Intizar Husain’s The Seventh Door

This short story was translated by Javaid Qazi. It represents the formalist era of writing in Urdu fiction. The narrative is written in the first person and describes a child’s sense of loss and confusion.

The story opens with a mother and a son who live in a house which has a lot of pigeons. As long as the pigeons exist in the house, the house prospers but when the pigeons go away, the house witnesses a downfall. There is only one female pigeon left and according to the child’s mother the female pigeon is a holy spirit. One day the child’s cousin pays a visit and mocks at the belief that the child holds regarding the pigeon.  The cousin quotes a story about a King who on opening the seventh door of his palace, saw all the pigeons turn into fairies and therefore this female pigeon is also a fairy. In order to validate the claim, both the child and his cousin try to capture the pigeon but end up making the pigeon fly away.  This leads to alienation of the cousins and the child is filled with guilt and loneliness.

The plot although simple is full of symbolic meanings and reading this story reminds one of  the treatment of childhood and maturation in James Joyce’s Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.The short story uses mythical and folklore in its rich narrative.

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