Gopi Chand Narang


Professor Gopi Chang Narang, 91, is an institution unto himself. A formidable literary theorist, critic and scholar, he has published more than 65 scholarly and critical books on language, literature, poetics and cultural studies: fifteen in English, eight in Hindi and more than 40 in Urdu. In his works spanning decades, the Professor Emeritus at University of Delhi and Jamia Millia Islamia has incorporated a range of modern theoretical frameworks, including stylistics, structuralism, post-structuralism and Sanskrit poetics.

Born in Dukki, a small town in Balochistan, in the British India (now in Pakistan), to a Saraiki family — his father, Dharam Chand Narang, was a litterateur himself, and a scholar of Persian and Sanskrit, who inspired in his son an abiding interest in literature — Professor Narang received a Master’s degree in Urdu from the University of Delhi, and a research fellowship from the Ministry of Education to complete his PhD in 1958. He taught Urdu literature at St. Stephen’s College (1957-58) before joining Delhi University, where he became an Associate Professor in 1961. In 1963 and 1968, he was a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin for a stint of five years. He also taught at the University of Minnesota and the University of Oslo. He joined Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, as a professor in 1974, and rejoined the University of Delhi from 1986 to 1995. In 2005, the Delhi University made him a Professor Emeritus.

Professor Narang’s first book (Karkhandari Dialect of Delhi Urdu) was published in 1961, a socio-linguistic analysis of a neglected dialect spoken by indigenous workers and artisans Delhi. Professor Narang has produced three studies: Hindustani Qisson se Makhooz Urdu Masnaviyan (1961), Urdu Ghazal aur Hindustani Zehn-o-Tehzeeb (2002) and Hindustan ki Tehreek-e-Azadi aur Urdu Shairi (2003). Amir Khusrau ka Hindavi Kalaam (1987), Saniha-e-Karbala bataur Sheri Isti’ara (1986) and Urdu Zabaan aur Lisaniyaat (2006) are some of his socio-cultural and historical studies.

In addition to teaching, Professor Narang was the Vice-Chairman of the Delhi Urdu Academy (1996-2000) and the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (1998-2004) as well as Vice-President (1998-2002) and then President (2003-2007) of the Sahitya Akademi. He was Indira Gandhi Memorial Fellow of the IGNCA (2002-2004), and Rockefeller Foundation Fellow for Residency at Bellagio Study Centre, Italy (1997). He received Mazzini Gold Medal (Italy, 2005). His invaluable contribution to literature is acknowledged in the Dictionary of International Biography, Cambridge, UK. He is the only Urdu writer honoured by the Presidents of both India and Pakistan. In 1971, he got the President’s National Gold Medal from Pakistan for his illuminating work on Allama Iqbal. He also received the civilian honour of ‘Sitara-e Imtiyaaz’ (Distinguished Star) from the President of Pakistan in 2012.  He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2004 and Padma Shri in 1990 by the then  President’s of India.

In 2017, Oxford University Press published Ghalib: Innovative Meanings and the Ingenious Mind, the translation of Professor Narang’s seminal book on Ghalib by Washington DC based author and poet Surinder Deol, who served as a senior specialist at the World Bank in Washington, DC. In 2020, Deol translated another of Professor Narang’s landmark book, The Urdu Ghazal: A Gift of India’s Composite Culture, published by Oxford University Press. His recent release, The Hidden Garden: Mir Taqi Mir (Penguin Random House), translated from Urdu by Deol, introduces readers to the life and poetry of the grossly misunderstood poet, Mir Taqi Mir (1723-1810), who is widely admired for his poetic genius. “My work on Mir, which started in the early 1980s, is one continuous search for the essence or the core of his distinctive poetry for which he is called Khuda-e Sukhan (god of Urdu poesy),” says Professor Narang.