A Fragment from a Manuscript Titled Khatarnaak Khavateen

Words persist in the unlikeliest of places: in dark, unlit rooms, in the wilderness of decay, and in memory. The following excerpt is all that remains of an unfinished manuscript – written by Talatum “Adambezar” Khatun, * b. 1896 in Lucknow – that defies and complicates traditional conceptions of genre. Khatun was the originator of a style termed Adab-e-Awr, † as exemplified by the fragment, which weaves history, poetry, memoir, and riffs on etymology to seamlessly produce an avant-garde and frankly, bizarre text. Little is known of Khatun’s life, except that she appears to have been somewhat of a rabble-rouser with no end in mind beyond the purpose of shock. She learnt English by making use of her father’s collection of dictionaries – he was a publisher – and through a line of tutors, each of whom left her house more exasperated than the last. Based on what we currently know, Khatun’s life is difficult to tell; difficult to determine; difficult to chart.


Palvashay Sethi is content to exist most days; on others, she’s assailed with fears of ceasing to be and starts scribbling. Other publications include The Aleph Review, minorliterature[s], Severine, and FishFood Magazine. Twitter: @palvashits

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