Author: Salman Rushdie
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Jonathan Cape (UK), Penguin Books (India), Random House (US)
Publication Date: 29 August 2019 (UK, India); 3 September 2019 (US)
Genre: Metafiction Novel
Cost: Rs. 314.47 (Kindle edition)
The protagonist, Sam DuChamp, is an Indian -born writer living in America and author of a number of unsuccessful spy thrillers. Hoping to write a book "radically unlike any other he had ever attempted", he creates the character of Ismail Smile. Smile, who was born in Bombay, is a travelling pharmaceutical salesman who has suffered a stroke in old age. He begins obsessively watching reality television and becomes infatuated with Salma R, a former Bollywood star who hosts a daytime talk show in New York City.
Despite having never met her, he sends her love letters under the pen name "Quichotte". He begins a quest for her across America with his imaginary son Sancho. The two experience many contemporary issues of the United States. The lives of the character Quichotte and the writer DuChamp intertwine as the story progresses.
Quichotte is an Indian man of advancing years, living in America and working as a travelling pharmaceutical salesman: following a stroke, he’s lost his grip on reality and become addicted to reality TV.
After being infatuated to a talk show host, events take a turn and Rushdie takes us for a pleasing-to the eye journey through Quichotte’s storyline where he wanders across America. Though it being quite quaint, it unfolds the ugly ongoing truths within the society there: racism, populism, the opioid crisis, familial ties, impact of the popular culture.
Rushdie’s novel is a modern interpretation of Cervante’s ‘Don Quixote’. But it is not just a mere re-telling of that Novel. Rushdie adds his own take, his own style in it, like:
He references The Beatles and Paul Simon, Andrew Marvell and William Wordsworth, Shakespeare and Arthur Miller, Driving Miss Daisy and Men in Black. There are endless litanies of reality TV shows, double acts, sci-fi novels, one-hit wonders.
At one point, Rushdie lists 41 increasingly preposterous varieties of snoring: “the fireworks display, the tunnel at rush hour, the traffic jam, the Alban Berg, the Schoenberg, the Webern, the Philip Glass...”
In fact, he tells Rushdie tells his story in a satirical manner, of the contemporary truths we are surrounded by. A very remarkable feature of this book is that most of the major characters in it are Indian American. Even the character of ‘Salma R’ began life as a Bollywood actress in Bombay. So is Quichotte- an Indian American. So is Brother, who describes himself as “rooted, like an old banyan tree.”
Rushdie said that he wants to “capture a panorama of our own surreal, metamorphic time”; and so he did that - Rushdie takes the reader on a wild ride through a country on the verge of moral and spiritual collapse.
Milestones of the Book:
- The novel was shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize.
- The novel debuted at number fifteen on the ‘The New York Times’ Hardcover Fiction best-sellers list on September 29, 2019.
About the Author:
Of Indian origin, Sir Ahmad Salman Rushdie born on 18 June, 1947 is one of the best living writers in English. Combining historical fiction with magical realism, Rushdie has been courting controversy ever since Midnight's Children was published in 1981. The novel went onto win the Booker Prize. The Satanic Verses, his fourth novel published in 1988, was banned in India and many Islamic countries. Facing death threats the author was granted protection in England. He moved to USA in 2000, where he currently lives.