07 May, 2021

Hall Of Refracted Truths

Like his coruscatingly brilliant stories, Manto was quirky, unpredictable, made of hard and soft edges. These essays, by his literary friends, confirm his genius.

Hall Of Refracted Truths

The satirical magazine Private Eye has a standard response to celebrity obituaries. When someone famous like film dir­ector Bernardo Bertolucci, dies, the magazine publishes a first-person piece headlined ‘The Bertolucci who knew me’, poking fun at writers who use the opportunity to write as much about themselves as about the person who died.

This book has been written in the same vein. Saadat Hasan Manto was a remarkable man. He was not particularly literate (he left Aligarh Muslim University without a degree, having failed in, of all subjects, Urdu) or even well read. He was a Kashmiri who was raised in Punjab and moved to Bombay in his early 20s and began writing film scripts. At this he was not particularly good. There are no films that one can name today which he wrote, for they made little impact. The other thing he wrote were short stories. At this he is magical.

One way to test his greatness is to examine his relevance. Of his contemporary writers, almost none is read today, including the biggest name of the time, Munshi Premchand....

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