Friday, March 14, 2014




“Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence — whether much that is glorious—whether all that is profound—does not spring from disease of thought—from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.” Edgar Allan Poe.

Is there a link  between creativity and restlessness ? Restlessness is starkly visible in almost all the works of sadat Hassan  Manto . And  Manto  passes on  a small amount of his restlessness to his readers as well? And   this passing of restlessness by a writer  may also be called  as "coming under his spell " or" getting influenced "by his work. That   puts Manto  in the category of some great writers that include  Camus , Kafka and Maupassant .

    I have quite often thought  about this creative restlessness. And in  Manto’s case , I believe , his  particular family circumstances might have  led towards  the development of this  restlessness and finally  anxiety in later part of his life. His  heavy drinking  or what is presently known as  substance abuse might have also aggravated  his  mental distress that  eventually led to his death. We also know that  Manto suffered from such  symptoms of anxiety and depression as would  need  a fair amount of clinical  diagnosis presently. His wife Safia  tried  to attend to it. She once got him admitted to a mental hospital .Like Manto, we have also heard about   such  afflictions of Wolfgang Mozart, Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf , Ernest Hemingway and many more .

 I believe that Freud’s theory of the Oedipus Complex can  also be  applied to Manto . 
As a young child ,Manto was   afraid of his father  but he also   idealised him .  This  induced a sense of fear in his personality. Accordingly , we find that  most of the male characters in his stories are so to say  cruel and  arrogant or lacking compassion . Could it  be a result of the fear of his father ? But then look at his women ; Even if they are prostitutes or housewives, they  possesses more nerve and resolve .He presents them with  compassion and care. This could be due to   love and admiration for his mother. If so, then it is  an  extension of the Oedipal relationship.

  Having said so , sometimes i am also  led to believe that  Manto , at times ,comes up as an exception in this analysis .   It is a well known fact that his creative genius remained   intact inspite of the worst  bouts of restlessness coupled with  mental illness  especially after 1951. He suffered from hallucination, anxiety neurosis and depression . And during  the  last days of his life,  he often turned  sick  on account of liquor abuse. But during this period also,    he kept writing   with verve and intensity,  may be  for a bottle of liquor . He  wrote so many of his literary masterpieces even during this period  .Can my readers add  more to my observations ?

In the meantime  I quote Manto to conclude this brief post :-

"If humanity could have listened to the exhortations that stealing or lying is bad, then one prophet would have been enough. But the list of prophets is large…We writers are no prophets, whatever we understand, true or false, we present to our readers; we do not insist that the reader should accept it as the only truth …… We speak of the malady, but we do not write out prescriptions."

( Avtar Mota )

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