It redounds to Mr Amir Rizvi’s credit that he has presented a number of Manto’s stories in this volume that, according to the best available information, have not been translated before. In this way, he has managed to provide a wider view of Saadat Hasan Manto’s literary genius to his readers. This itself constitutes a considerable achievement. Manto’s literary range and depth go beyond the general impression about him as a writer who confined himself to two pet subjects, Partition and Prostitutes.

It must be said that Rizvi Sahib is a passionate admirer of Manto, the creator of iconic short stories in Urdu. What has impelled him to undertake the translation of these short stories, the majority of which have not been taken up by earlier translators, is the aesthetic joy and creative enrichment that Saadat Hasan Manto’s masterpieces have given him. He obviously wishes to share that joy and feeling of enrichment with the English-reading audience, both at home and abroad. People like myself are grateful to him for presenting Manto in accessible prose characterised by simplicity of expression as well as a sense of fidelity to the original.

Translation of course is no simple matter, or as the idiom runs in Urdu, no ‘Khalaji ka ghar’ (aunt’s house). It is a very challenging act involving skill, inventiveness and courage.

Translations are not merely renderings from one language to another, but also from one culture to another. They involve a simultaneous process of incineration and reincarnation.

At the end of the day, the reincarnated body and soul must convincingly appear to be the same entity that underwent the transformation. I have known Rizvi Sahib to be a man of exceptional courage, great determination and good literary sensibility. The book in hand is a proof of this assessment. It enables the reader to have an inkling into Manto’s wider perspective in the field of short story writing. The title of the book MANTO REVISITED is indeed significant.

In a sense Saadat Hasan Manto has already been ‘revisited’ by literary critics at both local and global levels since his passing away in 1954 at the age of forty three. Today his status as one of the leading short story writers of the twentieth century is widely acknowledged. The controversies that cost him so dear in his lifetime have since largely petered out. There was a time when his position was assailed by all prevailing literary schools, ranging from the progressives to modernists, from aesthetes to traditionalists, as well as nationalists. They lambasted him for being pornographic on the one hand, and for his constricted poetics on the other. It is not useful to go into those controversies here, but a very productive discussion on these charges is available in Mr Umar Memon’s book on Manto. It may be said en passant that Mr Memon passed away recently but his contribution in introducing Manto in a fair perspective must be appreciated.

Great literature in our contemporary times carries an ingrained but multidimensional tragi comic vision. Tragedy and comedy no longer possess distinct borders with a clearly defined no-man’s-land in between. They merge and mingle at will in the field of narrative art, be it pure realism, magical realism, romanticism, symbolism, modernism, or the technique of stream of consciousness and so on. Manto’s art is also suffused with a tragi-comic perspective but his narrative is clearly rooted in social and psychological realism. Manto produced great literature within the parameters he set for his Muse. Or does the Muse in fact choose such parameters for great practitioners of art!

Let me conclude this review by saying that Rizvi Sahib’s book will leave no doubt in a reader’s mind that with Manto we are face to face with one of the most significant short story writers of our times. He emerges as a creator of memorable characters in his fiction. His dialogue is racy and down-to-earth. He is a master of wit and innuendo, and of sustained humour and dramatic surprise, with a flair for the confessional. He explores the fundamental forces that drive human behaviour either generally or in peculiar circumstances. He can plunge into the depths of the human psyche with uncanny ease. But the great thing is that despite a searing exploration of human conduct in his art, the sublimity and nobility of the human spirit remains unimpaired.

Manto observed about himself: ‘The fact is that I don’t write stories; the stories write me.’ In another place he says ‘I am forced to think of myself as a pickpocket who picks his own pocket and then hands over its content to you.’ We thank Rizvi Sahib for aiding and abetting in Manto’s self-confessed crime. I have no doubt that the reader will enjoy the set of translated stories by Manto in this book.