One of the four Urdu crome
thriller writer Ibne Safi's Jasoosi Duniya series
translated in English by Westland to be released this weekend.
combination of James Bond and Sherlock Holmes, Pakistani writer
Ibn-e-Safi's macho crime-fighters were firm favourites of
generations of Urdu-reading people right from when they first
appeared in the 1950s. Their exploits will now enthrall a much
wider audience with their English translations being
Translated by renowned Urdu scholar Shamsur Rahman
Faruqi, the first four of the "Jasoosi Duniya" (Espionage World)
series - "Poisoned Arrow", "Smokewater", "The Laughing Corpse" and
"Doctor Dread" - were released here by Ibn-e-Safi's son, Ahmad
The first writer of thrillers in Urdu literature, Ibn-e-Safi began
writing the Jasoosi Duniya featuring the tough Colonel Ahmad Kamal
Faridi and his aide, Captain Sajid Hameed, in the 1950s - as a
challenge. These were followed by Imran series, featuring the
young and seemingly buffoonish Ali Imran, who is actually the head
of the secret service. Two of Imran's adventures were translated
into English in 2009.
"My father decided to write crime thrillers after fellow writers
at a literary forum in India told him that crime thrillers could
not be sold in India without sex and violence," Ahmad Safi, the
driving force behind bringing Ibn-e-Safi's books into English,
"My father rose to the challenge and said he could do one without
sex. He created James Bond type books without women and sex," he
"When the first book was published by a local publisher in
Allahbad in 1952 and displayed at the A.H. Wheeler bookstall at
the railway station, they were sold in a week. The publisher was
surprised. The books had to be reprinted several times," Safi
Born in Nara village of Uttar Paradesh's Allahabad district in
1928, Asrar Narvi, who took the pseudonym Ibn-e-Safi (son of Safi,
after his father Safiullah) wrote prodigiously till his death in
1980 at Karachi. His oeuvre comprises a total of 245 books
comprising "Jasoosi Duniya" and the "Imran Series" set in locales
as diverse as Spain, Italy, England, Scotland, the Pacific
islands, Zanzibar, South Africa and the US.
All this was without Ibn-e-Safi setting foot outside his country.
"He was an avid reader and his knowledge of these countries came
from books. Those who read his adventure stories identified with
exotic places like the Amazon rain forests that he wrote about in
his books. He researched about the environment, geography and
culture of a place before it became the backdrop of his novel,"
In one of the new translations, co-published by Westland and Blaft,
"Doctor Dread" translated from "Diler Mujrim", wealthy widow Begum
Irshad is blackmailed by a mysterious foreigner. Crime reporter
and freelance investigator Anwar is hired to go undercover to find
out who he is.
Meanwhile, Faridi and Hameed try to figure out why a mentally
deranged person is jailed in a five-storied highrise. Both the
cases seem to be related to the ongoing feud between the tiny
monkey-faced killer Finch and American criminal Doctor Dread....
Translating Safi's works into English was a challenge, Ahmad said.
For intertwined with action and drama was a wry humour.
"It was difficult to capture Urdu humour in an English
translation. My father, for example, used couplets by Ghalib in
situations where they were funny," he said.
His books were eagerly devoured by his readers and such was the
craze that when Ibn-e-Safi fell ill in 1961 and stopped writing
for three years, unscrupulous elements tried to cash in on his
"During this period, several impostors began publishing crime
thrillers under his name. When he returned to writing after three
years with 'Dher Matwale', his book was released in India by then
union minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. In Karachi, the queues for his
books were serpentine. But his readership in India was much more,"
his son said.
Sales and demand were so high that a second edition had to be
published within a week.
Praise for Ibn-e-Safi came from various quarters including the
high priestess of the crime thriller Agatha Christie, who once
said: "I don't know Urdu, but have knowledge of detective novels
in the sub-continent. There is only one original writer --
One of Safi's dreams before he passed away was to re-visit India,
Ahmad Safi said.
"When he was ailing in 1980, he wanted to come to India to meet
friends. I wanted to accompany him. But life turned out
differently," he said, adding he had himself been looking forward
to come to India.
"It is a dream to meet people my father spoke about. I want to
visit our ancestral village Nara in Kaushambi (district of Uttar
Pradesh). My father said it used to be a peaceful village and
produced a lot of geniuses at the time. The Safi family were known
as the 'hakim ka khandan' because they were mathematicians,
scientists, astrologers and astronomers," Ahmad Safi said.
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