Alok Bhalla


Manto's first set of stories about Partition, like 'Toba Tek Singh', 'Thanda Gosht' or 'Siyah Hashye', written soon after 1947, are vituperative, slanderous and bitterly ironic. They are terrifying chronicles of the damned who locate themselves in madness and crime, and promise nothing less than an endless and repeated cycle of random and capricious violence in which anyone can become a beast and everyone can be destroyed. Manto uses them to bear shocked witness to an obscene world in which people become, for no reason at all, predators or victims; a world in which they either decide to participate gleefully in murder or find themselves unable to do anything but scream with pain when they are stabbed or burnt or raped. Manto makes no attempt to offer any historical explanations for the hatred and the carnage. He blames no one, but he also forgives no one. Without sentimentality or illusions, without pious postures or ideological blinkers, he describes a perverse and corrupt time in which the sustaining norms of a society as it had existed are erased, and no moral or political reason is available.



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