Saadat Hasan Manto, a well known indo-Pakistani writer, he was prominent because he wrote atrocious truths that no one dared to talk about and for his stories about partition of subcontinent immediately following independence in 1947.
He started his literary career by translating work of erudite giants such as Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde and few Russian writers. His later work progressively became stark in portraying the darkness of human psyche, as humanist values progressively declined around 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 sarcasm 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 an enraged people, that stands out amidst the brevity of his prose.
Saadat Hasan Manto is often compared with 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”.
As we know he was best at writing the contemptuous truths thus he was charged six times for obscenity, thrice before partition in India for dhuan, bu and kali shalwar, and thrice after partition in Pakistan for khol do, thanda gosht and upper neechey darmiyan but was never convicted.
In thanda gosht, Manto tells story of isher Singh, a Sikh who tried to rape and already dead Muslim girl, a heap of ‘cold flesh’. And in khol do, a brutalized, unconscious girl on verge of death is raped by a doctor after examining her , with the help of his helper nurse sakeena. Rape scenes may have been obscene but in their proper context they depicted the extent to which women were brutalized in punjab.
His stories, for me though, are of a mottled hue; of unflinching honesty and iridescent vigour; a broken mirror or a muddy puddle that couldn’t help cast a reflection on not only a violent, brutal and turbulent chapter of India, but bare the very nakedness of human nature. In them you not only find themes of killing, slaughter and rape, but also of lust, squalor, depravity and perversion. His essays delve into facing persecution, self ridicule, depression, being broke, helplessness, drinking, Hindi cinema, satire, irony, hypocrisy, sadness, strife and moral decay. These are not some stories of a detached and inscrutable past, they are tales of madness and rage that lurk under a garb that we put on, as we present our smiles in this “normal” world of ours, threatened only by chaos and exposed only rarely by an omniscient media. These stories are about us, about who we are, and who we cannot hide from. His stories unsettle us because they take us to darker corner of our psyche, to desires repressed and to the ugliness that results.