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.
Table of Contents
Babu Gopi Nath
About Saadat Hasan Manto
Saadat Hasan Manto was born in what is now Punjab in 1912. An acclaimed Urdu-language short story writer, he also worked as a journalist and wrote extensively for film and radio throughout Indian and Pakistan. He died in 1955.
“The undisputed master of the modern Indian short story.”
“An incredible book and a compelling argument to Saadat Hasan Manto’s credibility as a giant in Indian/Pakistani literature. . . . Manto painted the women of Bombay in a way that few South Asian writers have been able to since.”
"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!"
“I would travel anywhere with Manto. . . . He is magnificently immortal.”
—Nadeem Aslam, author of Maps for Lost Lovers
“Presented in a realistic, almost reportorial style, these stories are both unremittingly bleak and exceptionally powerful.”
“A long-awaited and deeply satisfying introduction to one of India’s greatest storytellers. . . . Beautifully crafted and skillfully translated, the stories remain as startling and provocative today as they were when originally written. . . . Manto depicts [the] lower strata of society in almost a loving way, with delicacy, grace, and a kind of Everyman quality, so that who they are becomes secondary to how they live. The simple narration and strong imagery reflect Manto’s keen powers of observation.”
“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)
“Manto’s irony and humanity raise him on par with Gogol.”