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There’s a line in Paul Simon’s song St. Judy’s Comet, a sort of lullaby, about his reason for writing it. "If I can’t sing my boy to sleep," he sings, "it makes your famous daddy look so dumb." More than twenty years ago, when my older son Zafar said to me that I should write a book he could read, I thought about that line. Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written in 1989-90, a dark time for me, was the result. I tried to fill it with light and even to give it a happy ending. Happy endings were things I had become very interested in at the time.
When my younger son Milan read Haroun he immediately began to insist that he, too, merited a book. Luka and the Fire of Life is born of that insistence. It is not exactly a sequel to the earlier book, but it is a companion. The same family is at the heart of both books, and in both books a son must rescue a father. Beyond those similarities, however, the two books inhabit very different imaginative milieux.
Haroun and the Sea of Stories was born at a time of crisis in its author’s life and the fictional Haroun’s quest to rescue his father’s lost storytelling skills in a world in which stories themselves are being poisoned was a fable that responded to that crisis.
Luka and the Fire of Life is a response to a different, but equally great, danger: that an older father may not live to see his son grow up. In the earlier book, it was storytelling that was being threatened; in the new one, it is the storyteller who is at risk. Once again, the book grows out of the reality of my own life, and my relationship with a very particular child. Luka is my son Milan’s middle name, just as Haroun is Zafar’s.
As well as the central theme of life and death, Luka explores in, I hope, suitably fabulous and antic fashion, things I have thought about all my life: the relationships between the world of imagination and the "real" world, between authoritarianism and liberty, between what is true and what is phony, and between ourselves and the gods that we create. Younger readers do not need to dwell on these matters. Older readers may, however, find them satisfying.
It has been my aim, in Luka as in Haroun, to write a story that demolishes the boundary between "adult" and "children’s" literature. One way I have thought about Luka and Haroun is that each of them is a message in a bottle. A child may read these books and, I hope, derive from them the pleasures and satisfactions that children seek from books. The same child may read them again when he or she is grown, and see a different book, with adult satisfactions instead of (or as well as) the earlier ones.
I don’t want to end without thanking the boys for whom these books were written and who helped me in their creation with a number of invaluable editorial suggestions. Luka and the Fire of Life has been the most enjoyable writing experience I’ve had since I wrote Haroun and the Sea of Stories. I hope it may prove as enjoyable to read as it was to write.
(Photo © Alberto Conti)
Rushdie has put together another marvelous fantasy. It starts with the dreamiest boy in a family of dreamers, and a quest through the land of magic. Read morePublished 28 days ago by wiredweird
This guy can write! The ending is a little rushed, as with most of his books, as with most fiction books in general (it's like 'they've' run out of time - pencils down).Published 2 months ago by Old and Weary
I love anything that Salman Rushdie does. The book was enjoyable to me and I would just as easily read the book to a child at bedtime. Read morePublished 6 months ago by gwengy
Now this book was deliberately patterned after video games as seen in the need for Luka to be careful of how many lives he has left as he journeys to the Fire of Life and the... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Rocky Sunico
No matter how old you are. You'll be delighted to read this tale, a true heir of the Arab Thousand Nights. It's magic and it's love what it is about. What else can you ask for? Read morePublished 7 months ago by Margarita Rosado
Rushdie does a wonderful job in this sequel to Haroun, called "Luka and the Fire of Life." It's another incredible story that younger audiences would enjoy too (but not... Read morePublished 11 months ago by KL
This is the follow-up to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, written for Rushdie's youngest son, when he was 12. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Michela Pasquali
This was a pleasant adolecence's book to read as an adult. Even though some parts are predictable - I was still surprised at the conclusion Luka came to at the end of his journey... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Martha J. Pavidis
Another magical adventure, this time Haroun's little brother. Salman Rushdie's two kids' books are much better if you read them to kids than to yourself - the non-stop lists of... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Steven