Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review : Manto

Title : Manto
Author : Sadan Hasan Manto (Translated by Aatish Taseer)
Publisher : Random House India
ISBN : 978-8-184-00144-0

The author Sadan Hasan Manto born in undivided India donned many hats ranging from being a radio and film scriptwriter, journalist to a short-story writer. Though his short stories created many controversies yet he is acclaimed as one of the greatest story tellers of his times. In Manto's words, "If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living in is dirty. With my stories, I only expose the truth." Originally written in Urdu, his short-stories have been translated by none other than an accomplished writer himself - Aatish Taseer. Perhaps this is the reason that while reading this translation I never felt the missing link which usually the regular translations suffer from. The language is great and even though I have not read the original Urdu stories, I still could enjoy the details and nuances as would be done while reading classics of seasoned authors. So my compliments to Aatish Taseer that he brought the works of Manto to wider audience.

After reading these short stories, the most significant thing that could be said about the writing is that - his stories carry much more beyond the written text and understanding what is written between the lines make the stories and the story teller tower higher than the crowd.

Manto's stories introduce the readers to the realities of life and there are times when the reality is not very pleasing for the eyes and otherwise. Since his writings are around the time of partition, they do carry a somber mood and pessimism to a certain extent. This book brought back the memories of the writings of Khushwant Singh, Gurcharan Das, Gulzar and likes of them. Manto's writing has similar sensitivity and emotional aspect to them whether it is about : 'Toba Tek Singh' - a lunatic caught in no man's land, 'The Last Salute' which depicts friends turning into foes, child prostitute in 'Ten Rupees', cultural boundaries in 'The Mice of Shah Daulah' or the plight of a father after seeing her lost daughter in 'Khol Do'. Every tale stirs many deep seated strings within the hearts of the readers and I consider that an achievement of the storyteller.

The stories are set mostly in North western region of India which bore the brunt of partition the most. These 11 sensitively written stories explore those aspects of some lives which usually are left unspoken and un-talked about. In spite of belonging to conservative era, Manto did not hesitate to write about sensitive subjects so his writings were much ahead of his time. Usually women centric, the stories bring out the aspects which go beyond the realm of rationality and logic. These perceptive short stories would surely keep haunting the readers in times of non-activity.

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