Manto’s year should have come to an end in 2012. But the revived interest in Manto has not at all waned. Researchers are still engaged and trying to dig out new facts related to his life or to his writings. Critics too are engaged with the same enthusiasm, with the intent to discover some new points which may help them interpret his fiction in a unique manner.
The current year appears to be an extension of Manto’s year. Some of the new arrivals heaped on my table include, Kulliyat-i-Manto (7 volumes) compiled by Amjad Tufail (Narratives, Islamabad), Poora Manto (Volume I) compiled by Shamsul Haq Usmani (Oxford University Press, Karachi), Hamary Liye Manto Sahib by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi (Scheherzade, Karachi) and Manto Aur Hum compiled by Altaf Ahmad Qureshi (Siqafat-i-Islamia, Lahore). Amjad Tufail has, in recent years, risen to prominence as a critic and scholar. He is well-known for his critical writings. His present work entails much research and he has done so by taking pains to trace authentic versions, as far as possible, of each of Manto’s writings.
But we already have two kulliyats, one brought out long before Manto’s year by Sang-e-Meel, the other compiled and published in India. Amjad Tufail is conscious of this fact. In justification, he has asserted that his compilation on Manto is more authentic and comprehensive.
With regards to Poora Manto, Oxford University Press, Karachi, had chalked out its own programme to bring out an authentic and comprehensive compilation of Manto’s collected works. With this purpose in view it approached Prof Shamsul Haq Usmani of Jamia Millia, Delhi. He accepted their offer and the first volume is now available. Prof Usmani, in the foreword, has talked about the flaws he found in different editions on Manto by different publishers. In an attempt to satisfy his readers he has explained the method employed for determining the authenticity of the texts. On the basis of his intense care in this respect he has asserted that in his volumes, readers will find authentic texts of Manto’s writings. Particular care is also exhibited by the elaborate foot-notes given at the end of each story.
Manto Aur Hum is a collection of articles read at the Manto seminar arranged by the Lahore branch of the Academy of Letters. The compiler, Altaf Ahmad Qureshi, claims in the foreword that the articles are an attempt to see Manto with reference to the present day situation. In the volume published by Scheherzade, leading critic Shamsur Rahman Faruqi responds to questions put by the editor of a journal. This dialogue is a breakaway from the complimentary approach of writers and is in fact a critical approach.
Faruqi has generously paid compliments where compliment is due, but at the same time he is harshly critical on occasions which, according to his perception, call for such an approach. So the dialogue may trigger off a heated controversy. At the start Farooqi is hard on those critics who like to treat Manto as exclusively a writer always delving into sex and claiming that obscenity is the hallmark of his fiction. They, according to him, like to ignore the large number of his stories which deal with human problems.
After these preliminary remarks starts the discussion and dissection of Manto’s stories.