Gender and class : translation and analysis of "Phislan" and "Lihaaf"
After the publication of her short story "Lihaaf" in 1942, Ismat Chughtai was tried by the British Crown on charges of obscenity. Muhammad Hasan Askari's "Phislan," although published a year earlier, was never leveled with these charges and the short story generally flew under the radar in comparison to its notorious counterpart. Throughout the years, both readers and critics alike have simplified and reduced "Phislan" and "Lihaaf" as prime examples of homoerotic Urdu literature. The vast majority of literary criticism and work on gender that references these stories maintains the view that both stories are markedly homoerotic. However, the fact that the characters in both stories negotiate arguably homosocial spaces suggests that it might be more important to focus on the issues of sexuality and gender taking place rather than fixating on labeling the sexuality itself. To refocus this attention more broadly toward these issues exposes the importance of class, an aspect of the two stories that does not receive its due, proportionate interest. This paper presents original translations of Askari's "Phislan" and Chughtai's "Lihaaf," and then undertakes an analysis of the aforementioned issues of sexuality, gender and class.