Townhouse Books

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Shalimar the Clown: Salman Rushdie

Wow. Starts in the near present with India Ophuls, the product of a famous French ambassador's affair with a Kashmir peasant girl. India sees her father occasionally and is estranged from her stepmother -- as far as she knows, her birth mother is dead. After a shocking act of violence, the story moves back in time and shifts to Kashmir, where Shalimar the clown loves a dancing girl in a village untouched by the outside world. The outside world first intervenes into village life in the form of Max Ophuls, and then the war between India and Pakistan focuses in on Kashmir. This is classic Rushdie -- a barrage of perfectly sketched characters, some on collision courses and some following their own tangents. If you've read Shame, you remember that Rushdie can describe anger and vengeance and their effect on body and soul like no other author I know. He is so skillful at depicting the effect of world events (the Watts riots, the India/Pakistan conflict, the World Trade Center bombings) on individual lives. Good stuff!

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