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.”
Manto, who died in 1955, explores the seamy underside of Bombay in 14 stories of economic exploitation with little personal redemption. "Khushiya," the first story in the collection, introduces us to the eponymous title character and simultaneously plunges us into Bombay's insalubrious atmosphere. Khushiya is a pimp who, at the beginning of the story, calls on Kanta Kumari, one of his prostitutes. Perhaps not unexpectedly, she greets him at the door wrapped only in a towel. At first embarrassed when Kanta thinks it's no big deal, Khushiya next believes he should take her casualness as an insult. In the following story, "Ten Rupees," we meet Sarita, a good-time girl of about 15, whose mother is prostituting her. Although Sarita is a carefree spirit, it's sobering to hear her mother's advice: "Look, my little girl, remember to talk like a grown-up, and do whatever he says." So much for childhood innocence. "Barren" recounts a love story between Naim, a servant, and Zahra, the daughter of his master. Eventually, they marry and are happy despite the anger of Zahra's father, but then tragedy strikes. Naim narrates this story to a character named Manto—perhaps the author himself, who appears as an interlocutor in several other stories. At the end, however, Naim reveals his story is not what he originally claimed it to be. In "The Insult," we meet Ram Lal, who pimps 120 prostitutes all over Bombay, the most notable being Saugandhi. At least by the end of this story, we have a character who is able to find her own voice and become self-assertive. Presented in a realistic, almost reportorial style, these stories are both unremittingly bleak and exceptionally powerful.