Saadat Hasan Manto, Pakistani author who angered progressives and puritans alike in his time, has been awarded the highest civilian award on this year’s Independence Day. The controversial author was selected for the Nishan-e-Imtiaz 57 years after his death in his birth centenary year.
He wrote his first story at 19. And over the next 24 years before his death at 43, he packed in several collections of short stories, radio drama, essays, and sketches besides a novel, and over half-a-dozen film scripts. Between all this, he managed to anger society enough to attract court cases galore on charges of obscenity and became the “creative conscience of the sub-continent’’ in the words of writer Zaheda Hina.
Born in Ludhiana on May 11, 1912, Manto died in Lahore on January 18, 1955. He began his literary journey by translating works of Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekov and Maxim Gorky before penning stories of his own.
The decision to confer the honour on Manto was widely welcomed with people reflecting on the irony of how a man who had courted trouble through his works yet put Urdu literature on the world map and died a pauper had finally got his due.
Another leading limelight of Pakistan’s shrinking cultural sphere who was given the Nishan-e-Imtiaz posthumously was ghazal king Mehdi Hasan who died earlier this year.