Manto, the bold and brazen

Death anniversary of renowned Pakistani writer, playwright and author Saadat Hasan Manto is being observed on Friday.

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Manto was born in Ludhiana, British India on 11th May, 1912.

Writing mainly in Urdu language, he produced 22 collections of short stories, a novel, five series of radio plays, three collections of essays, two collections of personal sketches.

His best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics.

Manto was known to write about the hard truths of society that no one dared to talk about. He is best known for his stories about the partition of India immediately following independence in 1947.

Manto is acknowledged as one of the finest 20th century Urdu writers.

Some of his publications include Atishpare, Manto Ke Afsane, Dhuan, Badshahat ka Khatimah, Namrud ki Khudai , Manto ke Behtreen Kahanian and many others.

Saadat Hasan Manto died on January 18, 1955, at the age of 44.

Manto chronicled the chaos that prevailed, during and after the Partition of India in 1947. He started his literary career translating the works of Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde and Russian writers such as Chekhov and Gorky. His first story was “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 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 human behaviour as well as revelation of the macabre animalistic nature of the enraged people, that stands out amidst the brevity of his prose.

At least one commentator compares Saadat Hasan Manto to D. H. Lawrence, partly because he wrote about taboos of Indo-Pakistani Society. His concerns on the socio-political issues, from local to global 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”.

Manto faced trial for obscenity in his writings in both India and Pakistan,including three times in India before 1947 (‘Dhuan,’ ‘Bu,’ and ‘Kali Shalwar’) and three times in Pakistan after 1947 (‘KholDo,’ ‘Thanda Gosht,’ and ‘Upar Neeche Darmiyaan’) under section 292 of the Indian Penal Code and the Pakistan Penal Code in Pakistan’s early years. He was fined only in one case. Regarding the charges of obscenity he opined “I am not a pornographer but a story writer,”

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