Renowned historian Ayesha Jalal launches new book at HUF

April 5, 2013

Jalal's latest book is an in-depth look at the life and context of Saadat Hasan Manto

Jalal’s latest book is an in-depth look at the life and context of Saadat Hasan Manto

Renowned historian Ayesha Jalal visited the Hindi Urdu Flagship on April 11, 2013 to launch her new book The Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide. Jalal gave a seminar on her book on in the Meyerson Conference Room, WCH 4.118. The seminar attracted a large audience of UT Austin faculty, students, and members of the public.

Jalal’s book focuses on Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955), an established Urdu short story writer and a rising screenwriter in Bombay at the time of India’s partition in 1947. He is perhaps best known for the short stories he wrote following his migration to Lahore in newly formed Pakistan. Today Manto is an acknowledged master of twentieth-century Urdu literature, and his fiction serves as a lens through which the tragedy of partition is brought sharply into focus. In The Pity of Partition, Manto’s life and work serve as a prism to capture the human dimension of sectarian conflict in the final decades and immediate aftermath of the British raj.

Jalal draws on Manto’s stories, sketches, and essays, as well as a trove of his private letters, to present an intimate history of partition and its devastating toll. Probing the creative tension between literature and history, she charts a new way of reconnecting the histories of individuals, families, and communities in the throes of cataclysmic change. Jalal brings to life the people, locales, and events that inspired Manto’s fiction, which is characterized by an eye for detail, a measure of wit and irreverence, and elements of suspense and surprise. In turn, she mines these writings for fresh insights into everyday cosmopolitanism in Bombay and Lahore, the experience and causes of partition, the postcolonial transition, and the advent of the Cold War in South Asia.

The first in-depth look in English at this influential literary figure, The Pity of Partition demonstrates the revelatory power of art in times of great historical rupture.

Jalal is a MacArthur Fellow and Professor of History at Tufts University. She obtained her BA, majoring in History and Political Science, from Wellesley College, USA, and her doctorate in history from the University of Cambridge.

Jalal has been Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge (1980-84), Leverhulme Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge (1984-87), Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C. (1985-86) and Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies (1988-90). She has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tufts University, Columbia University, and Harvard University.

Her publications include The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan (Cambridge 1985 and 1994); The State of Martial Rule: the Origins of Pakistan’s Political Economy of Defence (Cambridge, 1990) and Democracy and Authoritarianism in South Asia: a Comparative and Historical Perspective (Cambridge 1995). She has also co-authored Modern South Asia: History, Culture and Political Economy (Routledge 1998) with Sugata Bose, which has been published by Oxford University Press in India and by Sang-e-Meel in Pakistan.