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Ahmed Ali Biography

(1910–94), The Prison-House, Twilight in Delhi, Ocean of Night, Purple Gold Mountain

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Agha Shahid Ali Biography to Ardoch Perth and Kinross

Pakistani novelist, critic, and poet, born in Delhi, educated at the Universities of Aligarh and Lucknow. Ali was for some years, after his move to Pakistan upon the Partition of India, a diplomat; he served, among other postings, in China. He began his literary career as a short-story writer in his native Urdu in the 1930s; he was associated with the Progressive Writers Association, which brought Marxist and Freudian ideology and a modernist aesthetic to Indian fiction. Some of his fiction is collected and translated (by himself and his son) in The Prison-House (1985), which displays his ability to move from social realism to Kafkaesque political parable. Ali is best known outside Pakistan as the author of the influential novel Twilight in Delhi (1940), which deals with the decline of Northern India's Muslim élite at the turn of the century through the eyes of one family and its intimates. His second novel, Ocean of Night (1964), the poetic romance of a courtesan with an aristocrat, evokes the Persian and Urdu mystic poetry Ali loved. He also published a volume of poems, Purple Gold Mountain (1960), and has edited or translated several anthologies of Urdu literature including The Golden Tradition (1973), Selected Pakistani Stories (1988), and a translation of the Koran from Arabic (1984).

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