‘Do you hear?’ exclaims the narrator of Rushdie’s short story ‘The Courter’, ‘I refuse to choose’. Unlike the 70-year-old Ayah, nicknamed Certainly-Mary, whose desire to return ‘home’ in the end outweighs her newly found passion for the Eastern European porter (turned ‘courter’) of the London block of flats where she now lives, Rushdie’s young narrator remains adamant about keeping the lines of communication open between East and West despite the potential silencing implied by the choice. The title of Rushdie’s collection of short stories, East, West (1994), echoes, ironically of course, the proverbial rhetoric of Empire ‘East, West, Home’s Best’,5 a discourse built on the myths of Empire and the notion of England forever as ‘home’ wherever in the world you may be. It also evokes the possibility of a late twentieth-century postcolonial and diasporic reading where not only is the notion of ‘home’ increasingly mobile, enacting a deterritorialization that, as Bryan Cheyette suggests in the epigraph above, can be both ‘a blessing and a curse’, but is also perhaps an illusory and fictional place constructed through the myths and fragments of the migrant imagination. The shifting and ambivalent boundaries of ‘home’ and ‘abroad’ have been the preoccupation of Rushdie’s work from the creation of his utopian fantasy in Grimus (1975) — set mainly on an island in the Mediterranean caught between East and West — to his ‘imaginary homelands’6 in Midnight’s Children (1981) and Shame (1983), as well as the more focused and explicit exploration of the ‘stresses’ and transformations of the ‘migrant’ experience in London in Satanic Verses (1988).7 Even in one of his most recent novels, The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999), one of the central preoccupations is the theme of migration and the myth of transformation.
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