08 May, 2021

That Smell In His Ink

A translation faithful to the original and a sampling of Manto’s rarer non-fiction makes this book worthwhile

That Smell In His Ink

My random and eccentric test to inspect the quality (and tone) of a Manto translation is as follows: Go straight to Toba Tek Singh, Manto’s most famous work on Partition. Turn to the paragraph in which a Muslim lunatic who reads the newspaper Zam­indar is asked: “Maulvi sahab, yeh Pakistan kya hota hai?” He replies: “Hindustan mein woh ek aisi jagah hai, jahan ustray bante hain.” Now, see how that line is offered by the translator as a test of how he approaches Manto.

Khushwant Singh translated the word ‘ustray’ as ‘cut throat razor’, cleanly communicating the menace of the word and of the line that Manto intended. Aatish Taseer in his translation used ‘razor blades’, which missed the point entirely. Muhammad Umar Memon renders the line thus: “It is a place in India where they make straight razors.” I like this formulation. It expects the reader to know something about blades, yes, but it retains the physical form of the ustra. The book retains that spirit in a...

More from Aakar Patel

Latest Magazine

May 17, 2021

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section