Man?o, Sadat Hasan

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MĀNṪO, Sādat Hasan

Nationality: Indian-Pakistani. Born: Sambrāla, Punjab, India, 11 May 1912. Education: Studied in Muslim High School, Amritsar, India, 1931; Hindu Sabha College, 1931-33 (failed); Aligarh Muslim University, 1934. Family: Married Safiyah in 1939; one son and one daughter. Career: Writer and translator, from 1931. Worked for newspapers and local government, Amṙitsar, 1931-36; editor, Musawwar (Painter) film magazine, and Samāj (Society), Bombay, 1936-40; radio writer and staff writer, Saroj Movietone, 1937-41, and Imperial Film Company, Bombaym 1938-40; radio writer, All India Radio, New Delhi, 1941; editor, Musawwar, and freelance screenplay dialogue writer, 1942, Bombay; screenwriter, Filmistan, 1943-47, and Bombay Talkies Studios, 1947, Bombay; worked in film and radio, Lahore, Pakistan, 1948-55. Member: All India Progressive Writers' Association. Died: 18 January 1955.



Mānṫo ke bahtarīn kahāniyā. 1963.

Short Stories

Ātish pāre [Sparks]. 1936.

Mānṫo ke afsāne [Mānṫo's Stories]. 1940.

Dhūā. 1941(?); as Kāla shalwār [Black Trousers], 1941.

Afsāne aur drāme [Stories and Plays]. 1943; as Ek mard [One Man], 1956.

Cuġhd. 1948.

Lażżat-e sang [The Pleasure of Company]. 1948(?).

Siyāh hāshiye [Black Margins]. 1948.

Bādshāhshat ke khātimah. 1950(?); as Kingdom's End and Other Stories, 1987.

Khālī boṫl, khālī ḋibbe [Empty Bottles, Empty Boxes]. 1950.

Nimrūd kī ḳḣudāī [Nimrūd's Divinity]. n.d.; second edition, 1950.

Tandā gosht. 1950.

Yazīd. 1951.

Parde ke pīche [Behind the Veil-Curtain]. 1953.

Saṙak ke kināre [At the Roadside]. 1953.

Baġhair 'unwān ke [Without Title]. 1954.

Baġhair ijāzat [Without Permission]. 1955.

Burqe [Burqas]. 1955.

Phundne. 1955.

Sarkanḋõ ke pīche [Behind the Reeds]. 1955(?).

Shaitān [Devil]. 1955.

Shikā rī 'aurat [Female Hunters]. 1955.

Black Milk. 1955.

Rattī, māshah, tolāh [Three Measures for Gold]. 1956.

Ṫāhirah se ṫāhir. 1971.

Mere asfāne [My Stories]. n.d.

Another Lonely Voice: The Urdu Short Stories of Manto, by LeslieA. Flemming, 1979.


Radio Plays:

Āo [Come], 1940; Mānṫo ke drāme [Mānṫo's Plays], 1940; Janāze [Funerals], 1942; Tīn 'aurat [Three Women], 1942; Karvaṫ [Side], 1946; Kaṫārī, 1975.


Āṫh din [Eight Days], 1947.


Mānṫo ke mazāmīn [Mānṫo's Essays]. 1942; as Mānṫo ke adabīmazāmīn, 1962.

Ismat Chugtāī. 1948.

Nūr Jahān, Surūr Jān. 1952.

Ganje farishte [Bald Angels]. 1953.

Talkh, tursh aur shīrīn [Bitter, Sour, and Sweet]. 1954.

Ūpar, nīce aur darmiyā [Up, Down, and In-Between]. 1954.

Lāūḋspīkar [Loudspeaker]. 1955.

Mānṫo ke khutūt [Mānṫo's Letters], edited by Ahmad Nadīm Qāsmī. 1962.

Translator, Saruzasht-e asīr, by Victor Hugo. 1933.

Translator, Do drāme, by Anton Chekhov. n.d.

Translator, with Hasan 'Abbās, Verā, by Oscar Wilde. 1934.

Translator, Rūsī afsānr [Russian Stories]. 1934.


Critical Study:

in Another Lonely Voice: The Urdu Short Stories of Manto by Leslie A. Flemming, 1979.

* * *

Sādat Hasan Mānṫo was one of the most innovative writers in modern Urdu fiction. The author of more than 200 works in the short-story genre published in about 24 collections, together with six volumes of plays and several books of essays, translations, and criticism, he was considered during his lifetime a renegade writer by both the powerful, Marxist-oriented progressive literary movement and the Urdu bourgeois literary establishment, which often criticized him for what they considered a preoccupation with sex and violence in his fiction. Judging many of his stories shocking, even pornographic, they seemed to be uncomfortable with his characters, mostly people on the fringes of bourgeois society (Mānṫo himself came from a family of lawyers) who have been marginalized by poverty or cataclysmic political events: prostitutes, pimps, laborers, unwed mothers, rape victims, runaway lovers, drunkards, to name but a few.

The partition of British-dominated India into the independent countries of India and Pakistan in 1947 was a seminal event in the lives and writings of Mānṫo and many of the authors of his generation. Thus, his stories fall into roughly two groups: the early ones written prior to partition, between 1935 and 1947, which include many of his best-known works; and those written after he immigrated to Pakistan from Bombay in 1948 until his death from alcoholism in 1955.

The early short story "The New Constitution" (1937), set in Lahore, is considered one of his finest, combining politics with both humor and pathos. Its main character, the poor, illiterate tonga-driver Mangu, believes that the much-touted new Government of India Act of 1935 will bring new freedom to India, including the right for him to defend himself against a bellicose, drunken British soldier who insults him. As the police arrive to restrain Mangu, he invokes the new constitution. They respond, "What rubbish you are talking. What new constitution? It's the same old constitution, you fool." And they drag him off to jail. The story derives its humor from the fact that Mangu garbles his facts about history and the new constitution. The reader, however, empathizes with him fully as Britain's great colonialist lie to India, the 1935 Government of India Act, is played out in microcosm in this work.

"Toba Tek Singh," written in the early 1950s, is considered one of the best short stories to deal with the theme of partition, important in many of North India's many languages, especially Urdu, Bengali, Hindi, and Punjabi. In it, the Indian and Pakistani governments want to exchange Muslim lunatics in India for Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistan. Initially the lunatics' seemingly bizarre comprehension of the partition and the prisoner exchange is humorous. But as one thinks about what they say and do, it seems that their understanding and actions are no worse than those of the politicians who effected the partition—an insane act—in the first place. The asylum in which they are kept is a metaphor for a world mad from the partition experience, and the ambiguous ending suggests the tentativeness of any answers to any questions asked about the partition.

Several of Mānṫo's most successful stories deal with some of society's most marginalized people—prostitutes. The heroine of "The Insult" is Saugandhi, one of Mānṫo's most sympathetically drawn characters. Tired from a long evening with an important client and not feeling well, she agrees with her pimp's request to take one last wealthy customer, who, when he sees her, rejects her. Angry over this insult, Saugandhi returns to her room, where her lover, Madho, just in from Poona, awaits her and asks, as he always does, for money. Finally understanding that her pimp and lover also insult her by exploiting her, she severs her relationship with Madho, whom she turns out; she curls up with her mange-infested dog instead and goes to sleep. The language of the story, replete with obscenities, and the disturbing, even sickening, details of the dirt and filth on Saugandhi's body and in her room were shocking to middle-class sensibilities. In spite of her situation, Saugandhi carries herself with dignity, and Mānṫo does not judge her. One is left to speculate what the real obscenity here is: Saugandhi's prostitution or the society that allows the exploitation and degradation implicit in prostitution?

In some stories Mānṫo mixes politics, violence, and sex. "Cold Like Ice" (1949), a terse, powerful partition story for which he was tried on obscenity charges, is the story of Ishwar Singh, a hot-blooded Sikh just returned from a six-day spree of looting and murder. He is stabbed by his woman, Kalwant Kaur, who believes that he is unable to become sexually aroused because he has been with another woman. Dying, he recounts how he murdered six men in a Muslim household, then carried off the beautiful daughter, whom he thought had fainted. As he raped her he discovered that she was dead. Traumatized into impotence, he dies taking Kalwant Kaur's hand into his. The story ends: "It was colder than ice." Whose hand is "colder than ice"—his or hers—is purposely ambiguous.

While early stories show the influence of Chekhov ("Amusement"), whose works Mānṫo translated into Urdu, other later stories reflect the influence of Maupassant, especially the use of the shocking denouement ("Colder Than Ice," "Open Up"). These works derive their power from the sharp focus on a single character or incident that the author draws. Objective in their description of events and characters, they show none of the didacticism that was considered an important component of contemporary Marxist fiction of the period. Some stories even juxtapose considerable humor alongside stark horror ("Black Borders").

Toward the end of his life Mānṫo also experimented with a number of modernist techniques, notably the interior monologue and stream-of-consciousness ("Tassels," "The Angel"). Though some of these are noteworthy, others are marred by technical carelessness and inconsistencies and are often rambling. Such works were often rapidly written in order to get money for alcohol. At his best, however, Mānṫo is a powerful practitioner of stories in the realist mode. Such works have moved Salman Rushdie to call Mānṫo "the undisputed master of the modern Indian short story."

—Carlo Coppola

See the essay on "Mozail."