This first definitive biography of Agha Shahid Ali offers a rich portrait of the poet and the world he inhabited.
"A scintillating portrait of one of the finest poets of the late 20th century"-Ranjit Hoskote
"Manan Kapoor's immersive study returns the poet to his roots, which are inescapably Indian-there's no other word for the syncretic mastery of the Hindi, Urdu and English traditions that shaped his work."-Jeet Thayil
Shahid is widely regarded as one of the finest poets from the Indian subcontinent, and his works are read across the world, touching millions of lives. A pioneer of ghazal writing in English, he wrote extensively about loss, nostalgia and home. A witness to the conflict that ravaged his homeland Kashmir, a loss he lamented in his collection The Country without a Post Office, Shahid has today become a symbol of hope in a violent world.
In this biography, Manan Kapoor explores the concerns that shaped Shahid's life and works, following in the footsteps of the 'Beloved Witness' from Kashmir to New Delhi and finally to the United States. He charts Shahid's friendships with figures like Begum Akhtar and James Merrill, and looks at the lives the poet touched with his compassion and love. He also traces the complex evolution of Shahid's evocative verses, which mapped various cultures and geographies, and mourned injustice and loss, both personal and political. Drawing on various unpublished materials and in-depth interviews with Shahid's family, friends, students and acquaintances, Kapoor narrates the riveting story of a major literary voice and presents Shahid's poetic vision, revealing not just what he wrote but also how he taught the world to live.