Dammit, first the pic was too big now I can’t seem to re-size it! ah well.
The last Rushdie I had read was The Satanic Verses, and I thought it was one of the greatest books ever written. Shame treads some of the same paths but its more about Pakistan’s political history than rather TSV’s religious and humanistic themes.
The story is basically about the entwining paths of two families, both representing Pakistan’s prime ministers. Throughout their family history there’s madness, suicide, imprisonment the whole lot and if you discount the flights of magical realism you have to keep in mind that such things did happen.
However the main theme is shame and how it shapes history, or maybe the Indian character?, for the only protagonist in the novel who is not born with a sense of shame is the one who survives the most in the book.
As such Shame is not as powerful as The Satanic Verses, it works as a satire and the writing is great but I felt that it lacks the energy and whizz of Rushdie’s most notorious novel. Still it wipes the floor with practically everyone else so a good Rushdie novel not may excel his own masterpieces but it still is a fascinating read.
The Satanic Verses has been sitting on my shelf for a very long time. The main reason why I kept putting off reading it was mainly cause I thought you need an intricate knowledge of the Koran in order to fully understand it but really all you need is some basic knowledge – Rushdie is a kind author and guides you on the way.
A plane explodes and it’s two victims – a washed out actor called Gibreel Farishta and an Anglophile voice over artist called Saladin Chamcha survive it. Once they hit the ground, Gibreel turns into an angel and the other, a devil. They separate and Saladin vows to get his revenge on Farishta.
In between this Gibreel has these amazing dreams (and they are the best parts of the book) which deal with the creation of the Satanic Verses (three verses in the Koran about mythological deities) and a modern society who go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
However the book’s main theme is the Indian migrant experience, colonialism and how Religion, namely Islam is fused within Indian culture in both modern and ancient times. Also towards the last bit of the book there’s a first-rate passage about fatherhood and family relations.
At times funny, beautiful, satirical this is one book that shouldn’t be missed out on. Maybe it’s not the best introduction to Rushdie but it’s the one in which displays his fiery prose the best.