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Haroun and the Sea of Stories Paperback – November 1, 1991

217 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Khalifa Brothers Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

Immediately forget any preconceptions you may have about Salman Rushdie and the controversy that has swirled around his million-dollar head. You should instead know that he is one of the best contemporary writers of fables and parables, from any culture. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a delightful tale about a storyteller who loses his skill and a struggle against mysterious forces attempting to block the seas of inspiration from which all stories are derived. Here's a representative passage about the sources and power of inspiration:
So Iff the water genie told Haroun about the Ocean of the Stream of Stories, and even though he was full of a sense of hopelessness and failure the magic of the Ocean began to have an effect on Haroun. He looked into the water and saw that it was made up of a thousand thousand thousand and one different currents, each one a different colour, weaving in and out of one another like a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity; and Iff explained that these were the Streams of Story, that each coloured strand represented and contained a single tale. Different parts of the Ocean contained different sorts of stories, and as all the stories that had ever been told and many that were still in the process of being invented could be found here, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was in fact the biggest library in the universe. And because the stories were held here in fluid form, they retained the ability to change, to become new versions of themselves, to join up with other stories and so become yet other stories; so that unlike a library of books, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was much more than a storeroom of yarns. It was not dead, but alive.

"And if you are very, very careful, or very, very highly skilled, you can dip a cup into the Ocean," Iff told Haroun, "like so," and here he produced a little golden cup from another of his waistcoat pockets, "and you can fill it with water from a single, pure Stream of Story, like so," as he did precisely that.

From Publishers Weekly

In a contemporary fable filled with riotous verbal pranks, Haroun, who unintentionally stopped time when he froze his father's esteemed storytelling ability, seeks to undo his error on a quest through a magical realm. "As eloquent a defense of art as any Renaissance treatise . . . saturated with the hyperreal color of such classic fantasies as The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland ," said PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Lexile Measure: 940L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books/Penguin; 1st edition (November 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140157379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140157376
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (217 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on January 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
Literature often transcends pre-set boundaries of category or genre. Prime examples include the chronicles of Alice and Gulliver originally conceived to satirise society and later metamorphosed into children's classics, and more recently the popularity of the Harry Potter novels among adult readers. 'Haroun and the sea of stories' could be placed in a similar category. It can be read as a fairy tale or as a satire that addresses everyday problems, narrates social conditions and broaches political issues.
Regarded by readers and critics alike as one of the master storytellers of the present day literary world, it is not surprising that Mr.Rushdie has conjured up a fantasy based on the world or rather the ocean of stories, named after the ancient Indian treatise Kathasaritsagar.
The protagonist Haroun Khalifa is a young boy who leads a happy middle class life distinct from the rich, poor, `super-rich' and `super-poor' people inhabiting a nameless sad city.
Haroun's father Rashid Khalifa is a famous story teller - the Shah of Blah with fabled oceans of notions, who often refers to the streams of story water he drinks to keep up the supply of wondrous tales that pour forth from within him. Haroun takes this as an eccentric statement by his father, and soon discovers that the ocean of stories indeed exists, and that only he could save it from total annihilation.
Haroun's world is suddenly taken apart when his mother elopes with their neighbour Mr.Sengupta, a mean clerk who had forever questioned the significance of Rashid's tales ('What's the use of stories that are not even true?') and Rashid loses his gift to spin wondrous yarns.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
An instant classic. This is a story that is meant to be read over and over, out loud, silently, in public, or in the comfort of one's own bed.
The words flow and flow, lyrical and rhythmic, while spinning this beautiful fantasy. After reading the book, I find myself talking like the characters, chuckling to myself on the subway suddenly reminded of something in the book.
In fact, when I was reading this book on the way to work, I had people come up to me and ask "How is that?" (Which is unheard of, especially for New York Commuters!). All I can say is, "Just Delightful. Highly Recommend you read it."
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Toby Anderson on December 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
Very simply, this is the best book I've ever read to my kids. It grabbed their imagination in a way that no other book ever had. Something about this story fired their spirits and had my three, from 8 from 12, begging for me to read more, and had them changing their schedules ("What? You're done with homework already?") to ensure we could read more chapters at night. (And during weekend days!) We read it over a year ago now, and they still talk about it.

I bought "Haroun" after a review (in the WSJ maybe?) and read it myself first, which made me rush through the book we had, just to start it. Their response, however, was unprecedented. They were _very_ moved by what I had thought was a really good book, but which they immediately took to like no other story ever.

I'm sure reviews of the other edition tell enough of the plot that I need not repeat anything here. (I don't know what, if anything, is different in the other; I recommend this one because I know it.) I hope it suffices to say that Rushdie's effort to write a good story for his own son has changed my kids' worlds. This is now the novel to which they compare all others they read or heard.

They were transfixed by Haroun's every move and they loved the fantastic characters ("But but but!"). They appreciated the wordplay, "P2C2E", and the arc of Haroun's journey especially. Their sentimental dad was moved by the ending and by the experience of reading it to his kids.

"Haroun" excited them like no story before or since.

Thank you, Mr. Rushdie.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Russell Belfer on December 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book works simply as a beautiful fantasy story about a boy who saves a world of make believe, and can also be taken as a deeper meditation on creativity, the dangers of authoritarianism, the value and the honest weaknesses of democracy, the important of history, and the occasional importance of maintaining an illusion. It is easy to read, great for children, and illuminating for adults. An excellent introduction to Salman Rushdie.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on October 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is sort of the Arabian Nights + Princess Bride, with a little Alice in Wonderland thrown into the mix. When Rashid, a storyteller known as the Shah of Blah, loses the ability to tell stories, his son Haroun sets out to find out what has happened. With the help of Iff the Water Genie and a cast of colorful characters he finds out that forces of Darkness are polluting the Sea of Stories.
It's all a thinly veiled allegory for Islam trying to silence the author after his Satanic Verses was published, but it's deftly handled & often quite amusing. Rushdie does an especially nice job with word plays & puns & the book requires rereading & reading aloud to catch them all, which makes it a perfect book for adults to read to older kids.
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