It s a marvellous short stories collection Firstly, my sincere apologies to all Manto fans for the following review This book was bad just plain bad I have never struggled so much to finish any book before this one I really don t know where to even big I have no idea why is this book called Bombay Stories There was nothing Bombay about any of the stories Most of the them were so similar and repetative in theme, all about pimps, prostitutes, struggling actors and directors, pathetic parties and aimless drinking Agreed that these elements are a part of any metropolitan city but there was nothing really bombay about it This book has miserably failed to bring out even the slightest essence of the city the writing or the translation, most probably was so bland and basic, it seems someone just jotted down the stories for the sake of finishing a book I really hate giving one star to any book and I try my best to give it the most stars but this one was just bad I would not recommend this book to anyone, especially those wanting to get a real essence of the city of Bombay. Bombay In The S And S Reigned As The Undisputed Cosmopolitan Capital Of The Subcontinent Bombay Stories Is A Collection Of Manto S Work From His Years In The City Freshly Arrived In S Mumbai, Manto Saw A City Like No Other An Exhilarating Hub Of License And Liberty, And A City Bursting With Both Creative Energy And Helpless Despondency It Was To Be Manto S Favourite City, And He Was Among The First To Write The Bombay Characters We Are Now Familiar With From Countless Stories And Films Prostitutes, Pimps, Lowlifes, Writers, Intellectuals, Aspiring Film Actors, Thugs, Conmen And Crooks His Hard Edged, Moving Stories Remain, A Hundred Years After His Birth, Startling And Provocative In Searching Out Those Forgotten By Humanity, Manto Wrote About What It Means To Be Human Matt Reeck And Aftab Ahmad S Translations Reach Into The Streets And Capture In Contemporary, Idiomatic English The Feeling That Urdu S Most Celebrated Short Story Writer S Work Stories Provide In The Original I m always taken by a bit of surprise when Manto turns out to be the narrator of his own stories I don t mean that he s writing the story for us, I mean when he up and directly inserts himself into the story which isn t really breaking a fourth wall so much as letting us peek into his diary To sum it up, his diary is rife with accounts of his crazy ass friends and street women They go out and do some pimpin and drinkin , and then on his worst days tragedy will strike I think Manto s storytelling is easy and lightweight, which makes for a favourable read I am, however, a little hard on content Manto will bring you to some interesting places, for sure the best thing about non English writers is when they give you insight on where they live, of their culture, how people are different and what histories lie in the setting so yeah, Manto will take you to the bustling city of Bombay, particularly where the lower classes reside It all makes for an interesting social scenery But a diary is a diary I would read about this and that happening and don t really come away richer than I started That s the distinction I make with Manto, I think That he doesn t try to be deeper than what is, and hands you stories that come with no real obligation to analyse A little difficult to describe what I think of him as a writer, but yeah I did the best I could My picks based on resonance Babu Gopi Nath and The Insult. When Hamid dropped Lata off at her house at nine that night, he felt hollow The touch of her soft body was sheared from him like bark from a tree, and he spent the entire night tossing and turning.In the course of finding a prostitute for a client, Hamid becomes infatuated with the fresh Lata and spends thousands of rupees on her, taken from his bank account without the knowledge of his wife Moral disintegration follows Early in the story Manto contrasts meticulous Hamid with the well to do client Babu Har Gopal, who seems indifferent to filth in others or himself He ate off dirty plates and was unfazed His pillowcase was soiled and stank, but he never thought of changing it Hamid thought long and hard, but he couldn t understand him He often asked, Babuji, why aren t you revolted by dirtiness Babu Har Gopal would smile I am revolted But when you re obsessed by it, you see it everywhere How can you cure yourself of that Hamid had no answer but his disgust didn t abate.Manto was obsessed by the colorful life of Bombay immigrants scrabbling to live on the edge He sees it everywhere He writes about prostitutes, gangsters, and every kind of hanger on in the film industry The stories are matter of fact characters generally operate as best they can within the rules of the powers that be around them, be they pimps or courts Almost everyone suffers from intermittant illness, and many drink heavily a few are drug addicts And yet the stories aren t depressing they say, this is what life is People still love, party, dance, laugh Many of the stories here, drawn from a variety of collections published in his lifetime, show Bombay citizens of all religions living side by side, but a couple are from the time of partition and portray the terror and bloodshed Mano was Muslim and eventually took his family to Lahore.Saadat Hasan Manto was a short story writer, journalist and scriptwriter for films and radio in India and later Pakistan He was born in 1912 in a small town in Punjab and died in Pakistan 1955, an alcoholic The years that constituted his active writing career, however, were lived in Bombay and Delhi Manto was the son of a strict lawyer, but he was an indifferent student and not cut out for the law He did finally finish university, and became a journalist, with the other writing roles developing later An irascible employee and editor, Manto frequently moved from newspaper to newspaper or studio to studio as a consequence of quarrels He also used frank language in his stories, and fought censorship actions throughout his life According to the translators afterword, his work is still banned in Pakistan.Manto was politically aware, but also skeptical One of the stories ridicules Communists in name only I wanted to talk about the development of Communist philosophy from Hegel to Karl Marx and the disuss the viewpoints of Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin I wanted to tell her my opinion of India s Communist Movement and to hear hers too I wanted to tell her stories of young men carrying Karl Marx s books tucked beneath their arms with only one idea in mind to impress othersThen I would tell her about the young men and women who become Communist as a way to meet the opposite sex I would tell her how half the boys who join the Movement are, simple put, horny, and how they stare at the girl initiates with eyes filled with centuries of unrequited desire I would tell her how most of hte girls are rebellious daughter of fat cat industrialists who read introductory books then become activemembers just in order to stave off boredomOf course some stories are successful than others, but I enjoyed the collection very much It felt very authentic, without striving to be so Manto himself is a character in several of them, and he sometimes refers to this overlap directly The translators emphasize his role as the first modern Bombay author, portraying the city as a place of anonymity that is both liberating one can be oneself and lonely no one notices whether you live or die The truth is that I ve lived with dervishes and gypsies since I was a child I love them and can t live without them I ve decided that I m going to stay at a saint s shrine as soon as my money runs out Whorehouses and shrines I feel at peace nowhere else I ll quit going to whorehouses soon enough because my money s about to run out But India has thousands of saints I ll go find one when my time comes Why do you like whorehouses and shrines I asked.He thought for a moment and then answered, Because there, from top to bottom, it s all about deception What better place could there be for a person who wants to deceive himself Further amused by Manto s artistry Brewed in the cheap alleys of pre independent Bombay, amidst the low lives and the pleasure seekers and the wanna bes, these stories pick up the commonplace, the everyday, and make it shine like embers His effortlessness is envious. I honestly think this book just suffered a lot from its translation As I was reading it I could literally feel how much context I was missing out on because it wasn t translated well A lot of meaning and symbolism is lost once a work has been translated and I m quite a big fan of the way penguin pocket classics format their translated fiction, so for example in those editions if a phrase, name, or a word is mentioned that needs further explanation for the reader to truly understand its importance they add an asterisk and give the background information necessary in the footnote on the page It s simple to follow and helps a lot with understanding the book I think if Vintage had a similar format to that of Penguin s this would have been far enjoyable There was a point in the book that just annoyed me so there s a line that says I don t know what his real name was but everyone called him Dhundhu, which was fitting because his job was to find girls that satisfied his customers varied tastes But the thing is I don t know why that s fitting because I don t know what that word means to begin with That s why I feel like I wasn t getting as much as I could have from this collection unfortunately.The writing was really bland nothing was driving the stories, if this were to have been one story rather than a collection of short stories I m not sure I would have even gotten through it at all I failed to see a point or meaning to any of them but I think the stories were of a character city analysis rather than one with meaning in them so that was fine Manto often puts himself in the stories which I didn t enjoy at all it made the stories feel like a poorly written recount because it was all just I went to the coffee shop to meet my friend My friend was struggling We talked some then we separated Then I met another friend Again, I feel like this was less Manto s fault and the translators.Regardless, there s no argument that Manto was an incredibly influential writer and I m glad to have read some of his work His life was the biggest tragedy and yet his legacy carried on in formation of India s film industry, it s literally the biggest shame that he didn t live to see it I also enjoyed the essay, Why I Don t Go to the Movies in the appendix. I generally love most things written about India, particularly from this time period But there is not a lot of redeeming value in this collection of stories written mostly in the 1940s, which have been recently translated, collected into one volume, and then published in 2014 The characters, heavily centered on pimps and prostitutes, are mostly unappealing The stories themselves are not highly entertaining However, I can appreciate that these stories were groundbreaking in its day and have heavily influenced several succeeding generations of writers There are small glimpses into the Bombay of the 1930s and 1940s, which are fascinating and further put the city way ahead of its time But the price of extracting these glimpses is too high for my taste. Manto is able to conjure beauty from the drudgery of Bombay the dirt filled puddles reflect the diaphanous sun light of a gleaming Bombay morning, as the cast of outcasts who populate these short stories pimps and prostitutes, artists and assassins as the lugubrious and the lonesome lurch from jubilation to mourning In his unflinching portrayal of the seedy under belly of Indian life, a break from all of the cliches and caricatures which can beset stories about India and Indian society, Manto represents a truly original voice in Indian literature, at times unrefined and coarse, but with the eye of a true storyteller Mozelle stands as a particular highlight a story where the heartless floozy sacrifices herself for a insecure Sikh man who she may or may not love and his fiancee The lead character, whose casual indifference to any form of rules or decorum captivates the reader as much as it does Trilochan indeed Manto s ability to circumvent norms is his key skill s a novelist Mozelle, like so many other Manto characters, defies any kind of convention, indeed most of the female characters in his collection of short stories demonstrate this spirit of independence, this disdain for classification Manto can turn the most hardened murderers such as Mammad Bhai into honourable men, the most pathetic lovers such as Chaddah and Mommy into sympathetic characters, as Bombay is transformed via the alchemy of Manto s prose into a city of million and one untold stories of jilted actresses, of prostitutes desperate for love, lonely directors and naive revolutionaries Few writers are able to turn the waves of a woman s hair into billowing of smoke on the skyline, or a woman s breasts into finely crafted pots yet this is the magic of Manto who was able to paint Bombay in limitless number of harlequin colours. Rating 3.5 starsA collection of 15 short stories set in pre independence Bombay, featuring prostitutes, pimps, writers, thugs, and the like Written in simple prose at least if you go by the translation , the stories are by turns delightful, moving, and occasionally, a little mediocre They also manage to be both frank and subtle, which is an excellent achievement.The appendix of the book has three non fiction pieces by Manto, which help us understand about him.On society and prostitutes, in Women and the Film World Society produces prostitutes, and its wide reaching laws foster their existence So why are they stigmatized, why is their collective death wished, when they too are part of society If we want to transform them into something good, then we will have to work to improve society as a whole As long as we don t think with new vigor about how our society operates, then in this so called era of culture and civilization there will continue to be prostitutes everywhere and this impurity will never disappear.On gender bias in the way society views men and women, also in the same piece Our so called honorable citizens hold fundamentally flawed opinions about prostitutes in that their posturing is essentially no than a way for them to insist upon their respectability and dignity Men control society and take advantage of the power this bestows on them Society says that men always remain men, regardless of whether they commit sins at each and every step of their way, but a woman no longer remains a woman if she succumbs even once to a youthful desire or some other impulse, or if she loses her way for a moment due to a man s forceful demands She s viewed with contempt and hatred, and doors close for her that would remain open for men.On what he writes about, in a lecture at Jogeshwari College So long as there is human weakness and especially so long as it exists in me , I will search it out and expose it in otherswhen I m sitting in a train and take out my new expensive pen just so everyone will look over in awe, I get interested in my crassness When my next door neighbour beats his wife but she still cleans his shoes, I hardly feel any sympathy for her But when she gets beaten up, threatens suicide, leaves the house to watch a movie so her husband must suffer through the next two hours of uncertainty, then I feel a strange sort of sympathy for bothMy heroine is the cheapest of whores who works at night and sleeps fitfully during the day, persecuted by nightmares that she s getting old, and whose heavy eyelids are weighed down by years of missed sleep That s what I write about Her desperation, her illnesses, her anxieties, her insults that s what I like, that s what I write about, not the housewife s pleasant banter, good health, and high mindedness.
- 274 pages
- Bombay Stories
- Saadat Hasan Manto
- 22 September 2018 Saadat Hasan Manto