Saadat Hasan Manto : A biggest literary casualty of "Partition"

Saadat Hasan Manto : A biggest literary casualty of "Partition"


Saadat Hasan Manto
1912 - 1955
“Dear God, Compassionate and Merciful, Master of the Universe, we who are steeped in sin, kneel in supplication before Your throne and beseech You to recall from this world Saadat Hasan Manto, son of Ghulam Hasan Manto, who was a man of great piety. Take him away, O Lord, for he runs off from fragrance, chasing filth. He hates the bright sun, preferring dark labyrinths. He has nothing but contempt for modesty but is fascinated by the naked and the shameless. He hates what is sweet, but will give his life to sample what is bitter. He does not so much as look at housewives but is entranced by the company of whores. He will not go near running waters, but loves to wade through slush. Where others weep, he laughs; where they laugh, he weeps. Evil-­blackened faces he loves to wash with tender care to highlight their features. He never thinks about You, preferring to follow Satan everywhere, the same fallen angel who once disobeyed You.” -  "BOMBAY STORIES" By Saadat Hasan Manto (Translated by Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad)

Saadat Hasan Manto has a good claim to be considered the greatest South Asian writer of the 20th century. In his work, written in Urdu, he incarnated the exuberance, the madness, the alcoholic delirium of his time, when the country he loved cleaved into two and set upon each other, brothers of all religions murdering their infant nephews and raping their sisters-in-law.

Manto is best known for his stories about the partition of the subcontinent immediately following independence in 1947. Although he wrote essays, screenplays and one novel, Manto’s métier was the short story; he published more than 20 collections. He was an Indian F. Scott Fitzgerald, moving from north India to Bombay to sell his talents to the movie industry, and dying at 42, after a long struggle with alcoholism.

If you look at his portrait photograph, you will find his eyes sparkle with intelligence, the impudence almost bursting through the thick glass of his 1940’s spectacles, mocking the custodians of morality, the practitioners of confessional politics or the commissariat of the Progressive Writers. ‘Do your worst’, he appears to be telling them. ‘I don’t care. I will write to please myself. Not you.’  Manto’s battles with the literary establishment of his time became a central feature of his biography. Charged with obscenity and brought to trial on a number of occasions he remained defiant and unapologetic.
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