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Rushdie, Salman

Entry updated 20 February 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1947-    ) Indian-born author, in the UK (and elsewhere) from adolescence, and long a UK citizen. His fame derives not solely from the illegal fatwa, or death "sentence", proclaimed against him by the Islamic theocracy of Iran for The Satanic Verses (1988), which caused his near-death in 2022; but also, and far more importantly, from all his previous work, beginning with the complex and witty, legend-like Grimus (1975), a Fabulation (like all his novels see also Magic Realism) which makes marginal use of sf material in its invoking of Immortality themes and in the conflicts in a sea of Dimensions that its eternally young Native American protagonist must undergo in his search, through an emblematic World-Island, for the moment of death. Ultimately, with Sufi-like irreverent sublimity about the nature of Transcendence, he succeeds. The narrator of Midnight's Children (1980), one of 1001 children born within an hour of midnight on the day of India's independence, all of whom possess and are possessed by Magic, interweaves personal and national stories in fabulist terms; Shame (1983) similarly but less encompassingly erects a mythopoeic framework around the land of Pakistan as embodied by its heroine, whose emblematic shame at her (and her country's fate) so inflames her skin that her constant blush boils water. The Satanic Verses scabrously anatomizes, in fantasy terms, a Religion whose more fanatically fundamentalist devotees responded brutally to its being comprehended in this fashion. The Moor's Last Sigh (1995), which is fantasy, was banned in India for lese-majesty; The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999) replays the myth of Orpheus (see Mythology) in fantasy terms; Fury (2001) segues into expressionist plot turns but remains an essentially nonfantastic anatomy of the American Age of Anxiety circa 2000; The Enchantress of Florence (2008), a fable about the creation of realities through Story, ends when the dream City of the historical Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great (1542-1605), is drained of its holy water, and becomes unstoryable. At the very end, Akbar lays a Ruins and Futurity curse on the future.

On the other hand, the long-term future hinted at in Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015) is pacific and sustainable, an outcome achieved through fantasy means; by a time definable as the very Near Future the numerous offspring of the 1001-nights comprising the union of the jinnia Dunia and the philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes) (1126-1198) have fully intermingled with normal humans, but are particularly exposed to the return of all the jinn from the other Dimension known as Peristan, or Fairyland, and a consequential (or simply associated) concatenation of Disasters that perhaps signal the end of Homo sapiens's brutal mismanagement of the planet. But all turns out, perhaps cartoonishly, well. Quichotte (2019) couches as a retelling of Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote (1605-1615) the tale of a contemporary Indian in America who has lost his wits from too much Television, and who embarks on a hegira across the strange continent, constantly attacked as a migrant by white Americans, in his quest to gain the heart of a tv host. The metafictional turns of Part Two of the original are honoured. Victory City (2023) complexly mythologies the history of the culturally extraordinary sixteenth-century empire centred on the City of Vijayanagara in what is now southern India.

The loose Sea of Stories sequence comprises Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990), a fable reflecting, indirectly, the nature of its author's own experiences after 1988, and pointing out (with calm savagery) the eternal conflict with Story, which cannot be controlled or fully understood, and tyranny, including religious tyranny, which must control the souls of its victims or dupes, or perish; and Luka and the Fire of Life (2010). Some of the stories assembled in East, West (coll 1994) are fantasy. The Wizard of Oz (coll 1992 chap) presents his reflections on L Frank Baum and Hollywood. Salman Rushdie was knighted in 2007. [JC]

see also: Perception.

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie

born Bombay, India: 19 June 1947



Sea of Stories

individual titles

nonfiction (selected)

  • The Wizard of Oz (London: British Film Institute, 1992) [nonfiction: coll: chap: pb/]


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