We Are All Dr Faustus – Parveen Shakir

Last month, in the freezing climes of Islamabad, we talked about Parveen Shakir, Pakistan’s popular poet who died at a young age.

One of Parveen’s poems invokes the legend and metaphor of Dr Faustus:

 “The name ‘Faust’ has become deeply rooted in European mythology as the name of a man who sold his soul to the devil in return for eartly power and riches. The Faust legend has been embellished and retold in many formats …”

Source here

I found this skillful translation of her poem – We Are All Dr Faustus – by another noteworthy poet Alamgir Hashmi on this site.

We Are All Dr Faustus

In a way we are all
Dr Faustus.
One from his craze
and another helpless from blackmail
barters away his soul.
One mortgages his eyes
to trade in dreams
and another offers
his mind as collateral.
All that one may need sense
is the currency of the day.
So a survey of life’s Wall Street says
that among those with the buying power these days
self-respect is very popular.

The Urdu version was found with the translation

This is an appropriate commentary on what constitutes self-respect and the all-pervasiveness of Wall Street culture in our contemporary existence.

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. rumi:

    i needed a break – from work – and when i read parveen and the english translation i could not resist attempting a quick one of mine –

    The Faustus In Us

  2. rumi:

    kyun tung kartay haiN aap?

    Khair, i needed a break – from work – and when i read parveen and the english translation i could not resist attempting a quick one of mine –

    The Faustus In Us

    in (more than) a sense
    we resemble Faustus
    some sell their soul
    for passion, circumstances
    force others, some get away
    pawning their eyes
    to trade in visions
    some offer their minds
    as collateral
    it’s amusing to see
    the purchasing power of money
    surveying life’s wall street, we find
    self respect is the object d’art
    most in demand today

  3. I actually like your version better 🙂 On an interesting and unrelated, kind of, note…

    The new President of Harvard University is a woman named Dr. Faust.


    Ya Haqq!

  4. Dear Temporal
    This is a compact translation and again reflects your inherent creative prowess. However, I have a few comments on the last lines that I will leave on your blog…

  5. aoa
    hope u will be fine
    i read ur translation this is very nice
    well can u write parveen shakar’s Dreecha_e-gul
    the introduction of Khusboo and also the first two pages of (intoduction of Sad berg
    believe me ther e r many who want to read this in english
    even today i was in my university and i was discussing this to my friend
    but her urdu proficiency was not good and she wants to read it the english version of dareecha-e-gul
    wish if i have power to write in poetic way but i have not so plz think over that idea
    regard nirmal

  6. aoa Sir
    thanx for ur caring and loving reply
    and May Allah bless u for ur kindness and care.
    u ca not imagin how much i love Parveen shakar.i m now 24 and i was infirst introduce by her when i was in matric
    since that day she is with me
    i never think that she is no more now .i always feel her near i talk her .might u think that it is crazyness but it happens
    once again thanx
    love and dua

  7. Hello Raza,

    I’m a young American in my twenties, who would love to visit Pakistan some day – particularly Lahore. I’m a visual artist and have a profound appreciation for poets and free expression. I stumbled on your blog today and look forward to reading more of your body of work.

    I would like to understand your perspective on “selling your soul to the devil,” or rather money. More specifically, how do you feel about women in your country entering into business? Do you think it will change the family structure, and if so, how? And please excuse me if I come across as an ignorant American, but to what capacity are women seeking a life in the business in your country? Unfortunately, our news seems to dumb America down rather than informing it.

    I hope to not offend you, but rather have an honest dialog about life. I look forward to your response.

  8. Meg its me nirmal
    i can not explain u sellinng ur soul to devil.but i can tell u more about pakistani female
    look Meg now the trend is changed in Pakistan about education .pakistani woman is fully educated
    we r prefering mamngement sciences
    even my apptitude is nt toward buisness but my father insised me to get post graduation degree in buisness
    and our family structure is so strong .most pakistanies still have joint family
    divorce rate as compare to other is very low
    our bonds with our family r strong
    and educated woman is completely fully aware of her responsilbility
    at the same time she is looking her home ,husband ,parents .and kids
    we r proud of this status
    well if u want to know more about islam and want to meet friendly nice people can u join us on our forum.u will meet extra special people with ful knowledge and very friendly
    if i u want to mmet then i will give u id
    urs sis

  9. […] February 2007 I came across a poem by Parveen Shakir on Jahane Rumi. Alamgir Hashmi had also transcreated it in English. Here is the original and then his […]

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