Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Saadat Hasan Manto-سعادت حسن منٹو-Two Short Stories by the Greatest Urdu Short Story Writer

"Noor Jehan"  (1950, 3 pages, translated by Richard Mcgill-read HERE)
"The Return" (1949, 4 pages, translated by Khalid Hasan-read HERE)

Two Short Stories By The Most Famous Urdu
Short Story Writer of all Time

Saadat Manto (1912 to 1955-Punjab, India) had many accomplishments in his far too short life.   He his lasting legacy will be in his short stories about the human cost of the 1947 partition of India.    (I have previously posted on his by far best known short story, "Toba Tek Singh" and you can, if you wish, read more about his importance and background in my post on that story HERE)

"The Return" deals directly with one of the most terrible consequences of the partition of Indian in 1947 into Pakistan and India.    Women from bordering areas were (by people from each side-there is no good or bad  group here) kidnapped and taken across the border.   Some were forced married and converted in  their faith.   Others were forced into prostitution or sold as slaves.    1000s and 1000s died from the consequences of repeated rapes.   In the culture of the time and area, a raped woman was often regarded as a shameful person whom no respectable man would ever deal with again.   Many returning wives and daughters found themselves treated very badly when they did return home.   Husbands rejected returned wives and fathers and mothers often beat their daughters for bring disgrace on the family.

As "The Return"  opens we are in a train wreck.   Maybe it is an explosion or an attack we never really learn.   A married couple and their early teenage daughter were traveling on the train.   When the man awakes his wife is next to him but she knows she will soon die.   Their daughter is missing.   The wife tells him to leave her and go find their daughter.   He looks and looks but he never finds her.   He fears she has been kidnapped,  maybe by the people that caused the train wreck.    He has in time to give up and he returns home alone.   In time men from his area begin making cross border raids to recover women and they promise to bring his young beautiful daughter home if she can be found.     One day the man hears a truck has come back with a number of recaptured women on it.   The man cannot let himself believe his daughter is among them.  (spoiler alert)   She is on the truck but in perhaps the greatest tragedy of it all in this, she has been raped by all of the men that rescued her.    The story ends when the father finds her in a make shift hospital and slowly realizes what his daughters "saviors", his own neighbors and coreligionist have done.   Manto is his great wisdom, never tells us what country this story takes place in.

"Noor Jehan" is a much "lighter" story than "The Return".   It is pretty much a comic story about adulation heaped on an aging once glamorous female movie star by a four year old boy and other males.    It is mostly an entertainment read (there is nothing wrong with that!).

On Manto I would say for sure his most famous short story "Toba Tek Singh" belongs in  the world canon of short stories.  "The Return" is very much worth reading.

mel u

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