Raza Naeem

Raza Naeem

The author is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and translator. His translations of Saadat Hasan Manto have been re-translated in both Bengali and Tamil, and he received a prestigious Charles Wallace Trust Fellowship in 2014-2015 for his translation and interpretive work on Manto. He is presently working on a book of translations of Manto's progressive writings, tentatively titled Comrade Manto.

International Translation Day: Manto’s tribute to Leonid Andreyev

Today marks International Translation Day, a powerful reminder of the importance and vitality of translation in bridging gaps between and among various cultures in a fragmenting world where it is now the exclusive province of politicians to harp on about our differences; as well as educating and informing us about a culture, its language, its cities, people, morals and manners. It is a little known fact that the great Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto began his literary journey to stardom as a translator of English, French and Russian classics into Urdu. One of his little-known literary essays is an ...

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A searing jeremiad from Zehra Nigah to mark the Global Climate Strike

The Global Climate Strike from September 20 to 27 led to massive marches for climate justice around the world last Friday, including one in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the fiery and moving address of the 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York earlier this week took the global elite by storm. Yet, in countries like Pakistan, which could face massive droughts by 2025, possibly leading to water scarcity and water wars with our neighbour India, climate change is rarely seen as a pressing matter. It is worrying that in a country like Pakistan, which is massively dependent ...

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How Kishwar Naheed and Fahmida Riaz paid tribute to feminist icon Bibi Zainab

The battle of Karbala occupies a hallowed place not only in the annals of Islam, but in the long struggle for the values of truth and justice against the tyranny of lies and injustice. In this respect, it is illuminating to consider what our Urdu poets have written over time, not about the tragedy of Karbala – for that is a time-tested topic in Urdu literature – but about the aftermath of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (AS) and most of his family by the army of the reigning monarch, Yazid ibn Muawiya. One of the legendary moments passed ...

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Fahmida Riaz’s departing present opens up ‘A World of Possibilities’

Today marks the 73rd birthday of Pakistan’s arch-feminist poetess and activist Fahmida Riaz, who left us rather too soon last November. But even during her last days, she gave us two remarkable books as departing presents: Tum Kabeer, her last collection of poetry; and a novella titled Qila-e-Faramoshi, a fictional rendition of the life and times of the first-ever socialist Mazdak, the scourge of Zoroastrian Persia. According to her sister, Najma Manzoor, she also left us with her last unpublished poem Daftar-e-Imkaan (A World of Possibility). This was written during her bed-ridden days in Karachi, just days before she moved to her daughter’s house in Lahore in 2018, on her final ...

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“A Moses without manifestation, a Christ without a cross”: Karl Marx as remembered by Wamiq Jaunpuri

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” – Karl Marx Europe in the 19th century gave birth to two thinkers who changed everything about how we see the world. One was Charles Darwin. The other was Karl Marx, who was born 201 years ago today. Darwin discovered the law of evolution of plants and animals (the law of natural selection and survival of the fittest), while Marx sought the law of evolution of human history. Darwin’s discoveries sparked a revolution in the scientific world, while Marx’s discoveries illuminated the pathways to ...

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From one revolutionary to another: Vladimir Lenin as remembered by Habib Jalib

The figure of Vladimir Lenin exercises a talismanic hold on revolutionaries everywhere, across time and space. The year 2017 was celebrated as the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution, leading to the establishment of the first socialist state presided over by Lenin and marking an important moment in history. Likewise, Urdu literature is also rich in writings about the Bolshevik Revolution. However, writings on Lenin, especially poems, are few and far between. Perhaps the most celebrated poem on the founder of the Russian revolutionary state was Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s Lenin, Khuda ke Huzoor Mein (Lenin in God’s presence) written soon after the revolution ...

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Remembering Fahmida Riaz’s ballad on this International Transgender Day of Visibility

Today is the International Transgender Day of Visibility, one of only two days remembering and celebrating transgender people. Although transgender individuals have always been present in society, and have been mentioned in some of the oldest texts of the Muslim world such as The Arabian Nights, they have largely been the source of much mystique, ridicule and discrimination. Even in the 21st century, they have been among the last groups of people to get their rights, in legislation and otherwise. Fahmida Riaz, who passed away last November, has expressed the plight of the transgender in her masterful poem, Hijre ki Sargoshi (The eunuch’s ...

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Remembering Ibne Insha: The man who wanted ordinary people to bring a revolution

The great poet, humourist and travel-writer Ibne Insha passed into literary immortality 41 years ago. While writing in this space on the occasion of his 90th birthday, I had noted that he was not only a literary craftsman who had imbibed the art of creating natural, effortless humour out of the ordinary, but that his travelling had also exposed him to the Cold War machinations of the newly departed colonial powers, especially in the Middle East. Even before Insha was struck by the disastrous Arab defeat to Israel in 1967, he travelled the Middle East. Whatever tragedy he saw unfolding ...

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From a great writer to a great a leader: How Manto came to terms with Jinnah’s passing

On the 142nd birth anniversary of Muhammad Ali Jinnah today, a little-known piece by the great Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto is being presented for the time in its original English translation. This piece is part of Manto’s published but uncollected writings that are only recently seeing the light of day. Though there is little or no evidence that the great writer ever met the great leader, this piece – originally published in the Daily ‘Imroz’ just three days after Jinnah’s death in September 1948 – crystallises the raw emotions of a writer in the aftermath of a national tragedy ...

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Remembering Sir Syed Ahmad Khan on his 201st birth anniversary: “I did not understand the value of time”

In the aftermath of the War of Independence of 1857, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) emerged as a key leader of the Indian Muslim community, being a thoroughly modern Muslim in a thoroughly pre-modern age. He is credited for originating the Two Nation Theory, founding the Aligarh Movement and being a founding father of Pakistan. Less celebrated are his achievements in providing a modern, scientific and rational interpretation of Islam and the Holy Quran, as well as his debates on culture that – in the face of stern opposition from fundamentalists and detractors – sowed the seeds of enlightenment ...

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