An Unforgettable Teller of Tales
(This obituary tribute, penned during noted Urdu author Anwer Azeem's assignment in the mid-1950s with the Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, appeared in Shahrah in the wake of Manto's death in 1955. At the time, moral crucifixion of Manto was still the order of the day, and not just from the expected official quarters. Countering criticisms from the puritanical brigade as well the progressives, this defence also goes beyond the terms and categories enthroned by cult-romanticisers in its search for a sounder basis to evaluate Manto's extraordinary significance for the future of Urdu fiction. Anwer Azeem, who was profoundly impacted by Manto, himself passed away on 20th October 2000).
Not having met Manto, I make no pretense of proffering a personal memoir. To be sure, I have seen many articles, of which there is no dearth, on this rare artist, both personal sketches and critical estimates. Yet if it is the real Manto that we wish to fathom, then it is sufficient
- and much more useful - to seek him among those many fictional
creations in which he himself furnishes a far truer index of his
formative literary encounters, and of his own unique point of view.
Readers are apt, after having leafed through an author's creations
- and having gathered some snippets of information from sundry floating anecdotes and chance occurrences pertaining to the writer's life - to arrive at far-reaching inferences, from which they proceed to weave an intricate tapestry of romantic notions, images and conceptions as regards his personality, his deportment, his carriage and contours, his sizzling wit, his sense of personal honour, his state of self-immersion, his anarchism and poetic self-absorption, and so
* Noted Urdu Author who passed away in October 2000.
Social Scientist, Vol.29, Nos. 3 - 4, March-April 2001