The Moor’s Last Sigh
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Random House
Publishing Date: 1995
Genre: Fiction, Saga
Cost: Rs. 550 (Paperback), Rs. 326.90 (Kindle Edition), Rs. 1298 (Hardcover)
A ferociously witty family saga with a surreally imagined and sometimes blasphemous chronicle of modern India with peppery soliloquies on art, ethnicity, religious fanaticism, and the terrifying power of love. Moraes “Moor” Zogoiby, the last surviving scion of a dynasty of Cochin spice merchants and crime lords is also a compulsive storyteller and an exile. As he travels a route that takes him from India to Spain, he leaves behind a tale of mad passions and volcanic family hatreds, of titanic matriarchs and their mesmerized offspring, of premature deaths and curses that strike beyond the grave.
"The Moor's Last Sigh" is an episodic account of the rise, decline and extinction of a Portuguese merchant family anciently established in southern India, focusing on the period from 1900 to the present.
The book traces four generations of the narrator's family and the ultimate effects upon the narrator. The narrator, Moraes Zogoiby, traces his family's beginnings down through time to his own lifetime. Moraes, who is called ‘Moor’ throughout the book, is an exceptional character, whose physical body ages twice as fast as a normal person's does and also has a deformed hand.
Like the tale itself, the title has multiple layers of meaning. ‘The Moor's Last Sigh’ refers to two paintings:
- A masterpiece by the narrating Moor's mother, Aurora.
- The other- a trashy work by her onetime protege and lover, and later the adamant enemy, Vasco Miranda, who becomes the Moor's rival.
The book also focusses heavily on the Moor's relationships with the women in his life, including his mother Aurora, who is a famous national artist; his first female tutor; his three older sisters, Ina, Minnie and Mynah; and his first love, a charismatic, demented sculptor named Uma.
The ‘Sigh’ that the title of the book mentions is believed to let out about five centuries ago, in 1492, when Muhammad XI, last sultan of Andalusia, bade farewell to his kingdom, bringing to an end Arab-Islamic dominance in Iberia.
Everything about the writing is well put together and intricately thought out. Rushdie’s use of language is mystical. He transforms the words with ease and brings out opulent meanings out of them, which help bringing out the plot which is an original story to unfold into a sequence of riddles to a sardonic version of modern India.
Milestones of the Book:
- The book won the Whitbread Prize for 'Best novel' in 1995
- It won the Aristeion Prize in 1996.
- The book was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1995.
- On 5 November 2019 BBC News included The Moor's Last Sigh on its list of the 100 most influential Novels.
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. He is the author of six novels: Grimus, Midnight's Children, which won the Booker Prize in 1981 and the James Tait Black Prize; Shame- winner of the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger; The Satanic Verses which won the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel; Haroun and the Sea of Stories which won the Writer's Guild Award and The Moor's Last Sigh which won the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award. He has also published a collection of short stories East, West, a book of reportage The Jaguar Smile, a volume of essays ‘Imaginary Homelands’ and a work of film criticism ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
Salman Rushdie was awarded Germany's Author of the Year Award for his novel The Satanic Verses in 1989. In 1993, Midnight's Children was voted the 'Booker of Bookers', the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first 25 years. In the same year, he was awarded the Austrian State Prize for European Literature. He is also Honorary Professor in the Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His books have been published in more than two dozen languages.