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Friday, July 3, 2009

Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955), “Men Of Letters” (2005-3)

Saadat Hasan Manto, a great short story writer of South Asia in Urdu, was born on May II, 1912. He received his early education at Muslim High School in Amritsar. Throughout his school years, Amritsar, like the rest of the Punjab, had experienced considerable civil unrest and political activity as the independence movement began to grow. During his early days of Amritsar he met an itinerant journalist, Abdul Bari Alig, who soon changed the young man’s imaginary dabbling with revolution into genuine interest in politics and more importantly their enthusiasm for movie stars into fascination with nineteenth century French and Russian literature, which was now becoming available in India in English and Urdu translation. Under the direction of Ban, who moved back and forth between Amritsar and Lahore as he changed jobs. Manto discovered the works of such leading writers as Victor Hugo, Lord Layton, Gorky, Chekhov, Pushkin, Osar Wilde, Maupassant and others. During this time Ban enthusiastically discovered Hugo’s The Last Days of Condemned, a drama expression opposition to capital punishment, and he encouraged Manto to attempt a translation of it into Urdu. Manto completed the translation in about two weeks and sold it to the Urdu Book Stall, Lahore, which published it under the title Sarguzasht-e-Aseer (A Prisoner’s Story). Having now become a published author, Manto aided by Hasan Abbas soon attempted a tr~nslation of Oscar Wilde’s Vera, which was published in 1934.
Besides encouraging the young Manto to translate good European literature into Urdu, Ban also urged him to return to his earlier literary inclination and begin writing himself in Urdu. While there, Manto also continued to try his hand at original short stories in Urdu, at least one of which “Inqiab Pasand” (Revolutionary), dated March 1935 was published in the Aligarh Magazine. Later this, story “Tamasha” and several others were put together into Manto’s first collection of original short stories in Urdu, “Atish Pare” (Sparks; also Quarrel-Provokers), published in 1936. Later he came to Lahore and joined newspaper Paras (Philosopher’s Stone). However, he soon tired of the paper’s “yellow journalism” policies. In late 1936 he accepted an invitation to edit the weekly Musawwir (Painter) and left Lahore for Bombay. In 1941 he came to Delhi and accepted the job of writing for Urdu Service of All India Radio. During his stay at All India Radio, Manto had the good fortune to be acquainted with many of these writers, including among others, Chiragh Hasan Hasrat, Dr. Akhtar Hussain Raipuni, Ansar Nasini, Mahmud Nizami, Kirshan Chander, Miraji and Upendranath Ashk.
Whatever literary influences may have rubbed off on Manto during his tenure at All India Radio, his personal relation with the writers he met there were, not surprisingly, quite varied.
Judging from the number and variety of collections Manto had published in Delhi, this was a “golden period” indeed for him. In only eighteen months, nO fewer than four of his collection of radio plays, Ao (Come), Manto ke Drame (Manto’s Dramas), Janaze (Funerals) and Tin aurraten (Three women) were published. In addition he persisted in writing and publishing his short stories as well as, although they provoked a variety of reactions among readers and critics. The controversial short story collection Dhuan (Smoke) came~out during this time, as did at least one edition of Manto ke Afsane. His first collection of topical essays, manto ke mazamin, also appeared during this time.
Following the publication of the mixed collection Afsane aur drame in 1943, Manto’s next collection of short stories “Chughd” appeared in India in 1948, shortly after Manto had left India for Pakistan.
In his collections: Atishpare - 1936, Manto Ke Afsane - 1940, Dhuan - 1941, Afsane Aur dramme-1943, Laazat-e-sang-1948, Siyah hasiye-1948, Badshahat ka Khatimah-1950, Khali Botlein-1950, Nimrud ki khudai-1950, Thanda gosht-1 950, Yazid-1 951, Parde ke Pichhe-1953, Sarak ke kinare-1953, Baghair unwan ke-1954, Baghair ijazt-1955, Burque-1955, Phundne-1955, Sarkandon ke pichhe-1955, Shaitan-1955, Shikari auratein-1955, Ratti, Masha, Tolah-1956, Tahira se tahir-1971, Kaali shalwar-1961, Manto ke behtreen kahanian-1963, Mere afsane are very famous. He died on January 18, 1955 at the age of 44 years.
To pay Tribute and homage to Saadat Hasan Manto, a commemorative postage stamp of Rs. 5/- denomination in the series of Men of Letters is being Issued by the Pakistan Post Office on January 18, 2005.