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ix Preface “This letter comes to you from your Pakistani nephew whom you do not know, nor does anyone else in your land of seven freedoms,” Saadat Hasan Manto wrote in the first of a series of factitious letters to Uncle Sam.1 It was the height of the Cold War. Pakistan was on the verge of signing a military pact with the United States of America. Manto was irked by the prospect of seeing his newly adopted country exchange the ills of British colonialism for the uncertain virtues of American imperialism. In his youth he had imagined driving the British out of India with homemade bombs. He once started a rumor that the British had sold the Taj Mahal to the Americans , who were sending special equipment to Agra to relocate the monument to New York. Within a matter of hours, his hometown, Amritsar, was abuzz with chatter about the sale of the Taj Mahal.2 With his imaginative canard, Manto gave vent to his anticolonialism while at the same time deftly planting in the minds of subjugated Indians the idea of Britain’s declining clout as the dominant global power. x Preface Who was Saadat Hasan Manto, and why is he relevant to a book about the partition of India? The leading Urdu short story writer of the twentieth century, Manto witnessed the psychological trauma of 1947 at close quarters. His sensitive portrayal of the plight of uprooted humanity on the move, in his fictional and nonfictional accounts of partition, is unsurpassed in quality. Charged with obscenity by both the colonial and the postcolonial states for his brutally honest depictions of everyday life, he was condemned in conservative social circles for daring to write about prostitution and sexuality. Manto enthusiasts acclaim him as a genius and a fearless rebel who defied conventions to drive home some plain and awkward truths. Alcoholism killed Saadat Hasan prematurely, but Manto lives on. His work, spanning two decades of prolific writing, is a treasure trove of rare insights into human nature. While much has been written about him and his life from a literary perspective, and several of his short stories are available in English and Hindi, as well as in Japanese, Manto—­ the writer and the individual in the context of his times—­ is strikingly underrecognized.3 His birth centenary year in 2012 lends added urgency to the need to discover and disseminate Manto to the larger international community. My personal discovery was unavoidable. I have called him Manto Abajan (father) since my childhood, though he had passed away a year before I was born. He was my father’s maternal uncle and married to my mother’s elder sister, Safia, to whom I was especially close. This book is dedicated to her memory. I still remember Safia Khala (aunt) slipping away quietly by the side door to buy my favorite sweets from Amritsari on Beadon Road, since I would have kept her from going had she left by the front door. My widowed aunt lived with xi Preface her mother and three daughters in the same mansion block in Lahore as we did. I grew up with Manto’s conspicuously absent presence in our joint family and was intrigued by his short stories, several of which I knew before I had learned to read. A personal favorite was his partition classic “Toba Tek Singh,” whose main character’s prattle fascinated me as a child. The story’s dramatic ending made me want to know more about partition. I sensed then that my bond with Manto Abajan transcended the family relationship. It would be several years before I enrolled in a doctoral program in history at the University of Cambridge. I chose to study the causes of India ’s partition and the creation of Pakistan. Manto’s short stories on partition informed my years as a graduate student. My granduncle’s literary talents had spotlighted the consequences of partition for ordinary people. As a student of history, I pursued a range of questions that partly move away from this focus, even though I was keenly interested in unearthing the historical evidence on what led to the colossal human tragedy captured so sensitively in Manto Abajan’s partition stories. Manto’s keen insights had great resonance for me while I was researching and writing The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge, 1985) and Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam since 1850 (Routledge...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400846689
Related ISBN
9780691153629
MARC Record
OCLC
828736045
Pages
288
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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