The Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times, and Work Across the India-Pakistan Divide

Ayesha Jalal. Princeton Univ., $27.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-691-15362-9
Tufts University historian Jalal (Partisans of Allah), a great-niece of Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto (1912–1955), gives readers an intimate, passionate, and insightful portrait of this brilliant but tragic man as he navigated and interpreted the repression, chaos, and violence of the final years of British colonialism and the upheaval of India’s 1947 partition. The book follows Manto’s life from his rebellious youth and early adulthood translating Victor Hugo and Oscar Wilde in Amritsar, Punjab, to his years as a struggling journalist and film writer in Bombay, where his provocative stories elicited numerous obscenity charges while building his reputation as “the father of the Urdu short story” and a “ ‘unique literary miracle’ destined for immortality,” and his prolific but troubled later years in postpartition Lahore, premature death at 42, and his boisterous funeral, where “several of Manto’s fictional characters were spotted in the crowd.” Despite occasionally drifting into obtuse academic language, Jalal shows how, in the midst of religious wars and ideological posturing, Manto uncompromisingly expressed a humanistic vision. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/10/2012
Release date: 02/01/2013
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