Music, Poetry, Literature, Culture
Music, Poetry, Literature, Culture

Saadat Hasan Manto

Saadat Hassan Manto ) (May 11, 1912 – January 18, 1955) was a short story writer of the Urdu language. He is best known for his short stories, “Bu” (Odour), “Khol Do” (Open It), “Thanda Gosht” (Cold Meat), and his magnum opus, “Toba Tek Singh”. Manto was also a film and radio scriptwriter and a journalist. He published twenty-two collections of short stories, one novel, five collections of radio plays, three collections of essays, and two collections of personal sketches. Manto was tried for obscenity six times, thrice before 1947 and thrice after 1947 in Pakistan, but never convicted. Some of his works have been translated in other languages.

The writing of Manto

Manto chronicled the chaos that prevailed, during and after the Partition of India in 1947. Since he started his literary career translating works of literary giants, such as Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde and Russian writers such as Chekov and Gorky, their collective influence made him search for his own moorings.[citation needed] This search resulted in his first story, “Tamasha”, based on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre at Amritsar. Though his earlier works, influenced by the progressive writers of his times, showed a marked leftist and socialist leanings, his later work progressively became stark in portraying the darkness of the human psyche, as humanist values progressively declined around the Partition. His final works, which grew from the social climate and his own financial struggles, reflected an innate sense of human impotency towards darkness and contained a satirism that verged on dark comedy, as seen in his final great work, Toba Tek Singh. It not only showed the influence of his own demons, but also that of the collective madness that he saw in the ensuing decade of his life. To add to it, his numerous court cases and societal rebukes deepened his cynical view of society, from which he felt isolated. No part of human existence remained untouched or taboo for him, he sincerely brought out stories of prostitutes and pimps alike, just as he highlighted the subversive sexual slavery of the women of his times. To many contemporary women writers, his language portrayed reality and provided them with the dignity they long deserved. He is still known for his scathing insight into the human behaviour as well as revelation of the macabre animalistic nature of an enraged people, that stands out amidst the brevity of his prose. Saadat Hasan Manto is often compared with D. H. Lawrence, and like Lawrence he also wrote about the topics considered social taboos in Indo-Pakistani Society. His concerns on the socio-political issues, from local to global level are revealed in his series, Letters to Uncle Sam, and those to Pandit Nehru. On his writing he often commented, “If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living in is dirty. With my stories, I only expose the truth.


Early life and educationSaadat Hassan Manto was born in Paproudi village of Samrala, in the Ludhiana district of the Punjab in a Kashmiri Muslim family of barristers on 11 May 1912.[citation needed] His niece is the Pakistani historian Ayesha Jalal.[citation needed] Saadat Hasan Manto received his early education at Muslim High School in Amritsar, but he remained a misfit throughout in school years, rapidly losing motivation in studies, ending up failing twice in matriculation.[citation needed] His only love during those days was reading English novels, one of which he stole from a book stall in Amritsar Railway Station.[citation needed] In 1931, he passed out of school and joined Hindu Sabha College in Amritsar, which was already volatile due to the independence movement. This is reflected in his first story, Tamasha, based on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.[citation needed] After his father died in 1932, he sobered up a bit to support his mother.[citation needed] The big turning point in his life came in 1933, at age 21, when he met Abdul Bari Alig, a scholar and polemic writer, in Amritsar. Alig encouraged him to find his true talents and read Russian and French authors