In This Review

The Pity of Partition: Manto's Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide (Lawrence Stone Lectures)
The Pity of Partition: Manto's Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide (Lawrence Stone Lectures)
By Ayesha Jalal
Princeton University Press, 2013, 288 pp

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 relationships and turbulent career. Interweaving stories from his fiction and events from his life, she produces a rich, if somewhat disjointed, tapestry of a complex society and the tensions that built up to the explosive violence of partition in 1947. In the aftermath, Manto, dying from the effects of alcoholism, directed his last sardonic barbs at the martyrdom-peddling mullahs and U.S.-allied cold warriors who were taking control of his young country.