Kingdom's End and Other Stories

Saadat Hasan Manto
Verso Books
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From Publisher's Weekly: Born in what is now the Indian state of Punjab, the Urdu writer Manto (1912-55) lived by his pen as journalist, essayist, screenwriter; his continuing popularity in his homeland, however, rests on more than 200 short stories, many revolving around the central event of his generationthe departure of the English overlords in 1947 and the Partition of the subcontinent into hostile states, Hindu and Muslim. Bombay, where Manto spent much of his working life, is the scene of many of his stories, about drifters, drinkers, gamblers and other marginal types. But historic events provide the tension, as in ``It Happened in 1919,'' when Gandhi was denied freedom of movement, a despotic act that triggered bloody rioting in that year, and in the bizarre, caustic ``Toba Tek Singh,'' where the inmates of lunatic asylums are exchanged, each to the appropriate nation, depending on religion, adding to the general madness of Partition. Manto sometimes displays a weakness for tricky devices, as in the self-indulgent title story, where an odd love affair of strangers takes place entirelyfrom accidental inception to fatal conclusionon the telephone. There's no denying Manto's talent for vivid description and narrative momentum, yet the relative remoteness of the Partition in time, place and culture will probably continue to deny his work a sizable Western audience.