Shame

Shame

by Salman Rushdie

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

The novel that set the stage for his modern classic, The Satanic Verses, Shame is Salman Rushdie’s phantasmagoric epic of an unnamed country that is “not quite Pakistan.” In this dazzling tale of an ongoing duel between the families of two men–one a celebrated wager of war, the other a debauched lover of pleasure–Rushdie brilliantly portrays a world caught between honor and humiliation–“shamelessness, shame: the roots of violence.” Shame is an astonishing story that grows more timely by the day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812976700
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/11/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 299,177
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

Sir SALMAN RUSHDIE is the multi-award winning author of eleven previous novels--Luka and the Fire of Life, Grimus, Midnight's Children (which won the Booker Prize, 1981, and the Best of the Booker Prize, 2008), Shame,The Satanic Verses, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor's Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown and The Enchantress of Florence--and one collection of short stories, East, West. He has also published three works of non-fiction: The Jaguar Smile, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991 and Step Across This Line, and coedited two anthologies, Mirrorwork and Best American Short Stories 2008. His memoir, Joseph Anton, published in 2012, became an internationally acclaimed bestseller. It was praised as "the finest memoir...in many a year" (The Washington Post). His books have been translated into over forty languages. He is a former president of American PEN.

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

1
 
 
THE DUMB-WAITER
 
In the remote border town of Q., which when seen from the air resembles nothing so much as an ill-proportioned dumb-bell, there once lived three lovely, and loving, sisters. Their names … but their real names were never used, like the best household china, which was locked away after the night of their joint tragedy in a cupboard whose location was eventually forgotten, so that the great thousand-piece service from the Gardner potteries in Tsarist Russia became a family myth in whose factuality they almost ceased to believe … the three sisters, I should state without further delay, bore the family name of Shakil, and were universally known (in descending order of age) as Chhunni, Munnee and Bunny.
 
And one day their father died.
 
Old Mr Shakil, at the time of his death a widower for eighteen years, had developed the habit of referring to the town in which he lived as ‘a hell hole’. During his last delirium he embarked on a ceaseless and largely incomprehensible monologue amidst whose turbid peregrinations the household servants could make out long passages of obscenity, oaths and curses of a ferocity that made the air boil violently around his bed. In this peroration the embittered old recluse rehearsed his lifelong hatred for his home town, now calling down demons to destroy the clutter of low, dun-coloured, ‘higgling and piggling’ edifices around the bazaar, now annihilating with his death-encrusted words the cool whitewashed smugness of the Cantonment district. These were the two orbs of the town’s dumb-bell shape: old town and Cantt, the former inhabited by the indigenous, colonized population and the latter by the alien colonizers, the Angrez, or British, sahibs. Old Shakil loathed both worlds and had for many years remained immured in his high, fortress-like, gigantic residence which faced inwards to a well-like and lightless compound yard. The house was positioned beside an open maidan, and it was equidistant from the bazaar and the Cantt. Through one of the building’s few outward-facing windows Mr Shakil on his death-bed was able to stare out at the dome of a large Palladian hotel, which rose out of the intolerable Cantonment streets like a mirage, and inside which were to be found golden cuspidors and tame spider-monkeys in brass-buttoned uniforms and bellhop hats and a full-sized orchestra playing every evening in a stuccoed ballroom amidst an energetic riot of fantastic plants, yellow roses and white magnolias and roof-high emerald-green palms – the Hotel Flashman, in short, whose great golden dome was cracked even then but shone nevertheless with the tedious pride of its brief doomed glory; that dome under which the suited-and-booted Angrez officers and white-tied civilians and ringleted ladies with hungry eyes would congregate nightly, assembling here from their bungalows to dance and to share the illusion of being colourful – whereas in fact they were merely white, or actually grey, owing to the deleterious effect of that stony heat upon their frail cloud-nurtured skins, and also to their habit of drinking dark Burgundies in the noonday insanity of the sun, with a fine disregard for their livers. The old man heard the music of the imperialists issuing from the golden hotel, heavy with the gaiety of despair, and he cursed the hotel of dreams in a loud, clear voice.
 
‘Shut that window,’ he shouted, ‘so that I don’t have to die listening to that racket,’ and when the old womanservant Hashmat Bibi had fastened the shutters he relaxed slightly and, summoning up the last reserves of his energy, altered the course of his fatal, delirious flow.
 
‘Come quickly,’ Hashmat Bibi ran from the room yelling for the old man’s daughters, ‘your fatherji is sending himself to the devil.’ Mr Shakil, having dismissed the outside world, had turned the rage of his dying monologue against himself, calling eternal damnation down upon his soul. ‘God knows what got his goat,’ Hashmat despaired, ‘but he is going in an incorrect way.”
 
The widower had raised his children with the help of Parsee wet-nurses, Christian ayahs and an iron morality that was mostly Muslim, although Chhunni used to say that he had been made harder by the sun. The three girls had been kept inside that labyrinthine mansion until his dying day; virtually uneducated, they were imprisoned in the zenana wing where they amused each other by inventing private languages and fantasizing about what a man might look like when undressed, imagining, during their pre-pubertal years, bizarre genitalia such as holes in the chest into which their own nipples might snugly fit, ‘because for all we knew in those days,’ they would remind each other amazedly in later life, ‘fertilization might have been supposed to happen through the breast.’ This interminable captivity forged between the three sisters a bond of intimacy that would never completely be broken. They spent their evenings seated at a window behind a lattice-work screen, looking towards the golden dome of the great hotel and swaying to the strains of the enigmatic dance music … and there are rumours that they would indolently explore each other’s bodies during the languorous drowsiness of the afternoons, and, at night, would weave occult spells to hasten the moment of their father’s demise. But evil tongues will say anything, especially about beautiful women who live far away from the denuding eyes of men. What is almost certainly true is that it was during these years, long before the baby scandal, that the three of them, all of whom longed for children with the abstract passion of their virginity, made their secret compact to remain triune, forever bound by the intimacies of their youth, even after the children came: that is to say, they resolved to share the babies. I cannot prove or disprove the foul story that this treaty was written down and signed in the commingled menstrual blood of the isolated trinity, and then burned to ashes, being preserved only in the cloisters of their memories.
 
But for twenty years, they would have only one child. His name would be Omar Khayyam.
 
All this happened in the fourteenth century. I’m using the Hegiran calendar, naturally: don’t imagine that stories of this type always take place longlong ago. Time cannot be homogenized as easily as milk, and in those parts, until quite recently, the thirteen-hundreds were still in full swing.
 
When Hashmat Bibi told them that their father had arrived at his final moments, the sisters went to visit him, dressed in their brightest clothes. They found him in the grip of an asphyxiating fist of shame, demanding of God, in gasps of imperious gloominess, that he be consigned for all eternity to some desert outpost of Jahannum, some borderland of hell. Then he fell silent, and Chhunni, the eldest daughter, quickly asked him the only question of any interest to the three young women: ‘Father, we are going to be very rich now, is that not so?’
 
‘Whores,’ the dying man cursed them, ‘don’t count on it.”
 
The bottomless sea of wealth on which everyone had supposed the Shakil family fortunes to be sailing proved, on the morning after his foulmouthed death, to be an arid crater. The fierce sun of his financial incompetence (which he had successfully concealed for decades behind his imposing patriarchal façade, his filthy temper and the overweening hauteur which was his most poisonous legacy to his daughters) had dried out all the oceans of cash, so that Chhunni, Munnee and Bunny spent the entire period of mourning settling the debts for which his creditors had never dared to press the old man while he lived, but for payment of which (plus compound interest) they now absolutely refused to wait one moment longer. The girls emerged from their lifelong sequestration wearing expressions of well-bred disgust for these vultures swooping down to feast upon the carcass of their parent’s great improvidence; and because they had been raised to think of money as one of the two subjects that it is forbidden to discuss with strangers, they signed away their fortune without even troubling to read the documents which the money-lenders presented. At the end of it all the vast estates around Q., which comprised approximately eighty-five per cent of the only good orchards and rich agricultural lands in that largely infertile region, had been lost in their entirety; the three sisters were left with nothing but the unmanageably infinite mansion stuffed from floor to ceiling with possessions and haunted by the few servants who refused to leave, less out of loyalty than from that terror of the life-prisoner for the outside world. And – as is perhaps the universal custom of aristocratically bred persons – they reacted to the news of their ruin by resolving to throw a party.
 
In later years, they told each other the story of that notorious gala night with a simple glee that restored to them the illusion of being young. ‘I had invitations printed in the Cantt,’ Chhunni Shakil would begin, seated beside her sisters on an old wooden swing-seat. Giggling happily about the old adventure, she continued, ‘And what invitations! Embossed, with gold lettering, on cards stiff as wood. They were like spits in the eye of fate.’

Table of Contents

I. Escapes from the Mother Country
Chapter One -- The Dumb-Waiter
Chapter Two -- A Necklace of Shoes
Chapter Three -- Melting Ice
II. The Duellists
Chapter Four -- Behind the Screen
Chapter Five -- The Wrong Miracle
Chapter Six -- Affairs of Honour
III. Shame, Good News and the Virgin
Chapter Seven -- Blushing
Chapter Eight -- Beauty and the Beast
IV. In the Fifteenth Century
Chapter Nine -- Alexander the Great
Chapter Ten -- The woman in the Veil
Chapter Eleven -- Monologue of a Hanged Man
Chapter Twelve -- Stability
V. Judgment Day
Acknowledgments

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Shame is and is not about Pakistan, that invented, imaginary country... The theme is shame and shamelessness, born from the violence which is modern history. Revelation and obscurity, affairs of honour, blushings of all parts, the recession of erotic life, the open violence of public life, create the extraordinary Rushdie mood." — Malcolm Bradbury, The Guardian

"A pitch black comedy of public life and historical imperatives." — The Times

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Shame 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is based on the theme of shame . In it Rushdie tries to look at the various aspects of human life that are meant to be sources of shame.The main character is one who was born out of wedlock and thus has a source of shame. The story goes nowhere and descends into a series of wild events that are meant to be sources of shame . At the end the reader is bewildered at to what the story was all about. I don't know what Rushdie was trying to achieve. But the end result is ,as with all themes examined too much in detail, utter confusion with broad strokes of what we already know. It's a good read if you like the wild Rushdie style. It ,however, does get boring when all his books follow this vein.This is probably why 'the ground beneath her feet ' was not so well received .I think Rushdie has had his fiteen minutes of fame.
P_S_Patrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read a couple of Rushdie books before, the Satanic Verses, and The Moor's Last Sigh. I would rate both of them higher than this one. All the same, this is a good book, it is written as well as the other two, and doesn't lack any of the idiosyncratic Rushdie flair and drama in the writing. I think it is just perhaps because it is not quite as romantic, or balanced as the other two books, it is not as enjoyable to read. The book is fairly miserable all in all, not in a really depressing way, but it is dark, political, and will not be to everyones taste. I did enjoy reading it though, and it has a lot to it's credit, if you've read any Rushdie before then you will appreciate how he describes everything so fantastically, and makes things seem real and unreal at the same time. I would recommend this to fans of the author, but if you've not read any of his before then you should try one of the previously mentioned titles first, as they are in my opinion better reads. This book was shorter than the other two, but the plot is fully realised and he gets a lot out of the ideas in the length of the book.
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Jon_B More than 1 year ago
Doesn't get as much attention as his other books (for obvious reasons) but I think its the most well written.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Shame was my fist Salman Rushdie novel, and my favorite. I believe that all Pakistanis should read this novel, because Rushdie has given us a satire that is on par with Swift, and we can learn much about what it wrong with Pakistani society/politics by reading it. Salman Rushdie is brilliant.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Salman Rushdie has (for obvious reasons) greatly divided critical evaluation. Regardless of your nationality-you will hopefully find a deep beauty in this book- Though it is in parts grotesque-Rushdie's storytelling ability is what makes this such a great book-He has written in this book and also in 'Midnight's Children' and 'Satanic Verses' a very, very sad evaluation of man against man-Inhumanity and a manner of contradictions are vividly presented but a quirky Magick that is Salman Rushdie, is the reason I found this book so enlightening!