Tag Archives: Saadat Hasan Manto

Manto Saheb: Friends and Enemies on the Great Maverick. Translated by Vibha Chauhan and Khalid Alvi

Manto Saheb - Friends and Enemies on the Great Maverick.jpg Title: Manto Saheb: Friends and Enemies on the Great Maverick
Authors: Various
Translated by Vibha S. Chauhan and Khalid Alvi
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Publishing Private Limited
ISBN: 978-9388070256
Genre: Nonfiction, Essays, Literary Biographies, Anthology, Writers on Writers
Pages: 296
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

How can anything written by Manto or about him not be a fascinating read? Or intriguing for that matter? Or also sometimes contemplative, mostly that is? Manto is and will always remain a maverick – no matter how many writers come and go from the subcontinent – or for that matter even from Pakistan. He is in a way, a shared legacy. And it is this legacy that this anthology celebrates (even when berating sometimes) through essays by his friends and enemies (or as the title very tongue-in-cheek tells us). I had been wanting to read this since the time it was announced and I am so glad I finally did. If you love Manto and his works, then this book is a treat. Even if you aren’t acquainted with Manto, then too I suggest you read this book, so you can then read what he wrote.

“Manto Saheb” is a collection of essays that also scratches away the writer and shows you the person Manto was – but also it made me think that the writer had to but after all be inspired from the person. Manto’s stories though were never reflective of who he was – maybe given the times he lived in what he wanted to communicate or show through his works. This anthology shows Manto at his candid best, gossipy best, the individual who never believed in taking things the way they were and the one who sometimes also gave up too easily. The facets and shades to Manto so to say are brilliantly revealed, layer by layer in this collection by his friends, family and rivals – from Chughtai to Upendranath Ashk (one of his well-known rivals), to Krishan Chander (his ever-loyal friend), his daughter Nuzhat and even his nephew Hamid Jalal.

There is also the opening essay which has been written by Manto about himself – hilarious, witty and as real as it can get. The book gives the reader brilliant insights into the kind of writer he was, constantly seeking validation and attention (even in his personal life for that matter), how he needed alcohol just, so he could momentarily not remember what he was going through and how leaving India and moving to Lahore was perhaps the single-most tragedy of his life. Every essay transports you to the time before and after Partition and makes you want to be there, witnessing what happened in the life and times of Manto.

What I love the most about this collection is when people speak of his works – from Hatak to Toba Tek Singh to Boo to also his plays (which are lesser known) and how he worked on them – how he wouldn’t take criticism and how when he was unhappy with the world at large, he became a recluse and just wrote. Also, the translations by Vibha S. Chauhan and Khalid Alvi are spot on – they haven’t compromised at all when it comes to simplifying it for the reader or dumbing it down – it is what it is. Most of the Urdu/Hindi flows effortlessly through English and you don’t feel that you are missing out on something.

“Manto-Saheb” is a treat for all literary biography aficionados. The enthusiasm to know more about your favourite writers is never satiated I think. There is always so much more to know and there are of course some books such as these that aim to uncover some aspects of their life and works. A must-read. Also, read it with his short stories, as you go along. The experience is extremely fruitful and rewarding.








Short Story 1: The Return by Saadat Hasan Manto

Saadat Hasan Manto stories belong to disturbing times and are but obviously set in those times. Partition of India and Pakistan is the setting for most of his stories and they aren’t pretty. I used to read Manto a long time ago and then I stopped reading his works. They made the hair on my back stand up and only to think that human beings are capable of the worst behaviour, made me sometimes lose all faith in the human race.

I come from a family that experienced partition. My grandmother still recollects stories of those times and how the entire family had to flee Pakistan and come to India. How her home wasn’t her home anymore and the neighbours and friends she knew, would never be hers again. I think somewhere deep down in her heart she still yearns to go back to Karachi and she cannot.

The Return (Khol Do) is a story of a lost daughter when a train going to Lahore from Amritsar is stopped mid-way and attacked by the rioters. The story is of shame and the descend of human character and how sometimes the very saviours can turn out to be the perperators. The father is searching for his daughter and finally finds her. His only relief comes from the fact that she is alive. Nothing else seems to matter. That was the irony of the situation then, I guess.

The Return had a deep impact on me. The questions that arose: Can one human being ever trust another? Where is the line drawn between one who saves and that same person then does not? Who decides the integrity of people? Is there any left at all?

Saadat Hasan Manto’s writing is never sugar-coated. He always wrote the way he saw and what he experienced. By now you would have realized that I would definitely recommend his writing to everyone who reads. He is the master of Urdu literature and I am only too glad that his writing has been available to all since decades.

The translations by Khalid Hasan and Aatish Taseer are worth reading.

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