The Pity of Partition: Manto's Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide

Overview

"This is a masterful historical study of partition as seen through the life and writings of one of the subcontinent's foremost storytellers—Saadat Hasan Manto. A work at once scholarly and emotive, panoramic and personal, gripping and empirical, this is Jalal at her spectacular best."—Seema Alavi, author of Islam and Healing

"This lovingly written, informative, and thoughtful book by Ayesha Jalal is a fitting tribute to the life and work of her great-uncle, Saadat Hasan Manto, one of the leading writers of modern...

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The Pity of Partition: Manto's Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide

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Overview

"This is a masterful historical study of partition as seen through the life and writings of one of the subcontinent's foremost storytellers—Saadat Hasan Manto. A work at once scholarly and emotive, panoramic and personal, gripping and empirical, this is Jalal at her spectacular best."—Seema Alavi, author of Islam and Healing

"This lovingly written, informative, and thoughtful book by Ayesha Jalal is a fitting tribute to the life and work of her great-uncle, Saadat Hasan Manto, one of the leading writers of modern South Asia, on the occasion of his centennial birthday. Jalal moves deftly between history, biography, and literature, experimenting with a narrative method that succeeds in capturing the sense of 'cosmopolitanism in everyday life' that Manto championed. The Pity of Partition deserves a wide readership."—Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago

"This is a captivating, beautifully written intellectual and artistic biography of Manto, focusing on the contribution of his writing to our historical understanding of the partition of British India. The book is a revelation, a unique personal history of partition that will stimulate new research into the connections between cultural production, social experience, and politics during these crucial transitional decades."—David Ludden, author of India and South Asia: A Short History

"Jalal's book is timely and necessary. Manto remains one of the subcontinent's most important literary figures, yet outside India and Pakistan there is a sad lack of knowledge about his oeuvre and hugely interesting historical milieu. The Pity of Partition is the most comprehensive English-language study of Manto's life, times, and work."—Priya Gopal, University of Cambridge

"Manto is a twentieth-century master of Urdu fiction who is becoming known worldwide. Until now there was no account in English of his life and literary battles. The Pity of Partition is invaluable for students of Manto and general readers interested in his writing, whose numbers have continued to grow in recent years."—Aamir R. Mufti, author of Enlightenment in the Colony

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Tufts University historian Jalal (Partisans of Allah), a great-niece of Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto (1912–1955), gives readers an intimate, passionate, and insightful portrait of this brilliant but tragic man as he navigated and interpreted the repression, chaos, and violence of the final years of British colonialism and the upheaval of India’s 1947 partition. The book follows Manto’s life from his rebellious youth and early adulthood translating Victor Hugo and Oscar Wilde in Amritsar, Punjab, to his years as a struggling journalist and film writer in Bombay, where his provocative stories elicited numerous obscenity charges while building his reputation as “the father of the Urdu short story” and a “‘unique literary miracle’ destined for immortality,” and his prolific but troubled later years in postpartition Lahore, premature death at 42, and his boisterous funeral, where “several of Manto’s fictional characters were spotted in the crowd.” Despite occasionally drifting into obtuse academic language, Jalal shows how, in the midst of religious wars and ideological posturing, Manto uncompromisingly expressed a humanistic vision. (Mar.)
Complete Review - M. A. Orthofer
[A] fine introduction to Manto and his work, and his depiction of partition.
From the Publisher
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013

"Tufts University historian Jalal (Partisans of Allah), a great-niece of Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955), gives readers an intimate, passionate, and insightful portrait of this brilliant but tragic man as he navigated and interpreted the repression, chaos, and violence of the final years of British colonialism and the upheaval of India's 1947 partition. The book follows Manto's life from his rebellious youth and early adulthood translating Victor Hugo and Oscar Wilde in Amritsar, Punjab, to his years as a struggling journalist and film writer in Bombay, where his provocative stories elicited numerous obscenity charges while building his reputation as 'the father of the Urdu short story' and a "'unique literary miracle" destined for immortality,' and his prolific but troubled later years in postpartition Lahore, premature death at 42, and his boisterous funeral, where 'several of Manto's fictional characters were spotted in the crowd.'"—Publishers Weekly

"[A] fine introduction to Manto and his work, and his depiction of partition."—M. A. Orthofer, Complete Review

"Eminent historian Jalal has written a rich, engaging, at times moving account of the life of Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-55), interweaving biography with the tumultuous events of Indian nationalism, the Partition, and early Pakistan. . . . A much-needed study of a pioneering public figure."—Choice

"[S]ome of the finest pictures of Manto, his wife and of his friends embellish this book. Yet, the highlight of Jalal's work is that she has not let her proximity to Manto and his family affect in any way the objectivity that such a study would demand. Her unbiased approach to presenting Manto with his failings and foibles helps a more considered understanding of the writer."—Business Standard

"Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-55) was a leading Urdu writer who attracted controversy in prepartition India and early postpartition Pakistan for his short stories and film scripts that dealt with sex and politics in a daring manner. Jalal, his grandniece, uses his published writings and family letters and her interviews with relatives to portray his complex relationship. Interweaving stories from his fiction and events from his life, she produces a rich . . . tapestry of a complex society and the tensions that built up to the explosive violence of partition in 1947."—Foreign Affairs

"Jalal has performed a great service for scholars and the reading public by opening the Manto archive to their gaze. I for one will read Manto's stories, from now on, with added pleasure and comprehension."—Ian Copland, American Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691153629
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 2/24/2013
  • Series: The Lawrence Stone Lectures
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 977,480
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ayesha Jalal is the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University. Her books include "Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia", "Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam since 1850", and "The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan".

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Prelude: Manto and Partition 1
I Stories 17

  • 1 "Knives, Daggers, and Bullets Cannot Destroy Religion" 19
  • 2 Amritsar Dreams of Revolution 29
  • 3 Bombay: Challenges and Opportunities 55

II Memories 83

  • 1 Remembering Partition 85
  • 2 From Cinema City to Conquering Air Waves 91
  • 3 Living and Walking Bombay 111

III Histories 139

  • 1 Partition: Neither End nor Beginning 141
  • 2 On the Postcolonial Moment 151
  • 3 Pakistan and Uncle Sam's Cold War 187

Epilogue: "A Nail's Debt": Manto Lives On 211
Notes 229
Select Bibliography 245
Index 249

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