Saadat Hasan Manto

سعادت حسن منٹو

Saadat Hasan Manto


Saadat Hasan Manto was a renowned and influential Pakistani writer of short stories and essays, known for his unflinching and bold portrayal of the social and human conditions in the Indian subcontinent during the tumultuous era of the mid-20th century. He was born on May 11, 1912, in Samrala, British India, which is now part of Pakistan. Manto is widely regarded as one of the most significant literary figures in Urdu literature, and his work continues to be celebrated for its raw, provocative, and thought-provoking narratives.

Manto’s writing is characterized by its stark realism and the unapologetic exploration of taboo subjects such as sexuality, societal hypocrisy, and the deep-seated prejudices of his time. He had a unique ability to capture the complexity of human nature and social dynamics, and his stories often depicted the harsh realities of life, especially in the context of post-partition India and the partition itself.

Throughout his career, Manto contributed a vast body of work, including short stories, essays, and sketches. His storytelling was marked by a profound empathy for the marginalized and oppressed, and he frequently portrayed the lives of sex workers, the destitute, and the dispossessed with a rare depth of understanding and compassion. His writing was a reflection of the chaos and trauma of the times he lived in, making it a searing commentary on the human condition.

Manto’s literary achievements have earned him recognition not only in Pakistan but also in the broader world of literature. His works continue to be celebrated for their literary brilliance and for their courageous exploration of the human psyche. Despite facing censorship and legal challenges during his lifetime, Manto’s legacy endures as a testament to the power of literature to challenge conventions and shed light on the darkest corners of society.

He is remembered as a writer who fearlessly confronted the hypocrisy and social ills of his time, and his work remains a source of inspiration and contemplation for readers, scholars, and artists who seek to engage with the complexities of the human experience through the written word. Saadat Hasan Manto’s writing transcends boundaries and continues to influence contemporary literature, firmly establishing him as a literary giant of the 20th century.

Resting place

Saadat Hasan Manto, the renowned Urdu writer, is buried in the Miani Sahib Graveyard in Lahore, Pakistan. He passed away on January 18, 1955, and his final resting place in Miani Sahib Graveyard has become a site of pilgrimage for literature enthusiasts and admirers of his work. Manto is celebrated for his bold and candid writings, which have left an indelible mark on Urdu literature. His grave is a testament to his enduring influence and the legacy he left behind in the world of literature.

Notable work

Saadat Hasan Manto, a celebrated Urdu-language writer, is known for his thought-provoking and often controversial works that delve into the darker aspects of human nature and society. Some of his most notable works include:

1. Toba Tek Singh: This short story is one of Manto’s most famous works. It is a satirical take on the absurdity of the partition of India in 1947. The story revolves around the inmates of a mental asylum, particularly Bishan Singh from Toba Tek Singh, and explores the tragic consequences of the partition on human lives.

2. Khol Do: “Khol Do” is a powerful and disturbing story that reflects the brutal realities of the 1947 partition. It revolves around a father desperately searching for his daughter who went missing during the chaos of partition. The story highlights the vulnerability and suffering of women during that tumultuous period.

3. Thanda Gosht: This short story is a stark portrayal of the psychological impact of violence and war. It revolves around a soldier who returns home from the frontlines and grapples with the trauma of war. “Thanda Gosht” delves into the psychological wounds that war inflicts on individuals.

4. Hatak: This story delves into the world of prostitution and the stigma attached to it. It portrays the harsh reality of the lives of sex workers and challenges societal norms and prejudices.

5. Bu:“Bu” or “Odour” is a scathing critique of society’s hypocrisy and moral decay. It centers on the life of a young prostitute and the men who exploit her, shedding light on the moral degradation of individuals in a hypocritical society.

6. License: “License” is a thought-provoking story that explores the dynamics of power and the corrupting influence of authority. It follows the life of a tonga (horse-drawn carriage) driver who is confronted by a corrupt police officer.

7.Mammad Bhai: This short story delves into the complex relationships between individuals and their inner demons. It follows the life of an eccentric character named Mammad Bhai, who grapples with his own obsessions and desires.

Saadat Hasan Manto’s works are known for their unflinching portrayal of the human condition, the societal injustices of his time, and the psychological effects of violence and trauma. He remains a literary icon for his ability to use storytelling to address uncomfortable truths and challenge prevailing norms and prejudices.

Early life

Saadat Hasan Manto, one of the most renowned and controversial short story writers in the Urdu language, was born on May 11, 1912, in Samrala, a town in the Ludhiana district of Punjab, which was a part of British India at the time of his birth. Manto’s early life was marked by several significant events and experiences that shaped his outlook and influenced his later literary work.

1. Punjab Roots: Manto hailed from a Punjabi Muslim family. The Punjabi culture, with its rich traditions, folklore, and diversity, had a profound impact on his writings. He was deeply connected to the land and people of Punjab, and this connection is reflected in many of his stories.

2. Education: Manto’s formal education began in Ludhiana, where he attended a primary school. He later moved to Aligarh to study at Aligarh Muslim University, where he developed his passion for literature and began to appreciate the nuances of the Urdu language. He did not complete his formal education but continued to educate himself through extensive reading.

3. Literary Influences: During his formative years, Manto was influenced by the works of classical Urdu and Persian poets and writers. He admired the writings of authors like Mirza Ghalib and Saadi Shirazi, and their literary styles left an imprint on his own storytelling.

4. Early Writing: Manto started writing at a young age. His early works, including poems and short stories, were published in local newspapers and magazines. His initial forays into writing were well-received, and this encouraged him to pursue a career in literature.

5. Partition and Migration: The partition of India in 1947 had a profound impact on Manto’s life. He witnessed the horrors of communal violence and the mass migration of people between India and Pakistan. These traumatic events left an indelible mark on his psyche and significantly influenced his later writings. Manto’s stories from this period often deal with the brutality and inhumanity he witnessed during the partition.

6. Controversial Works: Manto’s short stories were often controversial for their explicit and unflinching portrayal of social issues, human sexuality, and the dark realities of society. His bold and provocative storytelling style made him a polarizing figure, with some praising his honesty and others condemning his works as obscene.

Saadat Hasan Manto’s early life, characterized by his upbringing in Punjab, his education, and his experiences during the tumultuous times of partition, played a pivotal role in shaping his unique literary voice. His writings continue to be celebrated for their unapologetic exploration of the human condition and the complex, often harsh, social realities of his era.


Saadat Hasan Manto was a prolific and influential writer of short stories, essays, and radio plays in the Urdu language. His works are known for their bold, realistic, and often controversial themes, shedding light on the social, political, and cultural issues of his time. Some of his most notable works include:

1. Short Stories:
– Toba Tek Singh: This is one of Manto’s most famous stories, set in a mental asylum during the partition of India and Pakistan. It explores the absurdity and tragedy of the partition.
Khol Do: This story portrays the horrific aftermath of the partition, focusing on the plight of a young girl who is a victim of sexual violence.
Thanda Gosht: This story delves into the psychological impact of violence and brutality during the partition, exploring the depths of human depravity.

2. Essays:
– Manto wrote several essays, often with a satirical or critical perspective. His essays address various topics, including the literary scene, the socio-political climate of his time, and his own struggles as a writer.

3. Radio Plays:
– Manto also wrote radio plays that were broadcast on All India Radio. These plays covered a range of themes, including the partition, societal norms, and human behavior.

4. Novels:
– While Manto is more renowned for his short stories, he did write some novels, including “Naya Qanoon” (The New Law), which highlighted the legal and social issues faced by the common people in post-partition society.

5. Biographical Works:
– Manto also wrote biographical sketches and profiles of various literary and cultural figures of his time. These pieces provide insights into the lives and personalities of people he knew or admired.

6. Uncollected Works:
– Some of Manto’s works were never compiled into published collections during his lifetime. These uncollected works are scattered in various publications, and they include additional short stories, essays, and literary pieces.

Saadat Hasan Manto’s writing was often controversial due to its explicit depiction of social and political realities, human psychology, and the impact of partition. Despite the controversy, his works continue to be celebrated for their powerful narratives and unflinching examination of the human condition, making him one of the most influential and enduring literary figures in Urdu literature. His stories remain relevant for their unapologetic exploration of complex, uncomfortable truths.


Saadat Hasan Manto, one of the most celebrated and controversial figures in Urdu literature, left behind a profound and enduring legacy that continues to influence writers, artists, and intellectuals both in South Asia and around the world. His legacy can be understood in several key aspects:

1. Fearless Expression of Truth:
Manto is renowned for his unflinching portrayal of the raw, unfiltered truths of society, particularly the dark and often taboo aspects. He tackled subjects like human depravity, violence, sexuality, and the impact of Partition with a candor that shocked and captivated readers. His commitment to depicting reality as it was earned him both admiration and criticism. His fearless approach to storytelling remains a touchstone for writers seeking to challenge societal norms and explore the human condition.

2. Masterful Short Stories:
Manto’s mastery of the short story genre is often considered unparalleled in Urdu literature. His stories are characterized by their concise, impactful narratives and the depth of their characters. They delve into the complexities of human psychology and society. Manto’s stories are still widely read and studied, and his storytelling techniques have influenced generations of writers in the Urdu language.

3. Social and Political Commentary:
Manto’s writings are a reflection of the socio-political turmoil of his time, particularly during the Partition of India in 1947. His works provide valuable insights into the human suffering and the communal tensions of that period. His narratives are a vital historical document, shedding light on the trauma, brutality, and complexity of that era, which continues to be of interest to historians and scholars.

4. Advocacy for Freedom of Expression:
Manto’s life and writings also serve as a symbol of the struggle for freedom of expression. He faced numerous legal battles and censorship for his writings, yet he continued to write boldly. Manto’s resilience in the face of adversity has inspired countless artists and writers to defend their right to express themselves freely, even in the face of societal and political pressures.

5. Influence on Subcontinental Literature:
Manto’s impact extends well beyond Urdu literature. His works have been translated into numerous languages and have left a lasting mark on the broader landscape of South Asian literature. Many writers, both within and outside of the subcontinent, have acknowledged Manto as a major influence on their craft, and his themes of human frailty and societal hypocrisy continue to resonate with readers worldwide.

6. Cultural Icon:
Manto has become a cultural icon, with his life and works serving as subjects for plays, films, and documentaries. These adaptations have brought his writings to new audiences and increased his visibility as a literary figure. He is celebrated through various cultural events and literary festivals, ensuring that his legacy remains vibrant and relevant.

In conclusion, Saadat Hasan Manto’s legacy is multifaceted, encompassing his fearless pursuit of truth, his masterful storytelling, his socio-political commentary, his advocacy for freedom of expression, his influence on literature, and his status as a cultural icon. His writings continue to resonate with readers and writers, and his commitment to depicting the unvarnished realities of society remains a source of inspiration for those who value honesty and integrity in literature and art.

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