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A collection of classic, yet shockingly contemporary, short stories set in the vibrant world of mid-century Bombay, from one of India’s greatest writers.
Arriving in 1930s Bombay, Saadat Hasan Manto discovered a city like no other. A metropolis for all, and an exhilarating hub of license and liberty, bursting with both creative energy and helpless despondency. A journalist, screenwriter, and editor, Manto is best known as a master of the short story, and Bombay was his lifelong muse. Vividly bringing to life the city’s seedy underbelly—the prostitutes, pimps, and gangsters that filled its streets—as well as the aspiring writers and actors who arrived looking for fame, here are all of Manto’s Bombay-based stories, together in English for the very first time. By turns humorous and fantastical, Manto’s tales are the provocative and unflinching lives of those forgotten by humanity.
“An Indian F. Scott Fitzgerald. . . . Saadat Hasan Manto has a good claim to be considered the greatest South Asian writer of the twentieth century. . . . [In the story 'Ten Rupees' he] plays with our expectations of the standard fate of the young girl preyed upon by older men, building up a scene out of a Joyce Carol Oates story or a David Lynch film.” —The New York Times Book Review
"Unflinching. . . . Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad’s inspired new translations reaffirm the timelessness of Manto’s prose and revitalize it for a new generation of English-language readers." —The Times Literary Supplement
“One of the best translated collections of fiction I’ve read in this young year. . . . It’s such a pleasure when stories in an under-translated and under-read language come out, and it’s such a treat when they turn out to be as good as Saadat Hasan Manto’s Bombay Stories. . . . What makes the collection so exciting to read is the edginess that drips off every page: sex, drugs, prostitution; all of these things happen in Manto’s Bombay in the last days of British rule. What makes these stories shine, however, is the exemplary translation job done by Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad.” —Jason Diamond, Flavorwire
“A mesmerizing collection. . . . Bombay Stories is an incredible book and a compelling argument to Saadat Hasan Manto’s credibility as a giant in Indian/Pakistani literature. . . . His legacy is of a man who left behind a body of work so generous and so representative of an enormous talent that we should thank God (or Allah) that He gave us the chance to be touched in such a profound way. . . . Both translators, Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad, are renowned for their knowledge of Hindi and Urdu, respectively. . . . I forget too often how much is lost in translation and if what I am reading is the author’s voice or the translator’s (or both). This, however, is not an issue with Bombay Stories.” —PopMatters
“An eye opener. . . . A unique collection of fiction that was the printing block of all that has ever been written of [Bombay], and nothing like ever before. For those who have a premonition that reading any book of stories set in Bombay would be as familiar as seeing roulette tables in Vegas, here is fair warning on Bombay Stories: expect the expected in the unexpected.” —American Bazaar
“Presented in a realistic, almost reportorial style, these stories are both unremittingly bleak and exceptionally powerful.” —Kirkus
“The undisputed master of the modern Indian short story.” —Salman Rushdie
"Fascinating—completely unlike anything I've read from India—I found I was gobbling up these stories almost as much for sociology as for literature: I couldn't have believed that all that was happening (let alone being recorded, with such sympathy and precision) almost 80 years ago. . . . Whenever someone today talks about the Falkland Road, or Maximum Bombay, I will think back to this startling (and maybe not so well-known) predecessor from a different era. . . . Part of their beauty is that, in every story, one has to read only about three sentences, and one's fully inside one of those small, dank rooms, the paint peeling, the rupees dribbling away, shouts in the alleyway outside. Manto knows how to evoke a world in a sentence!" —Pico Iyer
“I would travel anywhere with Manto. . . . He is magnificently immortal.” —Nadeem Aslam, author of Maps for Lost Lovers
“There is still no literary rival to Manto. . . . [And] as communalism, religious intolerance and enmity between India and Pakistan continue to grow, his stories are still highly relevant.” —The Independent (London)
"The simple narration and strong imagery reflect Manto’s keen powers of observation. Beautifully crafted and skillfully translated, the stories remain as startling and provocative today as they were when originally written. They will be for many readers a long-awaited and deeply satisfying introduction to one of India’s greatest storytellers."—Booklist
“Manto’s irony and humanity raise him on par with Gogol.” —Anita Desai