Remembering Saadat Hasan Manto- Man of Letters

18 Dec 2017  Mon

Saadat Hasan Manto was an Indo-Pakistani writer, play writer and author considered among the greatest writers of short stories in South Asian history.

Saadat Hasan Manto was born into a middle-class Muslim family in the predominantly Sikh city of Ludhiana in 1912. In his early 20s, he translated Russian, French and English short stories into Urdu, and through studying the work of western writers he learned the art of short story writing.

Manto was known to write about the atrocious truths that no one openly talked about. Manto is best known for his stories about the partition of the subcontinent immediately following the independence in 1947.

His first story was "Tamasha", based on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre at Amritsar. It was until the 1940s that Manto became a driving force in India. He wrote all types of stories including radio plays. Between 1941 and 1943, he produced four volumes of radio plays. He also began pushing out short story collections. By 1945, he had written and published the short stories Dhuan, Kaali Shalwar, and Bu, which would later be collected in twenty-two short story volumes.

Each of these publications led to charges for obscenity in India. Of the charges, Manto said, ''If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living in is dirty. With my stories, I only expose the truth.'' Manto saw the government interfering with his work as evidence that the society didn't want to talk about the underlying issues such as religious and political strife that plagued the country. Manto relocated to Lahore, Pakistan because of the obscenity charges and the Partition of India, which created the two modern countries, Pakistan and India.

In Lahore, he met many literary colleagues and the group often met at the Pak Tea House to talk about literature, society, and politics. From 1950-1955, Manto wrote countless short stories, personal essays, plays, and screenplays. His work, which almost always talked about sex, lust, drug addiction, and political corruption, garnered him further negative attention from the Pakistani government. He was accused three more times of obscenity while living in Pakistan.

On January 18, 2005, the Government of Pakistan issued a postage stamp to commemorate his services on his 50th death anniversary. The postage stamp read “Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955) Man of Letters.”

On August 14, 2012, Manto was also honoured with Nishan-e-Imtiaz award (Distinguished Service to Pakistan Award) by the Pakistani government.

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