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A substantial collection from an important writer.

A celebrated Urdu writer’s posthumously collected short stories illuminate the human cost and the absurdity of the India-Pakistan Partition.

Manto, widely regarded as the foremost Urdu short story writer of the 20th century, writes tales of brutality, possession, and innocence. These translations of his work by Hasan and Memon illustrate the writer’s ability to regard everyone—crooks, the upper class, politicians, soldiers, housewives, and prostitutes—with an eye trained on humanity. Manto’s characters are forced to consider themselves anew as blood is shed and political boundaries are redrawn. The collection begins with “Kingdom’s End,” in which a series of seemingly random phone calls forces Manmohan to evaluate his life. “Do you like your life?” the caller asks him. He replies: “Give me a few moments....The truth is, I’ve never thought about it.” Manto’s stories often end with a twist, though, so Manmohan’s self-reflection is quickly made difficult. Manto frequently takes on both the divisions created by religion and the vows that people make to each other. In “Two-Nation Theory” and “For Freedom’s Sake,” lovers from different backgrounds are challenged by their unsustainable promises. “As long as India does not win freedom,” the husband says in the latter, “Nigar and I will live not as husband and wife but as friends.” The promise becomes a problem. Occasionally Manto’s purposes are more transparently allegorical, as in the title story, which succeeds in highlighting the atrocities and stupidities of war: When a stray dog crosses battle lines, soldiers on both sides debate its religion and immediately begin to torment the animal. Prostitutes are a frequent subject of Manto’s stories, though their worth is generally defined through male characters’ visions of their physical beauty. Each story makes Manto’s argument plain: Partition divided families and identities, and yet life continued to flourish.

A substantial collection from an important writer.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953861-00-9

Page Count: 418

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.

A grandmaster of the hard-boiled crime genre shifts gears to spin bittersweet and, at times, bizarre tales about bruised, sensitive souls in love and trouble.

In one of the 17 stories that make up this collection, a supporting character says: “People are so afraid of dying that they don’t even live the little bit of life they have.” She casually drops this gnomic observation as a way of breaking down a lead character’s resistance to smoking a cigarette. But her aphorism could apply to almost all the eponymous awkward Black men examined with dry wit and deep empathy by the versatile and prolific Mosley, who takes one of his occasional departures from detective fiction to illuminate the many ways Black men confound society’s expectations and even perplex themselves. There is, for instance, Rufus Coombs, the mailroom messenger in “Pet Fly,” who connects more easily with household pests than he does with the women who work in his building. Or Albert Roundhouse, of “Almost Alyce,” who loses the love of his life and falls into a welter of alcohol, vagrancy, and, ultimately, enlightenment. Perhaps most alienated of all is Michael Trey in “Between Storms,” who locks himself in his New York City apartment after being traumatized by a major storm and finds himself taken by the outside world as a prophet—not of doom, but, maybe, peace? Not all these awkward types are hapless or benign: The short, shy surgeon in “Cut, Cut, Cut” turns out to be something like a mad scientist out of H.G. Wells while “Showdown on the Hudson” is a saga about an authentic Black cowboy from Texas who’s not exactly a perfect fit for New York City but is soon compelled to do the right thing, Western-style. The tough-minded and tenderly observant Mosley style remains constant throughout these stories even as they display varied approaches from the gothic to the surreal.

The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4956-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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