Saadat Hasan Manto: Biography & Works

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  • 0:04 Saadat Hasan Manto
  • 0:33 Life
  • 3:35 Major Works
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Saadat Hasan Manto was an Indo-Pakistani author who lived a short life from 1912 to 1955. His provocative stories got him in trouble for obscenity in India and Pakistan. In this lesson, we'll talk about his short life and prolific writings.

Saadat Hasan Manto

During his lifetime, Saadat Hasan Manto was charged with obscenity six times in India and Pakistan for his writings. Of his writing, he said, ''If you cannot bear these stories then the society is unbearable.'' Manto was a prolific Indo-Pakistani writer who published 22 short stories collections and other writings during his career. Manto often wrote about societal issues that he felt hindered humanity. This lesson touches on his life and major works.

Life

On May 11, 1912, Saadat Hasan Manto was born in British India in the small Punjab village of Samrala. He was a Kashmiri, an ethnic group of the Kashmir Valley in India. He was born into a family of Sunni Muslims. Kashmiri are known for their lighter complexions. Many details about his youth are missing, but it is known that his family was in law, with his father being a judge.

In his early twenties, Manto began reading French and Russian authors at the insistence of his mentor Abdul Bari Alig. The books he read inspired him to start several translation projects, including the translation of The Last Day of a Condemned Man by Victor Hugo. He translated it into Urdu. For many years, he worked on translations of famous Russian and French books into Urdu.

In 1934, after working for a small news publication, he attended Aligarh Muslim University in India. He studied writing and literature, meeting several important influences along the way. He became friends with Ali Sardar Jafri, an Urdu writer. During his time in college, he wrote short stories, with one being published, ''Inqlaab Pasand.''

It was until the 1940s that Manto became a driving force in India. He wrote all types of stories including radio plays. Between 1941 and 1943, he produced four volumes of radio plays. He also began pushing out short story collections. By 1945, he had written and published the short stories ''Dhuan,'' ''Kaali Shalwar,'' and ''Bu,'' which would later be collected in twenty-two short story volumes.

Each of these publications led to charges for obscenity in India. Of the charges, Manto said, ''If you find my stories dirty, the society you are living in is dirty. With my stories, I only expose the truth.'' Manto saw the government interfering with his work as evidence that the society didn't want to talk about underlying issues such as religious and political strife that plagued the country. Manto relocated to Lahore, Pakistan, because of the obscenity charges and the Partition of India, which created the two modern countries Pakistan and India.

In Lahore, he met many literary colleagues and the group often met at the Pak Tea House to talk about literature, society, and politics. From 1950-1955, Manto wrote countless short stories, personal essays, plays, and screenplays. His work, which almost always talked about sex, lust, drug addiction, and political corruption, garnered him further negative attention from the Pakistani government. He was accused three more times for obscenity while living in Pakistan.

It wasn't a secret that Manto was an alcoholic. In his essay, ''Letters to Uncle Sam'', he explains that he spent all of his money on 'locally distilled whiskey', which left him with no money to own a home. His drinking caught with him at age 42. On January 18, 1955, he died of liver cirrhosis.

Major Works

Let's now take a look at some of his major works:

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