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UPENDRANATH ASHK, 1910-1996, was one of Hindi literature’s best known and most controversial authors. Ashk was born in Jalandhar and spent the early part of his writing career as an Urdu author in Lahore. Encouraged by Premchand, he switched to Hindi, and a few years before Partition, moved to Bombay, Delhi and finally Allahabad in 1948, where he spent the rest of his life. By the time of his death, Ashk’s phenomenally large oeuvre spanned over a hundred volumes of fiction, poetry, memoir, criticism and translation. Ashk is perhaps best known for his six-volume novel cycle, Girti Divarein, or ‘Falling walls’—an intensely detailed chronicle of the travails of a young Punjabi man attempting to become a writer–which has earned the author comparisons to Marcel Proust. Ashk was the recipient of numerous prizes and awards during his lifetime for his masterful portrayal, by turns humorous and remarkably profound, of the everyday lives of ordinary people.
DAISY ROCKWELL is an artist and writer living in northern New England. She paints under the takhallus, or alias, Lapata (Urdu for ‘missing’), and has shown her artwork widely. Rockwell holds a PhD in Hindi literature and has taught Hindi-Urdu and South Asian literature at a number of US universities. Apart from her essays on literature and art, she has written Upendranath Ashk: A Critical Biography, The Little Book of Terror, a book of paintings and essays on the global war on terror, and the novel Taste. She has translated a collection of Ashk’s short stories, Hats and Doctors, published in 2013 as a Penguin Modern Classic.