Sunday, May 24, 2009

‘Shalimar the Clown’ – by Salman Rushdie


I love books. So much so when things get too much in my life (and it’s been too much for a while now) I seriously consider whether I shouldn’t just give it all up and study to be a librarian. I love just sitting and going through my books, deciding which books I need to read first in order to make space for the two boxes that I’ve never quite managed to unpack (due to lack of space) since I’ve moved in. This, in spite of the five or so bookshelves, admittedly of vastly differing sizes, which I have in my tiny apartment.

So in an effort to “make space” I embarked on “Shalimar the Clown” by Salman Rushdie. I got the gift a few years ago as a gift from two dear friends, but somehow hadn’t got around to reading it. (I have a terrible habit of increasing my book collection at a much faster rate than I read). However, convinced that I would, if I finished it at all, be getting rid of it, I started on it.

I have to mention that I did start reading a Salman Rushdie a few years ago (“Fury”), but did not get very far. (If I do not enjoy the book fairly quickly, I don’t persevere long – too many books, so little time). I almost gave up on this one two, but for some reason, perhaps because Salman Rushdie has the distinction of having won the “Booker of Bookers” (for Midnight’s Children), I persisted.

I would by no means characterise the book as a particularly easy read. Nevertheless I found it mesmerizing, and perhaps if I had just dug in, I would have read it quicker. It is somehow beautifully written (I cannot remember the last time I had such a view of a book written by a man!).

It is a book about vengeance and the close relationship between hatred and love. It is about the East and West. It is about two men, “freedom-fighters” to some. It is about two women, a mother and daughter.

It is a questioning of Western notions of individual freedoms, and yet each character is a complete, individual human being. It is about consequences and prisons, both internal and external. It is about the inter-connectedness of families and lovers. It is about the spiritual aspects of the emotional human condition. It is about the vulnerability and frailty of the human ego.

It is about a world missing mercy and grace for the frailties of humans. This is not a book about peace, both external and internal. Which is probably what makes the book so hard, but at the same time, there is a strange gentleness and beauty about this book, which for me at least served as a beacon, warning of the truth about human nature.

All in all, an outstanding read, which shall retain it’s space in my poor, overcrowded library.

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