Agha Shahid Ali (1949–2001) was one of the most celebrated American poets of the latter twentieth century, and his works have touched millions of lives around the world. Traversing multiple geographies, cultures, religions, and traditions, he mapped the varied landscapes of the Indian subcontinent and the United States.
In this biography, Manan Kapoor narrates Shahid’s evolution, following in the footsteps of the “Beloved Witness” from Kashmir and New Delhi to the American Southwest and Massachusetts. He charts Shahid’s friendships with literary figures such as James Merrill, Salman Rushdie, and Edward Said; explores how Shahid responded to events around the world, including the partition of the Indian subcontinent and the AIDS epidemic in America; and draws on unpublished materials and in-depth interviews to reveal the experiences and relationships that informed his poetry.
Hailed upon its release in India as “lush” and “poetic,” A Map of Longings is the story of an extraordinary poet, the works he left behind, and the legacy of his singular poetic vision.
“Vividly and briskly, Manan Kapoor tells Agha Shahid Ali’s fascinating life story. What emerges is a world-class poet who crafts dazzling poems, brilliantly melding his cultural inspirations from Kashmir, India, America, and elsewhere.”—Jahan Ramazani, author of Poetry in a Global Age
“A much-needed book about one of the greatest poets—and human beings—of his time.”—Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire
“Manan Kapoor’s biography sheds essential light on the richly complex international web of artistic affiliations essential to Agha Shahid Ali’s poetic development and his impassioned belief in a true ‘community of differences’ among diverse cultures. Kapoor trenchantly illuminates Shahid’s path toward that expansive body of humane work that stands as his enduring legacy.”—Michael Palmer, author of Little Elegies for Sister Satan
“In A Map of Longings, Manan Kapoor draws a scintillating portrait of one of the finest poets of the late twentieth century whose influence has grown immeasurably in the two decades that have followed his far-too-early death in 2001. Kapoor’s absorbing, immersive account presents Agha Shahid Ali as the superb literary artist he was, single-mindedly exploring the traditions of poetry and experimenting with its resources across several languages.”—Ranjit Hoskote, author of Icelight
“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, editor of The Penguin Book of Indian Poets