Shalimar the Clown

Shalimar the Clown

by Salman Rushdie

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Overview


“Dazzling . . . Modern thriller, Ramayan epic, courtroom drama, slapstick comedy, wartime adventure, political satire, village legend–they’re all blended here magnificently.”
The Washington Post Book World

This is the story of Maximilian Ophuls, America’s counterterrorism chief, one of the makers of the modern world; his Kashmiri Muslim driver and subsequent killer, a mysterious figure who calls himself Shalimar the clown; Max’s illegitimate daughter India; and a woman who links them, whose revelation finally explains them all. It is an epic narrative that moves from California to Kashmir, France, and England, and back to California again. Along the way there are tales of princesses lured from their homes by demons, legends of kings forced to defend their kingdoms against evil. And there is always love, gained and lost, uncommonly beautiful and mortally dangerous.

“A commanding story . . . [a] harrowing climax . . . Revenge is an ancient and powerful engine of narrative.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“Absorbing . . . Everywhere [Rushdie] takes us there is both love and war, in strange and terrifying combinations, painted in swaying, swirling, world-eating prose that annihilates the borders between East and West, love and hate, private lives and the history they make.”
Time

“A vast, richly peopled, beautiful and deeply rageful book that serves as a profound and disturbing artifact of our times.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Marvelous . . . brilliant . . . a story worthy of [Rushdie’s] genius.”
Detroit Free Press

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
– The Washington Post Book World –Los Angeles Times Book Review –St. Louis Post-Dispatch –Rocky Mountain News

ONE OF THE BEST NOVELS OF THE YEAR
–Time –Chicago Tribune –The Christian Science Monitor

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679783480
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/10/2006
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 620,111
Product dimensions: 8.04(w) x 5.16(h) x 0.93(d)

About the Author

Salman Rushdie was born in 1947. He is the author of eight previous novels: Grimus, Midnight’s Children, Shame, The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet and Fury. He has published a collection of short stories, East, West, a book of reportage, The Jaguar Smile, two collections of essays, Imaginary Homelands and Step Across This Line, and a work of film criticism about The Wizard of Oz.

Salman Rushdie’s second novel, Midnight’s Children, was awarded both the Booker Prize and the “Booker of Bookers,” as the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first 25 years. His other accolades include the Whitbread Novel Award, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. Salman Rushdie lives in London and New York.

To schedule a speaking engagement, please contact American Program Bureau at www.apbspeakers.com  

Hometown:

New York, New York

Date of Birth:

June 19, 1947

Place of Birth:

Bombay, Maharashtra, India

Education:

M.A. in History, King's College, University of Cambridge

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1 At twenty-four the ambassador’s daughter slept badly through the warm, unsurprising nights. She woke up frequently and even when sleep did come her body was rarely at rest, thrashing and flailing as if trying to break free of dreadful invisible manacles. At times she cried out in a language she did not speak. Men had told her this, nervously. Not many men had ever been permitted to be present while she slept. The evidence was therefore limited, lacking consensus; however, a pattern emerged. According to one report she sounded guttural, glottal-stoppy, as if she were speaking Arabic. Night-Arabian, she thought, the dreamtongue of Scheherazade. Another version described her words as science-fictional, like Klingon, like a throat being cleared in a galaxy far, far away. Like Sigourney Weaver channeling a demon in Ghostbusters. One night in a spirit of research the ambassador’s daughter left a tape recorder running by her bedside but when she heard the voice on the tape its death’s-head ugliness, which was somehow both familiar and alien, scared her badly and she pushed the erase button, which erased nothing important. The truth was still the truth. These agitated periods of sleep-speech were mercifully brief, and when they ended she would subside for a time, sweating and panting, into a state of dreamless exhaustion. Then abruptly she would awake again, convinced, in her disoriented state, that there was an intruder in her bedroom. There was no intruder. The intruder was an absence, a negative space in the darkness. She had no mother. Her mother had died giving her birth: the ambassador’s wife had told her this much, and the ambassador, her father, had confirmed it. Her mother had been Kashmiri, and was lost to her, like paradise, like Kashmir, in a time before memory. (That the terms Kashmir and paradise were synonymous was one of her axioms, which everyone who knew her had to accept.) She trembled before her mother’s absence, a void sentinel shape in the dark, and waited for the second calamity, waited without knowing she was waiting. After her father died—her brilliant, cosmopolitan father, Franco-American, “like Liberty,” he said, her beloved, resented, wayward, promiscuous, often absent, irresistible father—she began to sleep soundly, as if she had been shriven. Forgiven her sins, or, perhaps, his. The burden of sin had been passed on. She did not believe in sin. So until her father’s death she was not an easy woman to sleep with, though she was a woman with whom men wanted to sleep. The pressure of men’s desires was tiresome to her. The pressure of her own desires was for the most part unrelieved. The few lovers she took were variously unsatisfactory and so (as if to declare the subject closed) she soon enough settled on one pretty average fellow, and even gave serious consideration to his proposal of marriage. Then the ambassador was slaughtered on her doorstep like a halal chicken dinner, bleeding to death from a deep neck wound caused by a single slash of the assassin’s blade. In broad daylight! How the weapon must have glistened in the golden morning sun; which was the city’s quotidian blessing, or its curse. The daughter of the murdered man was a woman who hated good weather, but most of the year the city offered little else. Accordingly, she had to put up with long monotonous months of shadowless sunshine and dry, skin-cracking heat. On those rare mornings when she awoke to cloud cover and a hint of moisture in the air she stretched sleepily in bed, arching her back, and was briefly, even hopefully, glad; but the clouds invariably burned off by noon and then there it was again, the dishonest nursery blue of the sky that made the world look childlike and pure, the loud impolite orb blaring at her like a man laughing too loudly in a restaurant. In such a city there could be no grey areas, or so it seemed. Things were what they were and nothing else, unambiguous, lacking the subtleties of drizzle, shade and chill. Under the scrutiny of such a sun there was no place to hide. People were everywhere on display, their bodies shining in the sunlight, scantily clothed, reminding her of advertisements. No mysteries here or depths; only surfaces and revelations. Yet to learn the city was to discover that this banal clarity was an illusion. The city was all treachery, all deception, a quick-change, quicksand metropolis, hiding its nature, guarded and secret in spite of all its apparent nakedness. In such a place even the forces of destruction no longer needed the shelter of the dark. They burned out of the morning’s brightness, dazzling the eye, and stabbed at you with sharp and fatal light. Her name was India. She did not like this name. People were never called Australia, were they, or Uganda or Ingushetia or Peru. In the mid-1960s her father, Max Ophuls (Maximilian Ophuls, raised in Strasbourg, France, in an earlier age of the world), had been America’s best-loved, and then most scandalous, ambassador to India, but so what, children were not saddled with names like Herzegovina or Turkey or Burundi just because their parents had visited those lands and possibly misbehaved in them. She had been conceived in the East—conceived out of wedlock and born in the midst of the firestorm of outrage that twisted and ruined her father’s marriage and ended his diplomatic career—but if that were sufficient excuse, if it was okay to hang people’s birthplaces round their necks like albatrosses, then the world would be full of men and women called Euphrates or Pisgah or Iztaccíhuatl or Woolloomooloo. In America, damn it, this form of naming was not unknown, which spoiled her argument slightly and annoyed her more than somewhat. Nevada Smith, Indiana Jones, Tennessee Williams, Tennessee Ernie Ford: she directed mental curses and a raised middle finger at them all. “India” still felt wrong to her, it felt exoticist, colonial, suggesting the appropriation of a reality that was not hers to own, and she insisted to herself that it didn’t fit her anyway, she didn’t feel like an India, even if her color was rich and high and her long hair lustrous and black. She didn’t want to be vast or subcontinental or excessive or vulgar or explosive or crowded or ancient or noisy or mystical or in any way Third World. Quite the reverse. She presented herself as disciplined, groomed, nuanced, inward, irreligious, understated, calm. She spoke with an English accent. In her behavior she was not heated, but cool. This was the persona she wanted, that she had constructed with great determination. It was the only version of her that anyone in America, apart from her father and the lovers who had been scared off by her nocturnal proclivities, had ever seen. As to her interior life, her violent English history, the buried record of disturbed behavior, the years of delinquency, the hidden episodes of her short but eventful past, these things were not subjects for discussion, were not (or were no longer) of concern to the general public. These days she had herself firmly in hand. The problem child within her was sublimated into her spare-time pursuits, the weekly boxing sessions at Jimmy Fish’s boxing club on Santa Monica and Vine where Tyson and Christy Martin were known to work out and where the cold fury of her hitting made the male boxers pause to watch, the biweekly training sessions with a Clouseau-attacking Burt Kwouk look-alike who was a master of the close-combat martial art of Wing Chun, the sun-bleached blackwalled solitude of Saltzman’s Moving Target shooting gallery out in the desert at 29 Palms, and, best of all, the archery sessions in downtown Los Angeles near the city’s birthplace in Elysian Park, where her new gifts of rigid self-control, which she had learned in order to survive, to defend herself, could be used to go on the attack. As she drew back her golden Olympic-standard bow, feeling the pressure of the bowstring against her lips, sometimes touching the bottom of the arrow shaft with the tip of her tongue, she felt the arousal in herself, allowed herself to feel the heat rising in her while the seconds allotted to her for the shot ticked down toward zero, until at last she let fly, unleashing the silent venom of the arrow, reveling in the distant thud of her weapon hitting its target. The arrow was her weapon of choice. She also kept the strangeness of her seeing under control, the sudden otherness of vision that came and went. When her pale eyes changed the things she saw, her tough mind changed them back. She did not care to dwell on her turbulence, never spoke about her childhood, and told people she did not remember her dreams. On her twenty-fourth birthday the ambassador came to her door. She looked down from her fourth-floor balcony when he buzzed and saw him waiting in the heat of the day wearing his absurd silk suit like a French sugar daddy. Holding flowers, yet. “People will think you’re my lover,” India shouted down to Max, “my cradle-snatching Valentine.” She loved the ambassador when he was embarrassed, the pained furrow of his brow, the right shoulder hunching up against his ear, the hand raised as if to ward off a blow. She saw him fracture into rainbow colors through the prism of her love. She watched him recede into the past as he stood below her on the sidewalk, each successive moment of him passing before her eyes and being lost forever, surviving only in outer space in the form of escaping light-rays. This is what loss was, what death was: an escape into the luminous wave-forms, into the ineffable speed of the light-years and the parsecs, the eternally receding distances of the cosmos. At the rim of the known universe an unimaginable creature would someday put its eye to a telescope and see Max Ophuls approaching, wearing a silk suit and carrying birthday roses, forever borne forward on tidal waves of light. Moment by moment he was leaving her, becoming an ambassador to such unthinkably distant elsewheres. She closed her eyes and opened them again. No, he was not billions of miles away amid the wheeling galaxies. He was here, correct and present, on the street where she lived. He had recovered his poise. A woman in running clothes rounded the corner from Oakwood and cantered toward him, appraising him, making the easy judgments of the times, judgments about sex and money. He was one of the architects of the postwar world, of its international structures, its agreed economic and diplomatic conventions. His tennis game was strong even now, at his advanced age. The inside-out forehand, his surprise weapon. That wiry frame in long white trousers, carrying not much more than five percent body fat, could still cover the court. He reminded people of the old champion Jean Borotra: those few old-timers who remembered Borotra. He stared with undisguised European pleasure at the jogger’s American breasts in their sports bra. As she passed him he offered her a single rose from the enormous birthday bouquet. She took the flower; and then, appalled by his charm, by the erotic proximity of his snappy crackle of power, and by herself, accelerated anxiously away. Fifteen–love. From the balconies of the apartment building the old Central and East European ladies were also staring at Max, admiringly, with the open lust of toothless age. His arrival was the high point of their month. They were out en masse today. Usually they gathered together in small street-corner clumps or sat in twos and threes by the courtyard swimming pool chewing the fat, sporting inadvisable beachwear without shame. Usually they slept a lot and when not sleeping complained. They had buried the husbands with whom they had spent forty or even fifty years of unregarded life. Stooped, leaning, expressionless, the old women lamented the mysterious destinies that had stranded them here, halfway across the world from their points of origin. They spoke in strange tongues that might have been Georgian, Croatian, Uzbek. Their husbands had failed them by dying. They were pillars that had fallen, they had asked to be relied upon and had brought their wives away from everything that was familiar into this shadowless lotus-land full of the obscenely young, this California whose body was its temple and whose ignorance was its bliss, and then proved themselves unreliable by keeling over on the golf course or face down in a bowl of noodle soup, thus revealing to their widows at this late stage in their lives the untrustworthiness of existence in general and of husbands in particular. In the evenings the widows sang childhood songs from the Baltic, from the Balkans, from the vast Mongolian plains. The neighborhood’s old men were single, too, some inhabiting sagging sacks of bodies over which gravity had exerted far too much power, others grizzle-chopped and letting themselves go in dirty T-shirts and pants with unbuttoned flies, while a third, jauntier contingent dressed sharply, affecting berets and bow ties. These natty gents periodically tried to engage the widows in conversation. Their efforts, with yellow glints of false teeth and melancholy sightings of slicked-down vestiges of hair beneath the doffed berets, were invariably and contemptuously ignored. To these elderly beaux, Max Ophuls was an affront, the ladies’ interest in him a humiliation. They would have killed him if they could, if they had not been too busy staving off their own deaths. India saw it all, the exhibitionist, desirous old women pirouetting and flirting on the verandahs, the lurking, spiteful old men. The antique Russian super, Olga Simeonovna, a bulbous denim-clad samovar of a woman, was greeting the ambassador as if he were a visiting head of state. If there had been a red carpet on the premises she would have rolled it out for him. “She keeps you waiting, Mr. Ambassador, what you gonna do, the young. I say nothing against. Just, a daughter these days is more difficult, I was a daughter myself who for me my father was like a god, to keep him waiting unthinkable. Alas, daughters today are hard to raise and then they leave you flat. I sir am formerly mother, but now they are dead to me, my girls. I spit on their forgotten names. This is how it is.”

Reading Group Guide

1. What most captivated your interest or emotions in Shalimar the Clown?

2. Discuss the importance of the most interesting (to you) of the following themes in Shalimar the Clown: love / sex / revenge / prophecy / voices / history / humour.

3. “Everywhere was now a part of everywhere else… Our lives, stories, flowed into one another’s, were no longer our own, individual, discrete.”

How does Shalimar the Clown dramatize the crises seemingly caused by the interconnectedness of the world, as we see it today, from WWII to the conflict between religious traditions and secular ones? Does it suggest any answers to these pressing problems of our time?

4. Who is your favourite minor character in the book? Colonel Kachhwaha? Nazarébaddoor? The Iron Mullah?

5. What is the significance of landscape and place in Shalimar the Clown? How do the embattled and divided locations affect events and inform the characters’ experiences? How does the Edenic past collide with the world of today?

6. How does the novel’s mix of documentary realism (for example, the crackdown in Kashmir) with more fantastic elements (say, its use of coincidence) succeed in creating intense drama?

7. What are your criticisms of Shalimar the Clown?

8. Discuss the ending of the book. Why do you think Shalimar the Clown ends with that particular scene, at that particular moment?

9. How would you compare Shalimar the Clown with Salman Rushdie’s other books, in particular, Midnight’s Children? Can it be compared to the work of any other author?

10. “The infidel says that a man’s character will decide his fate; we say that a man’s fate will forge his character anew.”
–Bulbul Fakh, the Iron Mullah, during Shalimar’s indoctrination.

How else are character and destiny understood in Shalimar the Clown?

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Shalimar the Clown 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
sandiek More than 1 year ago
In Shalimar The Clown, Rushdie takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the countries of India, Pakistan, modern-day L.A., wartime France, England and Austria and the emotional countries of love, betrayal, passion, jealousy, revenge and retribution. It is a compelling book that takes over the lives of its readers as they burrow further and further into the tale. In the beautiful province of Kashmir, a couple falls in love. Shalimar is the star of the local acrobatic troupe, a clown who can walk the tightrope as if he were walking on air. His young love and then wife, Boonyi, was the most beautiful and talented dancer. Although Shalimar was Muslim and Boonyi Hindu, they fell in love and were protected by the villagers, who refused to let religion separate friendships and love. Into this idyllic relationship, as always, trouble arrived. In this case, it happened when Boonyi danced for the American Ambassador, a charming, charismatic man named Max Ophuls. Their subsequent affair laid into place events that would play out over the next decades. Salman Rushdie is one of the premier novelists of our time, and I have never been less than mesmerized with any of his books. His characterizations are so detailed that one feels they know every character. Each, no matter how small a part they play in the story, are given intricate backgrounds that explain their motivations. Rushdie's ability to use these characters to explore the age-old themes such as love, jealousy, betrayal, political movements, the movement of nations from one state to another, is unparalleled. This book is recommended for any reader interested in a great read that will keep them enthralled from start to finish.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The novels timeline would be different but this book should have been written years ago. What has happened in India, Pakistan, Kashmir and the surrounding regions, and is still happening today, is a story that needs to be told.
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a beautiful tale about a family from Kashmir. The father is an ambassador with a modern-minded daughter in the U.S. Their earlier life in Kashmir follows them to the U.S. Wonderful prose with touches of magical realism.
ourhomeplanet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Salman Rushdie's "Shalimar the Clown" is a masterful book that blends political intrigue, romance, revenge, and mysticism into a tantalizing, and completely satisfying reading experience. With numerous interlocking plot lines that take you as a reader all the way from beautiful Kashmir, to German occupied France in World War Two, to Los Angelos, one seems to be have a first hand look into a world magic seems possible, and at the same time a look into the most horrible of human tragedies. The themes of revenge and of hidden secrets soon to be revealed guides this novel, and compels you to keep on reading.
emanate28 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reading this novel was so effortless because of the way the words and the story and the characters was propelled forward, keeping me totally engrossed. It's amazing how some authors are able to depict such complex human interactions at the personal and societal level, and without falling into easy labelling of good vs evil. Well, OK, there are the clear 'bad guys' in the novel, but a lot of bad things come from regular people with decent intentions. Things just went wrong...and can we really blame those individuals for the choices they made?Compelling & magical. Complex, vast. The only part that wasn't so satisfying was the end--it somehow felt anti-climactic (maybe also b/c I found India/Kashimira rather flat as a character), like it was tacked on quickly after an extremely thoughtful and laborious crafting of the rest of the tale.
Griff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie is an excellent book that, though about Kashmir (in a sense), it is eerily applicable to so much in the world, including our present Iraq debacle. It was an interesting experience carrying the book to restaurants to read during dinner while in the Arabian Gulf region - always placing the book cover down in the decidely Islamic country I was in. A great read - Rushdie seldom disappoints.
Clara53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very good book, though sad...
bohemima on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The very simple plot--man betrayed by wife, seeks revenge--is completely surrounded by Rushdie's beautiful language, which he uses to discuss, among other things: the history of Kashmir; the complex relationship of India and Pakistan; terrorism, its origins, effects, and perpetrators; the nature of love; folk tales and magic; and the interactions between religions, particularly Islam and Buddhism. Violence and the separation of peoples into religious, cultural, and natural groups which can be manipulated into hatred ot the "other" is explored in depth.One obstacle to easy reading is the names of the characters, which are hard for the western reader to keep straight. Another is the background cultural information used throughout the book. Certainly this is a complicated work and one that requires effort on the part of the reader, but one which will repay the careful reader for a long time.Highly recommended.
P_S_Patrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book in the space of about 3 days, I find Rushdies books quite easy to read compared to those from certain other authors. I would place this book on more or less equal ground with Shame and Fury, that being not quite as good as The Moor's Last Sigh, and The Satanic Verses. The plot was interesting, with enough to base a good story around, but I didn't find it quite as compelling as the two lastly mentioned Rushdie books. It was a good read, and it had me engrossed, but it was in many ways a more depressing read, like Shame and Fury, where many of the events were sad, and the whole thing was not quite upbeat enough for me. Despite these things, it is a rich and well written book and I enjoyed it, as should those who have enjoyed other books from this author. A few of the relevant contemporary issues are covered here which will either interest you, or not, (perhaps if you read for escapism). These include war, religious conflict, politics, and terrorism, and are balanced with the more classic ones of love and revenge.
sggottlieb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An amazing story that glides through World War II Austria to Kashmir in the 1960s (or is it 1970's?) to present day California. It has the suspense of the best thriller and is written with rich character development and beautiful descriptions of those diverse places and cultures. I was totally immersed to the last word of the story.
erniepratt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rated R: Adult Themes; Sexual Situations; Violence
Salmon Rushdie is an amazing author that paints a world for the reader of real cultures and places. This novel takes place over generations. It takes the reader through the historical background of the beautiful and tumultuous Kashmir region of the Indian subcontinent. It takes the reader through the struggle of a village that has been united for centuries as a community but divided by international events that ripped the community apart. It also shows how well meaning international influence can have a disastrous affect on communities where the historical background is less understood.
It is a passionate novel of romance and loves lost and forbidden love and the disastrous effects of lust. There are several seemingly uninvolved stories that get tied up very neatly in the conclusion.
I read this book during the time that I discovered that my marriage had fallen apart. It was a good diversion and many of the story lines helped me cope with what was going on in my life. Salmon Rushdie¿s ability to paint the full spectrum of human character helped me see my world in shades of grey instead of black and white.
innermusic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book. The master weaves effortlessly forwards and backwards in time; into and out of places. The weaving never seems contrived. The book becomes a serious page-turner. But this book is very different in character from earlier books like Midnight's Children and The Moor's Last Sigh - the trademark juxtaposing of comedy and brutal darkness is different - more brutality with the lighter moments more like comic relief in the gloomy reality of the world Rushdie makes us see. In fact the books does have a depressing air about it. But the ending is very satisfying. And it is a wicked read.
drsnowdon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While Rushdie is an absolutely incredible writer, this story of an inside look at the conflict between India and Pakistan and the resulting creation of terrorist networks failed to grab me.
teacherteacher on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A remarkable insider's look into the mind and motives of a terrorist, as well as that of his victim and that victim's ultimate avenger. A bit slow a times, yet Rushdie always managed to rise above the expected and recapture my interest with his searing use of language and political metaphor.
theageofsilt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An outstanding novel for book discussion groups with rich characterizations and important themes. The peaceful multi-culturalism of an idyllic Kashmiri village is destroyed by political and religious conflict. Rushdie explores many complex themes, including the cultural imperialism of fundamentalist Islam as traditional dance, modes of dress and music are oppressed. Rushdie is deserving of a Nobel prize for this and his many other fine novels.
lriley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very good and very well written novel by one of the world's most famous authors. Well--not entirely unexpected but sometimes Rushdie's work can stretch credibility. This one however is well grounded and tells us a lot about the area called Kashmir that has been disputed over by India and Pakistan since at least the 60's. In the beginning we see two different cultures more than less living in harmony with each other. Shalimar a young Muslim and Boonyi a young Hindu fall in love with each other and although there are some misgivings from their respective families--compromises are made and they eventually marry. In the meantime the Pakastani army crosses the border and is more or less beaten back by the Indian one. Then we have Mullahs start agitating over Pakistani and Muslim right to the area and gaining acolytes and the Indian army responding by stamping out these insurgencies very brutally and at the same time terrorizing the population on the whole. A wedge is now driven between Hindu and Muslim. As it works out Boonyi although she loves Shalimar is also very much attracted to the modern world outside of India and on meeting the American ambassador (Maximillian Ophuls) at a dance performance seduces and then comes to an agreement with him of more or less--sex for the good life. When the unsuspecting Shalimar learns that she has left him to become a concubine he is crushed. Without going into the background of the ambassador too much--let us just say that his barren wife is not very pleased when she learns of this new arrangement. Eventually a wedge is likewise driven between the ambassador and Boonyi. Boonyi in fact is left more or less abandoned--and forgotten she sinks more and more into depravity becoming an obese drug addict. The scandal then becomes national news but Boonyi kind of in a last act to the affair fools the ambassador into getting her pregnant. At this point the wife steps in and succeeds in hushing up the pregnancy--takes the child as her own and Boonyi goes back in disgrace to her village where she is given a place to live on her own a short distance away from her village. Now Shalimar has come under the spell of a Mullah preaching hatred against the Hindus and the West is waiting to take his revenge but he has promised not only his father but his father-in-law not to hurt her as long as either of them are alive--and so he seethes and then he becomes a terrorist and an assassin--vowing not only to kill Boonyi one day but also the ambassador and also the daughter of that union--India (or Kashmira). That is about the set up. As I've said it's well told and very interesting in the way it sheds light on the conflict between one religion and another--one idea of what the world should be and another. I liked it a lot and very much would recommend it.
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Against a backdrop of a variety of settings and into a plot of love and revenge, Rushdie smuggles the themes of religious and ethnic intolerance, roots of terrorism and madness of political forces working to destroy peaceful existence.It took me the longest time to get into this book. I was well past the half-way point when I started being interested in what was to happen. The story seemed awfully banal, and it really gained life in the second part. The characters that we are introduced to in the first chapters of the novel seem unemotional, detached from each other and remote to the reader, even though the story itself is familiar to a Western reader and takes place mainly in California, and then in a flashback, in Europe during the Second World War. It¿s only in the further chapters that the setting, Kashmir, becomes more exotic and well drawn at the same time, and the characters are more colourful and passionate. Rushdie¿s writing gets more flare and the story itself is more reminiscent of Midnight¿s Children- the only book by him that I finished and enjoyed. The style seemed a bit choppy, but still epigrammatic at the beginning, and improved when Rushdie entered settings and issues that he seemed to be passionate about. The style changed from a thriller-like dry and sensational and became a blend of magical realism, heroic tales with bits of comedy and farce in-between. Since a lot of the book examines the life, motives and workings of the mind of an ordinary sensitive man turned professional killer-terrorist and the feelings of his victims, I am sure a lot there comes from Rushdie¿s own feelings and thoughts in the matter, and a lot of it examines the causes and motives of the 9/11 world.
AramisSciant on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent. Made me so totally stoked to visit India and see all those great Mughal palaces. Then it's so sad when you find out that most of it is lost..
sharonlflynn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. It has everything: love, betrayal, murder, revenge. I also learned a lot about Kashmir and its turbulent history. A very absorbing read.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
don't worry! No spoilers, just a synopsisthis one I'm keeping, but I very highly recommend it. In fact, it should be one of those books you must not miss and should likely be in everyone's collection. After a slow start (for me, only because I didn't know what was coming), it got to where I could not put this book down and sat in one spot reading until I finished.Shalimar the Clown was the husband of Boonyi Noman, who was a Pandit dancer in a small village of Kashmir (where the novel's core takes place, beginning in the 1960s). Max Ophuls, who wance served in the French Resistance against the Nazis, and who moved up the ladder of power in the United States ultimately serving as the American Ambassador to India during the time of Indira Ghandi. To be very brief, a whirlwind of power politicking brings Max, his wife Peggy and the entourage to Kashmir, where Max, in a nostalgic moment, has arranged for a traditional dance to be done by the Pandit actors and dancers. The lead dancer is Boonyi, who had to settle for her marriage to Shalimar earlier, and while she loves him, knows that she's only got one chance in life, and judging by the look on the face of the American Ambassador watching her dance, knows that this is it. She decides to go off with Max, and in doing so, as the author notes on page 194, "...that was how ic came about that a faithless wife from the village of the bhand pather beggan to influence, to complicate and even so shape, American diplomatic activity regarding the vexed matter of Kashmir." It is with Max's murder on the doorstep of his daughter India's apartment that the novel begins; and throughout the story we learn of a single-minded obsession on the part of Shalimar to avenge the wrong that was done to him. What sets this book apart is the look at the politics & circumstances of the demise of Kashmir, from the points of view of the villagers, the "freedom" fighters, the resistance, the generals. It is a marvelous insight to the forces that shaped Taliban and extremist rule, and the violence which shapes our world even now. Give it a read and go slowly; it is truly a book you'll want to savor.
grunin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some say this isn't one of Rushdie's better books, in which case I can hardly wait to read the others. I found it consistently interesting, sometimes even moving. This story takes four or five morally compromised characters and shuttles them through the warp of modern political history, from the beginning of World War II to the mid-90s. Several of them move in the political sphere, and all of struggle to control (or reinvent) their identities, changing direction as they do so. It sprawls a bit, but most of the bits that seem colorful tangents end up reinforcing the narrative. There are a few moments when his invention flags, particularly towards the end, but I don't want to quibble: as soon as I finished it I read the first fifty pages all over again, and you will too.
daizylee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very different for Rushdie. American setting. More real. Still hot-button issues.
Bookworm026 More than 1 year ago
Exceptional ! A must-read ! Rushdie's novel is a masterpiece, one of the best in my opinion! The man is definitely a genius of literature !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To call this the novel of a year would be the understatement of a decade, and perhaps a century. The charcters are completely flushed out, the multiple narratives flawlessly integrated, and the story of a land mirrored in that of some of its inhabitants.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago