Artwork by Mika Tennekoon
Artwork by Mika Tennekoon

'Insects': a translated excerpt from Punjabi novella 'Keeru'

An excerpt from Fauzia Rafique’s novella ‘Keeru’, translated from Punjabi by Haider Shahbaz

A note from the translator:

The following translated excerpt is from Fauzia Rafique’s Punjabi novella Keeru (forthcoming from Hachette India), originally published in Pakistan in 2019. It challenges the patriarchal, casteist and religio-nationalist narratives deeply entrenched in Punjabi and Pakistani literature. The novella is named after its protagonist, a queer, Dalit man from Pakistan who escapes to Canada after being accused of blasphemy. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws state that anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic figures can be sentenced to death. While no one has been sentenced to death by the courts under blasphemy laws, accusations of blasphemy are common and have resulted in horrific violence and lynchings. The novella won the 2020 Ali Arshad Mir Award for Best Prose Book (Punjabi) and it was shortlisted for the 2020 Dhahan Prize for Punjabi literature.


Haider Shahbaz is a writer and translator from Pakistan. He is the translator of Mirza Athar Baig’s Hassan’s State of Affairs (HarperCollins India) and the editor of a special issue, “Against the Canon: Urdu Feminist Writing”, for Words Without Borders. His work has appeared in Fence, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Brooklyn Rail, Asymptote Journal, The Caravan and elsewhere. He earned a B A from Yale University and is currently doing a PhD in comparative literature at UCLA.

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Himal Southasian