Results tagged “Salman Rushdie” from kwc blog

Talk: Salman Rushie, Shalimar the Clown

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Salman Rushie spoke at Books Inc in Mountain View. These are my notes (more in the extended entry). As always with my notes, although I attempt to use quotes as much as possible, I don't stand by the accuracy of my quotes and they should be considered paraphrasings at best.

For In the Name of the Rose Umberto Eco said, "'I had a great desire to murder a monk'... in my case it was an American ambassador." Shalimar the Clown starts off with Shalimar, a muslim Kashmiri, killing the American ambassador that his childhood sweetheart ran off with. Shalimar is a character transforms from tight-rope walker into terrorist.

In the book you root for Shalimar even though he does horrible things. It "would have been much easier to make him not likable," but then he would be a cartoon and cartoons can't make moral choices. Shalimar "retains the capacity for moral choice" and thus retains moral responsibility. Rushdie had watched a documentary about the downfall of Hitler that humanized the Nazis and he felt that the humanizing "does the opposite of exonerating them." It is one of the roles of writers to make you care about the people because "you have to care about people to care about what happens to them."

Much of the novel takes place in Kashmir and he said, "'[I] always wanted to write more about it than I have." Midnight's Children and Haroun and the Sea of Stories have parts in Kashmir, but not very much.

In 1987 he was participating in a British documentary about India at the age of 40. He met a group of travelling players in Kashmir and thought that they lived an "extraordinary lifestyle... on the one hand paradise-like... [but] incredibly poor." He observed their way of life and it "felt like the end of a very long line." This was before the eruption of violence and the insurgency, so he does not imagine that life has gotten better for them.

He wanted to put them in the documentary, but they were "too scared to tell the truth on camera." They would complain about the Indian troops off camera, but when you turned the camera on they would say, "We are very happy," and praise the Indian troops.

Book: White Teeth

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I was a bit let down by White Teeth. I expected too much from a novel with this much praise, though I should have lowered my expectations by noting that the praise was generally couple with "potential" and/or "first novel." It is a bold novel for a newcomer, but I also felt that it feel short of its goals and, while there was cleverness and wittiness, it was spread out enough that it stood out instead of blending into the fabric of the narrative. Perhaps I was more disappointed having just read Midnight's Children, which made it clear that White Teeth is a good, but not great novel.

There was one passage I really enjoyed, which is in the extended entry (page 384), where Smith took the idea of Zeno's paradox and related it to how her characters moved through life (by constantly reliving the past). Putting aside the actual notion of the paradox aside, I found it interesting to extend the idea that "if you can divide reality inexhaustibly into parts... you move nowhere." Similarly, if we look back on the past and constantly relive it, subdivide it, expand it, we turn it into an infinite space that is like Zeno's paradox: no movement through it is possible.

(see the Invisible Man entry for connections between this book, Midnight's Children, and Invisible Man).

Book: Invisible Man

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Some quotes in the extended (not as many as I should have). I turned up a Salon article on "Invisible Man" at 50, which some may find as an interesting companion to the book.

Connections

Having just finished Midnight's Children, White Teeth, and Invisible Man, it's only natural I guess that my brain who try to connect the three together. The connections between White Teeth and *Midnight's Children" are the most obvious, given that Zadie Smith does not try to hide the influence of Salman Rushdie on her work.

There were passages that Smith had written about Millat from White Teeth that immediatelly reminded me of Ellison's descriptions of Rinehart (and to a lesser extent, the ever-shifting Saleem in Midnight's Children), though Millat tries to encompass all of his identities at once, and together these identities represents a crisis of identity, versus Rinehart, for whom identity is like a hat, each representing a new possibility that can be worn. Zadie Smith sees the shifting of identity as a sign of illness (missing twin, loss of culture, invisibility to father Samad) causing "an ever-present anger and hurt."

Invisible Man, p. 498

Can it be, I thought, can it actually be? And I knew that it was. I had heard of it before but I'd never come so close. Still, could he be all of them: Rine the runner and Rine the gambler and Rine the briber and Rine the lover and Rinehart the Reverend? Could he himself be both rind and heart? What is real anyway? But how could I doubt it? He was a broad man, a man of parts who got around. Rinehart the rounder. It was true as I was true. His world was possibility and he knew it. He was years ahead of me and I was a fool. I must have been crazy and blind. The world in which we lived was without boundaries.

White Teeth, p. 225

And that's how it was for Millat. He was so big in Cricklewood, in Willesden, n West Hampsteada, the summer of 1990, that nothing he did later in his life could top it. From his first Raggastani crowd, he had expanded and developed tribes throughout the schoool, throughout North London. He was simply too big to remain the object of Irie's affection, leader of the Raggastanis, or the son of Samad and Alsana Iqbal. He had to please all of the people all of the time. To the Cockney wideboys in the white jeans and the coolored shirts he was the joker, the risktaker, respected lady-killer. To the black kids he was fellow weed-smoker and valued customer. To the Asian kids, hero and spokesman. Social chameleon. And underneath it all, there remained an ever-present anger and hurt, the feeling of belonging nowhere that comes to people who belong everywhere.

I also found contrast between Invisible Man and Midnight's Children: the former which uses an unnamed protagonist who stumbles into new identities throughout, versus the many-named Saleem of Midnight's Children, who achieves both godly and base distinction through his naming.

Book: Midnight's Children

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Various quotations in the extended text. This book will stand up well to a second reading, in part because of the quality of writing, and in part because of the non-linearity of Rushdie's writing style. Of course, it might be years before I have the time to read this again ;).