Writing in The Atlantic, Christopher Hitchens -- whom I've rarely known to be flat out wrong about a book -- vindicates Salman's latest after all the naysaying. Because many readers will not be able to access the review on the Atlantic web site, I've reproduced some of the more relevant paragraphs below.
"After various grueling excursions [Rushdie] here wheels back to the sacred and profane territory that made him celebrated before he became notorious: the still contested territory of Midnight's Children and Shame," writes Hitchens.
"Tragedy, both in the Attic sense of the fatal flaw and in the Hegelian sense of a conflict of rights, is to be the master theme. At one point Rushdie gives what is in effect a short modern history of the Kashmiri conflict. He does so by telling the story 'straight,' as it were, but interleaving Max Ophuls, as the American ambassador to New Delhi, into the factual record. It is breathtakingly well done, like a pentimento beneath the figures of John Kenneth Galbraith and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and it helps to illustrate the degeneration of Kashmiri life and Kashmiri ethics.
"This is a highly serious novel, on an extremely serious subject, by a deeply serious man. It is not necessary to assimilate all the details of the conflict in Kashmir in order to read it. Nor is it necessary to favor one or another solution, though we get a hint from the epigraph page—Mercutio's 'plague on both their houses,' from Romeo and Juliet—of Rushdie's opinion of Indian and Pakistani policy. Rather than seek for anything as trite as a 'message,' I should guess that Rushdie is telling us, No more Macondos. No more Shangri-las, if it comes to that. Gone is the time when anywhere was exotic or magical or mythical, or even remote. Shalimar's clown mask has been dropped, and his acrobatics have become a form of escape artistry by which he transports himself into 'our' world. As he himself says in closing his ominous message of Himalayan telepathy, 'I'll be there soon enough.'"
Saturday, August 27, 2005
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