Gopi Chand Narang
|Born||11 February 1931|
Dukki, Baluchistan, British Raj
(present day Balochistan, Pakistan)
|Died||15 June 2022 (aged 91)|
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Delhi|
|Notable awards||Padma Bhushan (2004) Sahitya Akademi Award (1995), Ghalib Award (1985), President of Pakistan Gold Medal (1977), Iqbal Samman (2011), President of Pakistan Sitara-e-Imtiyaz Award (2012), Professor Emeritus, Delhi University (2005–present), Professor Emeritus Jamia Millia Islamia (2013–present), Moorti Devi Award (2012), Sir Syed Excellence National Award (2021)|
Gopi Chand Narang (11 February 1931 – 15 June 2022) was an Indian theorist, literary critic, and scholar who wrote in Urdu and English. His Urdu literary criticism incorporated a range of modern theoretical frameworks including stylistics, structuralism, post-structuralism, and Eastern poetics.
Narang was born in Dukki, a town in Balochistan, British Raj (now Pakistan). His father Dharam Chand Narang was a litterateur himself, and a scholar of Persian and Sanskrit, who inspired Gopi's interest in literature.
Narang received a master's degree in Urdu from the University of Delhi, and a research fellowship from the Ministry of Education to complete his PhD in 1958.
About his linguistic journey Narang has said: “My journey with Urdu is a journey of ishq. Urdu was not my mother tongue; my paternal and maternal families spoke Seraiki. But I never realised that Urdu is not my mother tongue”.
Narang taught Urdu literature at St. Stephen's College (1957–58) before joining Delhi University, where he became a reader in 1961. In 1963 and 1968 he was a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin, also teaching at the University of Minnesota and the University of Oslo. Narang joined Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi as a professor in 1974, rejoining the University of Delhi from 1986 to 1995. In 2005, the university named him a professor emeritus.
Narang's first book (Karkhandari Dialect of Delhi Urdu) was published in 1961, a sociolinguistic analysis of a neglected dialect spoken by indigenous workers and artisans in Delhi. He has published over 60 books in Urdu, English, and Hindi.
He has produced three studies: Hindustani Qisson se Makhooz Urdu Masnaviyan (1961), Urdu Ghazal aur Hindustani Zehn-o-Tehzeeb (2002) and Hindustan ki Tehreek-e-Azadi aur Urdu Shairi (2003). Narang's related volumes—Amir Khusrow ka Hindavi Kalaam (1987), Saniha-e-Karbala bataur Sheri Isti'ara (1986) and Urdu Zabaan aur Lisaniyaat (2006)—are socio-cultural and historical studies.
In addition to teaching, Narang was vice-chairman of the Delhi Urdu Academy (1996–1999) and the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language – HRD (1998–2004) and vice-president (1998–2002) and president (2003–2007) of the Sahitya Akademi.
Narang was an Indira Gandhi Memorial Fellow of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts from 2002 to 2004, and a 1997 resident of the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy. Narang received the Mazzini Gold Medal (Italy, 2005), the Amir Khusrow Award (Chicago, 1987), a Canadian Academy of Urdu Language and Literature Award (Toronto, 1987), an Association of Asian Studies (Mid-Atlantic Region) Award (US, 1982), a European Urdu Writers Society Award (London, 2005), an Urdu Markaz International Award (Los Angeles, 1995) and an Alami Farogh-e-Urdu Adab Award (Doha, 1998). He is the only Urdu writer honoured by the presidents of both India and Pakistan. In 1977 Narang received the President's National Gold Medal from Pakistan for his work on Allama Iqbal, and received a Padma Bhushan (2004) and Padma Shri (1990) from India. He received honorary Doctor of Letters degrees from Aligarh Muslim University (2009), Maulana Azad National Urdu University (2008) and the Central University in Hyderabad (2007). Narang received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1995, the Ghalib Award in 1985, Urdu Academy's Bahadur Shah Zafar Award, Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad Award (both in 2010), Madhya Pradesh Iqbal Samman (2011) and the Bharatiya Jnanpith Moorti Devi Award (2012). The Sahitya Akademi conferred on Narang its highest honour, the Fellowship, in 2009.
There have been allegations of plagiarism against Gopi Chand Narang for copying and translating from secondary sources major portions of his Sahitya Akademi award-winning book Sakhtiyat, Pas-Sakhtiyat aur Mashriqui Sheriyat (Structuralism, Post-Structuralism and Eastern Poetics). There have also been allegations of corruption and controversial appointments under his Presidency of Sahitya Akademi, which he headed from 2003 to 2007. He has denied these allegations of corruption.
However, the said malicious charges have been refuted in a recent article ‘How author and critic Gopi Chand Narang survived a maligning campaign’. The author has clearly stated that Gopi Chand Narang was targeted for his criticism of unrealistic Modernism in Urdu. It was mere propaganda against him that cannot stand the literary scrutiny or any serious debate, those who tried to malign him had no understanding of his work or literary motifs.
Narang has published more than 60 scholarly and critical books on language, literature, poetics and cultural studies; many have been translated into other Indian languages.
I was born in the small town of Dukki in Balochistan, which is on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I fondly remember the intellectually nurturing influence of my father, Dharam Chand Narang, who was a scholar of Sanskrit and Persian. The language that was spoken at home was Saraiki, which is a beautiful mix of Indic and Western Punjabi.
Having been brought up in the dry, mountainous terrain of Balluchistan and his mother tongue being Saraiki (a blend of western Punjabi, Sindhi and Pushto), his background conspired against him. Even at his school Musa Khail, Pushto was the medium but he held the fort for Urdu.