Intizar Husain (b. 1925) is a journalist, short-story writer, and novelist, widely considered the most significant living fiction writer in Urdu. Born in Dibai, Bulandshahr, in British-administered India, he migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and currently lives in Lahore. Besides Basti, he is the author of two other novels, Naya Gar (The New House), which paints a picture of Pakistan during the ten-year dictatorship of the Islamic fundamentalist General Zia-ul-Haq, and Agay Sumandar Hai (Beyond Is the Sea), which juxtaposes the spiraling urban violence of contemporary Karachi with a vision of the lost Islamic realm of al-Andalus. Collections of Husain’s celebrated short stories have appeared in English under the titles Leaves, The Seventh Door, A Chronicle of the Peacocks, and An Unwritten Epic.
Basti exlores the divided consciousness of Pakistan, a country born of division and suffering from it to this day. Set during the chaos of the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, the novel centers on the meetings and partings and memories and desires of a group of young men who seek to comprehend their country’s disastrous situation. A masterpiece of modern Urdu fiction, Basti fuses modernist montage with stories from Muslim, Hindu, Persian, and Buddhist traditions in a poignant lament for the fallen historical world.