Author: Salman Rushdie
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Publication Date: 08 September 1983
Genre: Magic Realism
Cost: Rs. 296.80 (Kindle edition)
In this novel, first published in 1983, Salman Rushdie gives us a lively and colourful mixture of history, art, language, politics, and religion. The story centres around the family of two men—one a celebrated warrior, the other a debauched playboy, played out in the political landscape of their country.
This story takes place in a town called "Q" which is actually a fictitious version of Quetta, Pakistan. In Q, one of the three sisters (Chunni, Munnee, and Bunny Shakil) gives birth to Omar Khayyám Shakil, but they act as a unit of mothers, never revealing to anyone who is Omar's birth mother. In addition, Omar never learns who his father is. While growing up, Omar lives in purdah with his three mothers and yearns to join the world. As a birthday present, Omar Khayyám Shakil's "mothers" allow him to leave Q. He enrolls in a school and is convinced by his tutor (Eduardo Rodriguez) to become a doctor. Over time, he comes in contact with both Iskander Harappa and General Raza Hyder.
It therefore, also portrays the lives of Iskander Harappa (sometimes assumed to be Zulfikar Ali Bhutto), and General Raza Hyder (sometimes assumed to be General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq), and their families and the relationship among them.
The central theme of the novel however connecting all the families and key characters is that "shame" reproduces ‘violence’.
This novel deals with the central theme ‘shame’. The character ‘Sufiya’ in the book represents this theme a lot. She is mentioned as a mentally handicapped girl whose parents’ negative and judgmental attitude towards her has slowly made her into a person who is initially surrounded by self hatred, bitterness which gradually balls into her turning very ‘violent’.
Rushdie directly addresses:
“Between shame and shamelessness lies the axis upon which we turn; meteorological conditions at both these poles are of the most extreme, ferocious type. Shamelessness, shame; the roots of violence.”
When Harrapa is disestablished, he constructs a dictatorship modelled after the Chairman Mao's. His desire for power ultimately leads to his very own downfall. His story also explores the same theme of ‘Shame’ but adding another dimension.
The novel is injected with different versions of females in the Harrapa and Hyder families. The women are deprived of the ‘right to vote’ and are in need of assistance. The shame that Sufiya's father felt towards her is doubled by a sense of ‘misogynistic trait’ running in the family.
The novel is a perfect amalgamation of the concept of ‘Rags to Riches’ and literary conventions like dark humour, paranoia, fragmentation and unrealistic plots.
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.