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Manto

Jun 18

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

SDPI Seminar Hall, 38, Embassy Road, G-6/3, Islamabad

2012
marks the centennial anniversary of the birth of the great Pakistani writer and
social critic Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-55). In contrast to other icons of the
Pakistani literary establishment like Mirza Ghalib, Muhammad Iqbal and Faiz
Ahmad Faiz, however, Manto and his work never enjoyed state patronage; in fact
when it found the latter couldn’t marginalize him completely, it actively tried
to prosecute him on trumped-up charges relating to ‘obscenity and immorality’.
If the state’s response to Manto has been marked by apathy, the latter
generated an interesting response from Pakistan’s literary establishment:
at times accepted as a Progressive, at others derided as a prude. This attitude
continues to the present day. This talk focuses on Manto’s life and legacy, as
well as the fact that he has been unfairly bracketed merely as a ‘short story
writer’, despite the fact that Manto had a rich humanistic, progressive and
anti-imperialistic vision which strongly comes out in works like Letters
to Uncle Sam as well as his earliest collections of stories and essays.
Also insufficiently appreciated by literary critics is his deep sympathy with
Karl Marx and communism; one eminent literary critic has recently even labeled
him as a cultural plank of the Pakistan
Ideology/’Pakistaniat’. It is thus necessary to rescue, restore and revive the
authentic Manto today to challenge these historic and postmodern caricatures of
him and his work. In the context of the relationship between Pakistan and
United States historically, given the recent Wikileaks and Memogate
revelations, as well as the recently-concluded ‘review process’ on the status
of future relations between the two countries (and the continuing fallout from
the Chicago summit over opening of NATO supply lines), Manto is as
astonishingly prescient today as he was in his own times. So can there ever be
a ‘final word’ on Manto?

Bionote of Mr Raza
Naeem:

Raza
Naeem is an Arabic-speaking social scientist and literary critic presently
teaching a course on Education and Sustainable Development at the Beaconhouse National
University in Lahore. He is a longtime activist of the
Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP). He has been trained in Political
Economy from the University of Leeds in UK,
and in Middle Eastern History and Anthropology from the University
of Arkansas at Fayetteville, US.
He has travelled widely in Egypt
and Yemen
over the years, interviewing a large number of leftist activists in both
countries. He is presently working on a book on a political and cultural history
of Yemen
post-Arab Spring. His other research interests include the political economy of
India and China and the
economic and political thought of Karl Marx, Karl Polanyi and Thorstein
Veblen. He is a regular book critic and commentator for Frontline India,
The Guardian UK, Monthly Newsline Karachi and Daily Times Lahore, and has been
published in the United States, UK, Pakistan, India, Yemen and South Africa; as
well as being regularly interviewed on PTV and radio on Middle Eastern issues,
especially the Arab Spring. He has just written a long tribute to Manto,
to be published in Frontline India and Pakistan Today, and has recently spoken
at a Manto commemmoration held at FC College in Lahore in May, as well as being interviewed
on Manto’s life and legacy on Radio FM91 in June.

ENTRY IS OPEN TO ALL

Chair:

Mr Ahmad Salim, Writer and
Senior Advisor, Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)

Discussant:

Dr Ayesha Siddiqa,
Civil-Military Relations Analyst, and Advisor to Chairman National
Accountability Bureau (NAB)