'Selected Short Stories' by Saadat Hasan Manto
"If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living in is dirty. With my stories, I only expose the truth"
Reflecting the most basic form of all human urges and wants, Saadat Hasan Manto was the first author in Urdu literature who wrote about sexual desires. He was often charged on writing porn and was tried for obscenity six times.
Through his stories, he opens your mind and takes you through the life journeys of the unknown and ignored faces of the society. A master storyteller, his writing has the powerful capacity of making you feel one with a pimp or a boy experiencing the onset of puberty. It was way back in tumultuous, conservative post independence era of the 1900's that he dared to write about the sensitive relationship between a prostitute and a gigolo in 'The Gift'. He takes you inside the brutal minds of looters, rioters and rapists; yet you feel no anger towards them for the horrid crimes they commit in the stories. He makes you stand in their shoes and see how ordinary and human they are.
Manto gives his characters emotions and feelings so strong, that they are never in control of their life's situations. His stories usually have women as their central characters; powerful women who reflect the quote 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'. Whether it is the chilling account of the cannibalistic woman who hacks an innocent girl to death for ensnaring her lover in the; or the rage of a woman who has been deprived of her sleep or even the recklessness with which Mozail, a Jewish girl sacrifices her life and modesty for a man she hardly cares about.
According to me, the most touching of Manto's stories, is 'The Last Salute', a heart wrenching tale of two friends who are forced to turn against each other in a battle because of the Partition. In 'Toba Tek Singh', he describes the plight of a lunatic who is trapped in the no man's land between India and Pakistan chronicling the insanity which had seized the nation at the time of Independence.
Even though the original stories were written in Urdu, Khalid Hasan's translations in English manage to move the readers by retaining the savage dark humour of Manto's distinctive style of writing. All in all, the book is sure to appeal to all those readers who have a classic taste.
"With him lie buried all the secrets and mysteries of the art of short story writing. Under tons of earth he lies, still wondering who among the two is the greater short story writer: God or he''
This is the epitaph, which the master storyteller, Saadat Hasan Manto had written for himself shortly before he passed away.