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Rushdie, Salman

children india midnight magic

(British, 1947– )

Rushdie was born into a Muslim family in Bombay, and educated in England; his family joined the Muslim exodus to Pakistan in 1964. He is a richly inventive writer who straddles cultures and draws on the traditions of both East and West. Start with Midnight's Children (1981, Booker Prize), which established him as the voice of post-colonial India. Saleem Sinai, one of the children born with India's independence at midnight on 15 August 1947, tells stories to his bride-to-be. Panoramic and chaotic, Midnight's Children demonstrates how history evolves through the telling of countless stories, none of which is infallible. Shame (1983) has a similar sense of the unreliability of fixed versions. Omar Khayyam, another bi-cultural narrator, recounts events in a fictional Pakistan where the central characters echo Bhutto and General Zia. Set ‘at a slight angle to reality’, Shame's exaggerations convey the preposterousness of life in this problematic nation.

After this, try The Satanic Verses (1988), the book which earned the author a death sentence from the Ayatollah Khomeini, on the grounds of blasphemy against Islam. Rushdie's magic realism reaches full flower in this huge erudite novel. Two men, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, fall from the sky over the British Channel after their plane explodes. On the way down they begin to transform, Farishta developing a halo, Chamcha hooves and horns. A series of metamorphoses and visions ensue, which are comic and witty, exploring faith and deception, appearance and reality, fame, migration, and colonialism in a modern multicultural whirlpool that twists and turns on itself. Fury (2001) is Rushdie's most consciously modern novel and his most disturbing. Set in New York, it brilliantly captures the energy of that city and its inhabitants—an energy that is at once exhilarating and dangerous.

Gabriel García Márquez, Günter Grass, V.S. Naipaul, Mikhail Bulgakov.

See INDIA, MAGIC REALISM  CB

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