Illustration by Lahore-based artist Shehzil Malik
Literature lovers across the world woke up to a special Google doodle on Monday morning: playwright Saadat Hasan Manto surrounded by yellow sheets of paper with a pen in hand.
Known for his candid and often provocative narratives, Manto has been widely credited as one of South Asia’s most accomplished modernist fiction writers. The doodle was illustrated by Lahore-based artist Shehzil Malik.
— Shehzil Malik (@shehzilm) May 11, 2020
The writer was born on May 11, 1912, in Samrala, Punjab (then in pre-Partitioned India). According to Google, Manto came of age during an era of significant civil unrest amid the growing movement to liberate India from British rule and “despite early troubles in school, Manto discovered a passion for literature, and by his early twenties, he had published his own translations of European classics in his native Urdu tongue. He soon progressed to original fiction, channeling his iconoclastic spirit into short stories like the aptly titled Revolutionary (1935)”.
By the 1940s, Manto’s was a well-known screenwriter and “through his unfiltered exploration of marginalised characters and social taboos, he charted controversial territory that few writers dared to explore”.
Manto moved to Pakistan after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. He wrote several short stories examining this tumultuous historical moment. He published 22 collections of short stories throughout his prolific career, but he wasn’t limited to the medium; he also wrote a novel, three collections of essays, over 100 radio plays, and more than 15 film scripts.
Google also thanked Manto for courageously sharing his truth.
Talking about her inspitation behind the doodle, Malik said that she recalled Manto’s stories by looking at photographs of him, as well as watching the biographical movie based on the life. “Manto is a legend, and it’s hard to do justice to his personality,” she added.
Malik, who is a big fan of Manto, said that the doodle was meaningful for her personally as he was a “hero to me for pushing the envelope in Pakistan through his art (which I try to do and often get in trouble) so this is the perfect assignment! His stories are dark, beautiful, brutal, honest; once you read them, you can’t forget them. He used his words as a mirror to society, to speak truth to power, and would not back down in the face of intimidation.”