Prof Harish Narang has selected and translated Manto’s stories and arranged them under three clear sections – well known, less known, ill known! Curiosity takes one rather too swiftly towards the ‘ill known’ section. And there stand out these introductory lines: the last section includes those stories which were condemned as obscene writing and court cases were slapped against him. A book review by Humra Quraishi
By Humra Quraishi
Title- Manto: Stories- Well known- Less Known- Ill Known
Selected and Translated by – Harish Narang
Publisher – Aakar Books
Pages – 284
Price – Rs 795
Saadat Hasan Manto and his works continue to stand out. Relevant and hitting, with the human factor intact in each one of his writings. Nah, nothing contrived or superficial. With that, that the raw intensity of his writings holds out.
This latest book on Manto’s writings has just got launched, where Professor Harish Narang has selected and translated his stories and arranged them under three clear sections – well known, less known, ill known!
Curiosity takes one rather too swiftly towards the ‘ill known’ section. And there stand out these introductory lines: the last section includes those stories which were condemned as obscene writing and court cases were slapped against him. To quote Narang, “Manto was accused of using obscene language and promoting a content that proposed to ‘corrupt’ young minds. Almost all of them were subjected to court cases, slapped by the State with allegations of charges ranging from ‘obscene’ writing to ‘disturbing public peace.’ ” And tucked in this particular section are these six translated stories of Manto – Smoke, Cold Meat, The Black Salwar, Smell, Above Below and in the Middle, Insult.
And if one were to ask, how difficult or challenging it’s been to translate the works of a writer of Manto’s stature, who wrote about the ground realities with such detailing and depth and emotions, Narang details, “Translating the writings of Manto has been for me an experience very different from translating other writers – from India or from outside the subcontinent. The first reason has been his incisive satire and also his love for irony, both of which are, at times, language specific and the impact of which is generally diluted if not altogether lost in translation. The second challenge came from Manto’s manner of narration…Like that of any other writer, Manto’s narratives too are rich in local flavour. There are words, expressions and names of culture items that are specific to his mother tongue Kashmiri or Urdu and these are not easy to put in English without explanatory expressions…In short, to capture Manto’s authorial voice – it is this voice that generally carries the burden of the author’s worldview – was quite challenging.”
Long after I read and re-read Manto’s stories, I kept thinking: What would he have written if he were alive today? After all, we are surviving in absolutely dark dismal hopeless times!