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About this book

This updated and expanded new edition reviews Rushdie's novels in the light of recent critical developments. It also features new chapters which examine the author's latest works including Fury (2001), Shalimar the Clown (2005) and The Enchantress of Florence (2008), bringing coverage of this important British author up to the present.

Table of Contents

1. Early Life and Early Works

Abstract
(Ahmed) Salman Rushdie justifies Wordsworth’s view that ‘the Child is father of the Man’.1 Rushdie wrote: ‘The Wizard of Oz (the film, not the book, which I didn’t read as a child) was my very first literary influence. 2 … . When I first saw The Wizard of Oz it made a writer of me.’ 3 The other important literary influence in his childhood was The Arabian Nights which was the basis for the stories his father narrated to his children and which surfaces in the flying carpets and metamorphoses of The Satanic Verses (1988) and predictably in Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990).
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

2. Midnight’s Children (1981)

Abstract
Rushdie was a writer without a subject. After attaching himself to a woman from his adopted country, Rushdie did what comes naturally: took her with him to visit the mother country (to celebrate the acceptance of Grimus for publication by Gollancz for ‘some paltry sum’1). There his subject, India, hit him on the nose, with an immediacy of impact, the sights, the smells, the scenes, especially Kashmir where he had holidayed as a child (this explains the luminous beauty with which he invests it in Midnight’s Children and Haroun), while Indian politics, Indira Gandhi’s state of emergency, aroused his indignation.
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

3. Shame (1983)

Abstract
Midnight’s Children soon made Rushdie world famous. It was translated into more than a dozen languages. His lifestyle changed into that of a celebrity and he became a public intellectual, engaging in polemics in the newspapers, journals and on TV. As a writer, his view of himself as a radical was confirmed; The Tin Drum had taught him: ‘Go for broke. Always try and do too much. Dispense with safety nets. Take a deep breath before you begin talking. Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody-minded. Argue with the world.’1
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

4. The Jaguar Smile (1987) and The Satanic Verses (1988)

Abstract
Shame was banned in Pakistan immediately after publication. When Zia died in an unexplained air crash in August 1988, Rushdie was reported to have said: ‘Dead dictators are my speciality. I discovered to my horror that all the political figures most featured in my writing — Mrs G [Gandhi], Sanjay Gandhi, Bhutto, Zia — have now come to sticky ends. It’s the grand slam, really. This is a service I can perform, perhaps. A sort of literary contract.’1 Rushdie had nothing to do with their deaths but speaks as if he were the Scourge of God. Shame was acclaimed and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Nobody had won it twice and Rushdie had reason to believe he might, judging by the reviews of his novel and those of the other competitors. He was a sore loser.
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

5. Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990)

Abstract
Rushdie told Edward Said that The Satanic Verses ‘would shake up the Muslims’,1 but their reactions exceeded his anticipations. After Viking/Penguin published the novel on 26 September 1988, there occurred Muslim demonstrations and book-burnings throughout Britain, which culminated in a Hyde Park rally on 28 January 1989. But the controversy originated in India, which was the first country to ban it, on 5 October 1988. South Africa proscribed it not long after, on 24 November 1988. Yet what really provoked the until-now silent Ayatollah Khomeini was the death of the faithful: five demonstrators died (dozens were injured) when police opened fire on an anti-Rushdie protest rally in Islamabad on 12 January 1989 and, the following day, one died (more than sixty were injured) in a similar rally in Kashmir; both incidents were shown on Iranian TV. It was only on 14 February 1989 that the Ayatollah imposed his fatwa. The full edict runs:
Message on the publication of the apostasian book: Satanic Verses In the name of God Almighty; there is only one God, to whom we shall all return; I would like to inform all the intrepid Muslims in the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses which has been compiled, printed and published against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran, as well as those publishers who were aware of its contents, have been sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one will dare to insult the Islamic sanctions. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God willing. In addition, anyone who has access to the author of the book, but does not possess the power to execute him, should refer him to the people so that he may be punished for his actions. May God’s blessing be on you all.2
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

6. East, West (1994)

Abstract
In a highly publicized event, on Christmas Eve 1990, Rushdie, at a meeting with six Muslim scholars, re-embraced Islam. The general attitude towards this can be summed up in the words Rashid Khalifa tells Prince Bolo, in answer as to why he, unarmed, dressed in a nightshirt and half-dead with cold, did not try to rescue Princess Batcheat from the Chupwalas: ‘some people prefer good sense to heroism’ (p. 104). Soon after, Rushdie said that he ‘felt a good deal safer’ and also added: ‘What I know of Islam is that tolerance, compassion and love are at its very heart.’1 This is very true of the Sufi view. There is a danger of homogenizing Western and Muslim points of view; setting up crude binaries, the West versus Islam; and constructing a monolithic Muslim identity. But the fact remains that there are two broad points of view discernible, the Western liberal (complete freedom of expression) and the devout Islamic, and their continuing conflict can be explained in terms of Lyotard’s differend:
As distinguished from litigation, a differend would be a case of conflict, between (at least) two parties, that cannot be equitably resolved for lack of a rule of judgment applicable to both arguments. One side’s legitimacy does not imply the other’s lack of legitimacy. However, applying a single rule of judgment to both in order to settle their differend as though it were merely a litigation would wrong (at least) one of them (and both of them if neither side admits this rule).2
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

7. The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995)

Abstract
Rushdie has spoken of ‘the incredible psychic and physical disruption of the early period’ after the fatwa and the fact that ‘for a few years [he] didn’t have the capacity, the singleness of purpose, to attempt a large piece of architecture’.1 That is why The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995) is his first novel in seven years. But it underwent a much longer period of gestation, beginning with his visit, in his undergraduate days, to the Alhambra Palace at Granada, Moorish Spain’s red fort, mirrored in those of Mogul India at Delhi and Agra. The famous sigh, to which the title refers, was breathed in 1492 by Muhammad XI (Boabdil), the last sultan of Andalusia, looking back at Alhambra and bidding farewell to his kingdom, ending Arab-Islamic dominance in Iberia. Moorish Spain was important to Rushdie as an example of multiculturalism, the Muslims, Catholics and Jews co-existing. Yet 1492 was also the year when the Jews were offered the choice of baptism or expulsion. It was Spain’s fissiparous hour. Thus, a phase of Spanish history provides a defining metaphor for India, the subject of Rushdie’s novel. In addition, 1492 was the year when Columbus, financed by Boabdil’s royal conquerors, Ferdinand and Isabella, sailed forth to seek a new route to the East. It was left to Vasco da Gama to find one in 1497.
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

8. The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999)

Abstract
Rushdie’s ‘plague years’1 under the fatwa ended when the Iranian Government publicly declared on 24 September 1998 that it did not intend to pursue the death sentence and disassociated itself from the bounty placed on his head. Though the death threat was not wholly removed — the Government possessed no power to annul the fatwa imposed by a religious leader, while the hardliners remained adamant and a fresh bounty of £20,000 was offered, Rushdie was able to re-enter public life.
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

9. Fury (2001)

Abstract
In Fury, Rushdie’s earlier tendency to present countries per se is present in the projection of Fiji, but the new desire to focus on eras predominates. His time frame here is the late twentieth to twenty-first centuries, the contemporary period. He emphasizes different aspects of globalization: the overriding force of commercialism, and the proliferation and dispersion of products. Specific attention is directed at the intellectual, the author and art.
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

10. Shalimar the Clown (2005)

Abstract
Rushdie’s private life becomes less problematic. His marriage to Elizabeth West is dissolved in 2003 and he marries Padma Lakshmi in 2004. Kashmir, one of the focal points of Shalimar the Clown (2005), was his family’s ancestral home; the region was familiar to him in boyhood and was, for him, a lost paradise. Submerged in his unconscious, it emerges throughout his career — most notably, in Midnight’s Children, Haroun and Shalimar. These circumstances facilitate an artistic recovery in Shalimar. Rushdie’s perspective remains global. Here he focuses on a different aspect of globalization (only touched on earlier) — politics. His vision spans India, Europe and America.
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

11. The Enchantress of Florence (2008)

Abstract
In June 2007, Queen Elizabeth II announced that she was conferring a knighthood on Rushdie. This aroused afresh issues that have dogged him over the past twenty years not only among traditional Muslims around the world (it seemed to them an accolade bestowed on a global symbol of hostility to traditional Islam) but also among British conservatives who believed that he was again endangering Britain’s security. Iran reaffirmed the death sentence. A Pakistani government minister suggested that the award justified suicide bombings. Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahari warned that it was preparing a ‘precise response’ to Britain’s decision. Rushdie’s political kin were contemptuous that an avowed leftist should accept such an imperial honour. Even to critics, it seemed ‘to confirm his rejection of a more radical, anti-establishment position’.1 Such political interpretations are wrong and unnecessary, though understandable in the context of a politically charged atmosphere. It was not that Rushdie, just as much as Darius Cama, had his British dream or that the British Empire was going down on its knees. The knighthood showed that Rushdie had reached an eminence as a writer and there was no reason for him to refuse it. He was accepting it as an honour due to him. After it was conferred in 2008, he said: ‘This is an honour not for any specific book but for a very long career in writing and I’m happy to see that recognized.’ 2 In fact, it is not unique but a part of a pattern. V. S. Naipaul accepted a knighthood before Rushdie. It may also be a part of Britain’s desire to show even-handedness, to honour eminent writers whether British or not, and to signal that immigrant writers can acquire close connections to British literary culture.
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke

12. Conclusion

Abstract
Self-exile such as Rushdie’s is not a new phenomenon. Whether it is modernists like James Joyce, Joseph Conrad or T. S. Eliot or a postmodernist like Rushdie, the focus of exile is not on pain. But the exile of Western writers, whether Joyce, Conrad or Eliot, took place within the context of European or Western society; if there was a difference in milieu, it was between provincial and metropolitan. In the case of Third World exiles like Rushdie, the difference between the West and the Third World implies a more significant difference — between lifestyles and cultures. Yet, both types find exile an enabling experience.
D. C. R. A. Goonetilleke
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