Latest Reading: Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown


This is the third book I’ve read by Salman Rushdie, the British-Indian novelist. He is most well known for his 1988 book, Satanic Verses, which depicts some irreverent aspects of the historical life of  Islam prophet Muhammad. The leader of Iran at the time, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or execution order. He became a free speech advocate and is still alive today.

Shalimar the Clown, published in 2005, is the story of a murder in Los Angeles in the late 1990s. He goes back through the lives of the people involved leading up to the event. Most of the book takes place in the disputed northern Indian region of Kashmir where the murderer is from, but also sections of the book are set in World War II France, Delhi and Los Angeles.

As an older, well-traveled person, I now understand most of Rushdie’s references to places and events. That was not the case when I read his books twenty years ago. I really enjoy the details and the breadth of cultures covered in this book. I do not like his tendency to include elements of magical realism in the story, similar to Latin American writers. I prefer my fiction to be plausible.

Reading novels is becoming less common with the advent of the internet. However, I like to unwind from screens and it calms my brain to reflect on the details of the story. It helps me fall back to sleep when my mind is racing with the many tasks I have to worry about as a head of school and a father of three children. Because of the complex plot and interweaving events and characters, it was the perfect book to make me sleepy.

Some parts of the book were a little tedious, specifically the mythology of Kashmir, the there was plenty of action and plot twists to keep me reading. I wonder why none of Rushdie’s books have been made into movies. This would make a good one, especially since it deals with some themes that resonate today, including terrorism, ethnic conflict and migration.



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