Author of epic novels Udaas Naslein and Nadaar Log, Abdullah Hussain was born at Rawalpindi in 1931. His real name was Muhammad Khan. Although a native of Gujrat, his father who was an excise officer was posted at Rawalpindi at the time of his birth. Muhammad was less than two years old when his mother passed away. His father raised him and his sisters as a single parent. He spent the years of his childhood and early youth in Gujrat. Muhammad Khan’s father was a progressive man. He understood the importance of education and wanted his children to be educated. He had subscribed to various magazines for his children to read. Muhammad liked to read those magazines but his first love was sports. He was a mediocre student and dedicated all the time he could to cricket and football. While still at school, he developed a great interest in reading novels which stayed with him through college and then professional life.

After completing his B.Sc. he joined Dalmia cement factory, Dandot, Chakwal as a chemist. After working here for three years, he was hired by Maple Leaf cement factory, Daudkhel, Mianwali and this is where his boredom was going to change his life. Routine at Maple Leaf was quite monotonous and boring. Muhammad Khan used to work for eight hours, sleep for another eight and had absolutely nothing to do for the rest of the time. Just to keep himself busy, he started writing a story. Unintentionally, the plot expanded and started taking shape of a novel. At that time, he didn’t know what he was writing, or if he would be able to finish it and whether it would ever get published. All he knew was that he had found something to do in his spare time. After some time, he started taking his writing seriously. Simply writing did not quench his thirst for authenticity, so he began researching the situations and times which were part of the story. For five years Muhammad Khan kept working on the novel and finally finished it around 1960-61. On one of his visits to Lahore, he brought the manuscript along and a friend introduced him to Chaudhry Nazir Ahmad, owner of a famous publishing house Naya Idaara. After getting positive reviews from some of the greatest critics and linguists of the time, Naya Idaara approved Udaas Naslein for publication. However, there were a couple of problems. First, a writer Colonel Muhammad Khan was already on the scene and was very popular for his satire and comic writings; so Muhammad Khan had to change his name in order to avoid confusion. He had a Madrasi colleague named Tahir Abdullah Hussain at Maple Leaf. He dropped the first name Tahir and took Abdullah Hussain as his pen name. The second problem was that although he had written a fine novel, it was his debut and no one knew his name. It was important to establish an identity before publishing the novel, so the publishers asked him to write some short stories which were published in their literary journal Sawera and served as a prelude to Udaas Naslein. The novel was finally published in 1961.

Udaas Naslein, later translated by the writer himself under the title Weary Generations is a sad tale of three generations who live through the social and political upheavals in the earlier half of twentieth century India. The protagonist is a country lad whose life changes when he comes under the patronage of a rich family living in British India’s capital New Delhi. Later he becomes a witness of historical events and phenomena like the First World War, the freedom movement and finally India’s partition. Udaas Naslein has a rich narrative. One can read many layers of unsaid thoughts between the lines. It not only draws an interesting comparison between different social classes living at that time in India but also explores the impact on society that is left by great social and political upheavals. It so genuinely portrays the human tragedy and predicament.

The author had not lived through or experienced the events which form the plot of Udaas Naslein. To satisfy his urge for authenticity and being closer to reality, Abdullah Hussain thoroughly researched the times, events and people who appear in the story. Perhaps the most interesting part of the novel is when the protagonist is recruited as a soldier and is sent into action in Europe during the First World War. He gets injured in action and is awarded Victoria Cross for bravery in battle. During the course of writing this part of the story, Abdullah Hussain made a difficult journey to a far flung Punjabi village just to meet the man who was the first soldier to be awarded Victoria Cross. Also, the First World War is hardly ever a theme in Urdu fiction which makes this novel unique.

Udaas Naslein was a unique addition to Urdu literature in many ways. As soon as it reached the readers, it was realized that this novel would make history. Portrayal of characters, situations and the language was so real that it offended some faint-hearted critics. For some, the style of writing and approach was rather too direct and shocking. Some sensitive and tabooed situations were treated just like commonplace normal situations. The novel was particularly criticized for using non-literary language. A Punjabi villager in the novel talked like a Punjabi villager, speaking Punjabi like Urdu which wasn’t devoid of slang and abuses. Author made no unnatural attempt to civilize him. Udaas Naslein did win that year's Adamjee Literary Award however and while handing over the prize, President Ayub Khan advised Abdullah Hussain that instead of writing “such” novels he should write Qoumi Kitabein (propaganda books). Today, Udaas Naslein stands as a shining example of realism in Urdu. It has always been very popular and perhaps the most read Urdu novel.

After creating considerable waves in the world of Urdu literature and receiving criticism as well as great adulation at the same time, Abdullah Hussain was nowhere to be seen in the literary arena for many years to come. He had left Pakistan and started a new life in England. But amidst life’s struggles, he never broke up with pen and paper and kept writing whatever he could. Years later he came back home with the idea of another great novel burning in his mind. Some thirty-five years after Udaas Naslein, Abdullah Hussain wrote his second great novel Nadaar Log (could be roughly translated as The Destitute People). It is a continuation of Udaas Naslein in spirit. Nadaar Log is the tragedy of Pakistan, the story after the partition. The plot is woven by the streams of political and historical events and their trickled down impact on the common man. It is a mirror image of Pakistani society. From partition, East Pakistan tragedy and beyond, it bravely presents an unbiased picture of collective corruption, injustice, tyranny, ignorance, exploitation, political intrigue and power struggle. The novel presents the rural life of Punjab in its true colors and the politics at the grass root level. It provokes the readers to evaluate their lives, lives of the people around them and the horrendous crimes that have been committed in the name of religion, politics and nationalism. It tells the sad tale of how Udaas Naslein became Nadaar Log. This novel is not just a massive contribution to Urdu literature but also an authentic study of Pakistan’s recent history and politics.

Abdullah Hussain’s fiction provokes the reader to ponder upon the real issues, the tragedy of life and sheer injustice in the society. It bravely explores prohibited and taboo ridden aspects of life to bring out the naked truth. Its greatest strength is the realistic portrayal of life. The author has a matter of fact approach towards life. Sometimes it feels that some situation or character in his story hasn’t reached a satisfactory ending. It is because his characters are too real. There are no clear beginnings and endings in real life. He portrays life as a great activity randomly spread over a period in time. His art is that of a real life photographer. He doesn’t paint a picture from his imagination, instead captures a rich image from real life with all its ugliness and beauty.