Ayesha Jalal's first book changed the way historians understood “high politics” surrounding India's partition. Saadat Hasan Manto, the subject of this book, is arguably one of the best chroniclers of the human drama of partition. In The Pity of Partition, Jalal seeks to meld her earlier interests and those of her subject, to “connect the micro history of an individual and a family with the macro history of communities and states” (p. xii). Manto is also special for the author because he was a close family member. Although he died a year before Jalal was born, she grew up “with Manto's conspicuously absent presence in our joint family” (p. xi). That relationship also makes this book a family history of sorts. Subjects as controversial as Manto or partition, particularly when they reflect on one's own family, are not easy to write about. It is a testament to Jalal's skill...

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