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Literariness of Literature

Literariness of Literature
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Ashraf Lone

What is or what constitutes a literature, most of the readers understand it. There are hundreds of definitions of literature. After reading some of the best books of world literature, one clearly comes to know, what literature is all about and how should a good novel, short story or poem look like. A good critic or a “good reader of literature” can only tell a reader what a good book should look like and after this, a reader has to feel it himself.

There has been hundreds of definitions of literature but one thing is clear, serious literature or high literature is different from a popular literature and vice versa. As a movie can’t be compared with a stage drama and in the same way Chetan Bhagat like popular writers can’t and will never touch a hight of writers like Prem Chand, Manto, Ismat Chugtai, Gorki, Maquez, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Brecht, Maupassant, Chekhov etc. To feel a difference between the writings of popular writer and high or serious writer, a reader has to read a book each from these two sections one after the other. Then he can clearly come to his own opinion what serious or high literature means and what is it all about. In the same way a common reader has to read big writers like Prem Chand, Manto, Gorki, Chekhov, Shakespeare with small writers like Sudarshan Josh, Latifuddin and some other small writers with these to know clearly what literariness of literature means. And here one must know first, that the writers like Prem Chand are established in high esteem not only by some critics, but are revered by crores of readers world over through original texts and translations.

Everything a writer writes can’t be considered a good piece of literature. Renowned writers world over have written good and bad literature as well. For example Urdu short story writers like Prem Chand and Manto have written hundreds of short stories, but their every piece of writing doesn’t hold the same literary merit. These are known to be trend setters or classic writers in Urdu, but this can’t make their every piece of work a symbol of classicism. Their every work will be evaluated and checked separately. And these writers have surely written some bad short stories also.

Coming to the literariness of a literary piece in a true academic and critical sense, one has to know a bit about this to know in real sense what literariness means. As described above, every piece of work of a writer can’t hold to the high credentials of literariness. For example there is a difference between a journalistic reporting and a literary piece. If we couldn’t keep the meaning of this difference in mind, then there would be no difference in a newspaper write-up and short story. A writer has to keep this in mind, while writing that he is not just reporting the event or counting the people; rather he must be well aware of the fact that he is novelist of short story writer. He has to bring emotions, feelings and culture in his characters and language of a novel or short story, those emotions which could be felt after centuries also by readers. His characters should look like the characters with varied emotions and feelings, good or bad. A character of a novel or short story has to be developed within the story. It is not like, you name some character and bring dialogues between them. A character should through his actions and dialogues make a reader to pause for thinking, to delve into the characters soul and feel and understand him. A character has to make the reader to feel the pain or happiness which he himself undergoes in the novel or short story. And it is the basic task of the good writer to make a character/s like this/these. As Saadat Hassan Manto has described in one of his essays that a story should shake the reader or make him to think. It means that any story told in novel, short story or drama has to be constructed carefully. Here every word and action of a character hold meaning, rather too much meaning. A writer has to take extra caution while making certain character to say something or during the dialogue between two or more characters.

A writer has to take very care in forming a plot of short story or novel. And in the same way a writer has to take care of every word, action, etc in a story to make it interesting and intriguing. He has to keep this in mind that he is not writng some journalistic reporting to be published in the “tomorrow edition” of a newspaper. Rather a writer should keep in mind that his story should be timeless and is surely to be read after centuries also.

Then there is the case of language. Language plays a major role in any literary piece. A writer has to be well versed in a language in which he is writing. It is necessary that he has rich vocabulary. A writer should be freely able to give a character language what a character demands. He should be able to freely use the words or make the character to speak what stort story or novel demands. There are too many words with same meaning, but only a good writer knows the suitable place of a word. A writer has to choose every word carefully. Every word brings it with its expression and culture behind it. Here using dictionary for words doesn’t work that much. A writer should have a flow and this flow comes when you have a rich vocabulary.

To know about the literariness of literature, one big example can be given of Allama Iqbal, who is considered one of the greatest poets literature has produced in 20th century. Everybody knows that there are lacs of books on Islam and one doesn’t need to read Iqbal’s poetry to know about the history of Islam and Muslims, but it’s the literariness of the poetry of Iqbal which compels the reader to read his poetry again and again and and arouses a passion in reader to know more about Islam, Muslims and their history. This is because, the poetry is not sloganeering or pamphleteering, but holds artistic depth which every literary piece demands. Same is the case with Faiz, whose poetry filled with social and political tone is a best poetry which shows the poet’s artistic depth and hold.
At the end, every person who writes a short story, novel, poem, drama or anything literary can be considered a writer but the merit of literariness has never been or can’t be compromised. It is necessary for a writer to know this to make his writings more literary while writing a resistance or anykind of literature.

Author has pursued his PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and can be reached at

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