The Crooked Line

Ismat Chughtai (Author) Tahira Naqvi (Translator)
Backorder (temporarily out of stock)


A young Indian woman searches for her own identity as her country fights for independence in this novel from the award-winning Urdu Indian author.

The Crooked Line is the story of Shamman, a spirited young woman who rebels against the traditional Indian life of purdah, or female seclusion, that she and her sisters are raised in. Shipped off to boarding school by her family, Shamman grows into a woman of education and independence just as India itself is fighting to throw off the shackles of colonialism. Shamman's search for her own path leads her into the fray of political unrest, where her passion for her country's independence becomes entangled with her passion for an Irish journalist.

In this semi-autobiographical novel, Ismat Chughtai explores the complex relationships between women caught in a changing culture, and exposes the intellectual and emotional conflicts at the heart of India's battle for an uncertain future of independence from the British Raj and ultimately Partition.

Product Details

$16.95  $15.59
Feminist Press
Publish Date
August 01, 2006
5.96 X 1.17 X 8.44 inches | 1.11 pounds
BISAC Categories:

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Born in 1915 in Badayun, a small Indian town, to a well-to-do family, Ismat Chunghtai began writing about topics that were considered taboo in conventional Muslim society long before being published. Her first and most famous published story, "Lihaaf" ("The Quilt"), which involved a lesbian relationship between the beautiful wife of a wealthy landlord and her servant maid, outraged and awed many. At first presumed to have been written by a man, "The Quilt" was considered pornographic by the then British government and Chughtai was charged with obscenity. The trial lasted four years before she was acquitted.

After a brief stint as a teacher at a girls' school in Bareilly, Chughtai went on to Aligarh Muslim University to train as a teacher. In 1941 she married Shahid Latif, a filmmaker, with whom she had two daughters. By 1943 she devoted her career to writing, and became a member of the Progressive Writer's Group. Chugtai has also written one other explicitly feminist novel Ziddi (The Stubborn One) and a number of short-story collections: Chotan (Wounds), Kaliyan (Buds), and Chui Mui. She died in India in 1992.


"This account of growing up in 1940s at the high point of anti-colonial struggles draws a crooked line across received notions of nationalist politics, Muslim family life, and colonial education. Questions of sexuality--and of Islam, India, growing up female--appear in unexpected new formations in this setting. Chughtai has given us one of the most richly textured and original of partition novels." --Susie Tharu, coeditor of Women Writing in India

"This passionate, often searing novel has the tactile force of a great sculpture: what we think of as the inferiority of the self and the otherness of the world are brought together in torque after torque of perception and dream, revealing the growth of a woman, her desire, her rage, her sexual longing in a crowded world, in a time filled with tumultuous historical change. In The Crooked Line, Ismat Chughtai has given us a masterwork." --Meena Alexander, author of Fault Lines: A Memoir

"Long before feminism and Simone de Beauvoir were available to women writers here, Ismat Chughtai had her finger on the pulse of a changing cosmos." --Outlook (India)