Suleman Layeq: The poet of the Metanarrative

Liaq sbSuleman Layeq is the well-known an intelligent and creative Afghan poet. His poetic art has the full expression of the inner contradiction of the Afghan society. He is the most advanced conscious poet of this time because he was remained politically active with the side of that class which is still struggling and resisting the minority ruling class in different ways which is sporadic in forms but not diminished organically. Generally in his poetry, romanticism and individualism never gain the upper hand on the real content of this time, which is the question of class struggle. As today the first line of Communist Manifesto is even truer than when it first appeared in 1848, that is “The history of all hitherto existing society† is the history of class struggles”. In this ubiquitous grand historical struggle he is the supporter of the oppressed classes. He idealized Spartacus in his poems.

He is the poet of the real content. He questions and exposes those sections of the society which are directly involved in the exploitative process. He sharply criticizes in poetry that religious mindset which has been financially and politically sponsored by the imperialist block during cold war in order to counter the Sour Revolution. Certain liberal bourgeois theoretician set the old idealist aesthetic criteria for the best poetry while quoting the bourgeois philosophers thought like Kant, Schopenhauer and Hegel. They claim that art in general and poetry in particular have no connection to the society and practice. Kant has forwarded this notion in “The critique of judgment” very forcefully. Schopenhauer too preached the similar philosophy of aestheticism. According to Hegel the “the object of art should be contemplated in itself”. Nikolay Ivanovich Bukharin considered all these utter nonsense. He gives the example of the ancient art of Greece. According to him the comedies of Aristophanes are political journalism, but at the same time admirable work of art. Here Suleman Layeq poetry also like Aristophanes comedies has political significance as well as artistic meaning.

Suleman Layeq is the author of several books of poetry and prose. As Manohar Singh Batra the translator of the “DA ABASIN SPEDE” (The dawn over Abasin) has said that “His writing in prose and poetry reflected a deep sense of pain for the masses groaning under the yoke of a feudal system. He used to raise his voice against suppression and exploitation and vast disparities between the strikingly rich and the abjectly poor”.

Newly collection of his poetry under title “DA GHULAMANO SAROOD” (The Anthem of the Slaves) has appeared in market. It is a remarkable creative addition in the progressive realist literature of Afghanistan. A number of poems in the book are very interesting and has the historical significance for the lover of art and literature. The book has dedicated to the poet fellow traveler and the son of the soil comrade Shaheed Mahbmoob Shah Sangar. Akbar Kargar has written a very long preface on the book. Kargar has highlighted the characteristics of the Layeq poetry in a very detail commentary.

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In a very young age Layeq has started poetry. The era of the Layeq youth was also a revolutionary and a radical democratic, where people were demanding more rights and freedom. Being belonged from the extremely backward and poverty ridden society, he too felt injustices and exploitation of that particular age. Thus from the very beginning he has celebrated the poor classes in his songs and condemned the oppressors. As he says in a quartet:

If Layeq was not in love with his own people,
Then why the feeling of love is vivid in his lines.
Why the moments of joy in his youth,
Were, but a dedicated struggle for the freedom of his people.

So the general core theme of his poetry is its own people and society. He never preached passive and vulgar alienated romanticism in his art as many contemporary Afghans poet are preaching. Creation of the poetry is not merely a poetry which serve no aims and goals but in a very depth there lies a narrative or an ideological construction. In the poetry of Suleman Layeq we clearly see the grand narrative of the oppressed against the oppressors. As the Russian Marxist expert on art and the author of the “Poetry, Poetics and the Problems of Poetry in the U.S.S.R”  Nikolay Ivanovich Bukharin has said that “  poetic creation is one of the forms of ideological creation, that poetic “production” is also a peculiar form of production, that poetry, no matter whether the poet thinks about this or not, is one of the most powerful factors in social development as a whole (we may note in passing that even the ancients, let us say the Greeks, perfectly well understood what some professional literary theorists of our time fail to understand – namely, the socially educative, the educationally militant role of all literature as a whole and of poetry in particular) – if, I say, we bear in mind this problem of quality, then for our poetic creation, too, the problem of quality, the problem of mastering the technique of poetic creation, the problem of craftsmanship, the problem of assimilating the heritage of past literature and culture is now being set in the forefront”.

In the “Anthem of the Slaves’’ anthology Suleman Layeq very clearly show his philosophy and reject indifference position on social and political issues. He is very vocal in the poem of “Time is passing”:

Let they come and sentence to death myself in the square,
Because I have already chosen the position on the cost of my head

His language is also very lofty and sublime like his grand epic narrative meaning in all his poetry. Being well aware from Persian classical literature and versatile reader of the modern art and theory. He composed the poetry in a very grandeur epic style way. In most of the poems he idealized the bravery and resilient resisted nature of the Afghans. He did not only condemn the British colonialist aggression on Afghanistan but also condemn the imperial nature of the Mughal Empire and their predecessors of today Pakistani Punjabis ruling classes. Because the Pakistani Punjabi dominant ruling class had played very negative role during cold war and taken side with the American imperialism. Like in one quartet lines he said that to Pakistan;

“Every drop of rain that falls over Hindu Kush comes to your Attock and Abaseen (Indus). There is no other way out here (in Kabul). Everything that moves here will reach you just like our rivers“.

The defeat of the Sour Revolution also bring upon him some disappointment and frustration. The split of People Democratic Party of Afghanistan PDPA into Khalq and Parcham fractions was also remain a painful memory for him. Most of the differences among PDPA leadership were personal and tribal and not ideological. The poem he written about Hafeezullah Ameen also reflect an inside battle within organization of PDPA leaders. These all extraordinary events of age has given a lot of depth to his vision and method, so his poetry has the real innovative experience and style in the creative poetic art. Still he is the most optimistic poet of the most pessimistic tragic era of the Afghan nation.

His language is not only has a formalist cover of classical poetic text but has many new local words and idioms. According to Terry Eagleton “What else is language but the bridge which links the two? Language is the medium in which both Culture and culture – literary art and human society – come to consciousness; and literary criticism is thus a sensitivity to the thickness and intricacy of the medium which makes us what we are. Simply by attending to its own distinctive object, it can have fundamental implications for the destiny of culture as a whole”.

 Layeq also know very well his society and never remain indifference from the problems of the downtrodden Afghans. After 9/11 when America attacked Afghanistan and dethrone Taliban regime, the event Layeq also depicted in his poem of Congratulation for Muhammad Anwar Nomyalai on the eve of New Year. He severely criticize the upcoming liberal scenario of the American social democracy in Afghanistan. He has fully explained in his poem the vulgarity, moral corruption and opportunism of the stereotypical religio-liberal middle urban class.

He has also written some elegies about his friends on their death. In one of the elegy written about Sadeeq Rohi the well-known Marxist literary figure of Pashto literature has very profound meaning. In which the poet portrayed the personality of Rohi in a very unique way and consider his death the immutable loss for the Afghans. But in the end of the poem poet once again seem very optimistic for the future. He also condemn the reactionary role of the Pakistani and Iranian government against the Sour Revolution. He is hopeful and believe on just future of the coming days when all oppressors and despots will be dethrone and order of the equality will be restore forever.

The anthology of the “Anthem of the Slaves” has many best composed poems like Kandahar, The Square of Blood, The Death of the Poet and the Destruction of the Tavern. These all poems has deep meaning and has a lot of layers but “The Anthem of Slaves” is a representative poem in this collection. Where poet sing the song of the slaves in a very proud tone. The poem constructed in well-ordered way with a grand-narrative style and form. It has universal message for all workers of the world. He glorified the labor of the workers through which all the progress of the world become possible. His poem is the very image of fetish culture of our age. In the language of Terry Eagleton, Sher Janthis poem is also the reified response to the rectified reality.

Writer: Sher Jan

The writer has a master degree holder in English literature, currently working as a sub-editor in Afghan Tribune an analytical online English website. He can be reached at Sherjan0077@gmail.com 

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