvi

The Crooked Line 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, and her passion for India's independence becomes entangled with her passion for an Irish journalist. Writing with honesty and passion, Ismat Chughtai exposes the complex relationships between women living and working in relative seclusion, and the intellectual and emotional contradictions lying in the heart of a rebellious country battling tradition, cultural expectations, and an uncertain future on the brink of independence from the British Raj and ultimately Partition.

"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, coeditor of Women Writing in India

"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." Outlook (India)