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.

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 According to her sister, Najma Manzoor, she also left us with her last unpublished poem Daftar-e-Imkaan (A World of Possibility).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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Banned Books Week: Rahi Masoom Raza’s fight to never stop swearing

This week (September 23rd-29th) is being celebrated as the Banned Books Week around the world, especially in the United States, where this tradition took inception during the Ronald Reagan era back in 1982. Concerned about violation of freedom of speech, rights activists raised the issue of banning books and their censorship, as well as the persecution of writers. Hence, it was decided that every year, the last week of September would be celebrated as the Banned Books Week. Perhaps it is no coincidence that International Translation Day falls immediately after Banned Books Week, on September 30th. At least for this humble scribe, ...

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Remembering Qalandar Momand: 3 short poems for the colossus of Pashto poetry

Qalandar Momand (1930-2003), whose 88th birthday fell yesterday, is regarded as an epoch-making and trend-setting personality in Pashto literature, journalism and politics in the 20th century. The most gifted of a generation that also includes contemporaries like Ajmal Khattak and Khatir Ghaznavi, Momand made his mark as an enlightened scholar, progressive writer, political thinker, social thinker, scientist, researcher and historian. It was thus rather unfortunate that Google chose to commemorate the late Urdu playwright Fatima Surayya Bajia – also born on September 1st  88 years ago –  with a Google Doodle, and not Momand; though the latter’s diverse contributions far outstrip the former, ...

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Nandita Das does justice to the iconoclastic Manto in a way Sarmad Khoosat could not

Viewing the trailer of Nandita Das’s Manto was a great pleasure, especially since prior to seeing Sarmad Khoosat’s biopic of Saadat Hasan Manto released in 2015, I had not seen its trailer. Comparisons of Das’s version with Khoosat’s trailer will seem inevitable, even much-needed, given what the respective directors and main actors are trying to prove in a short span of less than three minutes, if the trailers are to be believed. Das’s Manto, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, comes across as an iconoclast and a rebel right from the opening scene of the trailer, where Manto is shown to be in ...

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