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Starred Review. For Westerners, Rushdie's latest may be better heard than read. While readers might stumble over the Kashmiri, Indian and Pakistani names and accents, Mandvi glides right through them, allowing us to engage with Rushdie's well-wrought characters and sagas. Mandvi has a calm, quiet storyteller voice, often employing tempo to express emotional states and to make long, complex sentences entirely clear. In fact, one realizes he is nearly invisible (until he reads a few lines in a Romance language), leaving us to relish the sounds and images and rhythms of Rushdie's language. The book begins at the end, with the murder of the former American ambassador to India, Maximilian Ophuls, now a counterterrorist expert, then introduces his murderer, Shalimar the Clown, Kashmiri actor and acrobat-cum-terrorist, and Ophuls's illegitimate daughter, India, who brings the book to a conclusion as terror-filled and ambiguous as our own future. Suspense and tension are superbly built and layered through mythology and plots of lust and jealousy intertwined with cultural, religious, national and international affairs. Rushdie does get polemical for a while, even didactic; his writing in these sections sometimes sounds speechifying. Yet we come away with a mostly lyrical parable that offers us a way of grappling with the realities of our time and place, a way of refracting history through multiple lenses.
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Like some of the post-9/11 literature, Shalimar delves deep into the roots of terrorism and explores the turmoil generated by different faiths and cultures attempting to coexist. How can nations, Rushdie asks, go from near-peaceful ethnic and religious acceptance to violent conflict within a mere generation? Critics agree that Rushdie has brilliantly unraveled the construction of terrorists: some of them fight for ideas; others fight to fulfill vows or, if they are men, to reclaim their wives.
Shalimar is at once a political thriller, folk tale, slapstick comedy, wartime adventure, and work of science fiction, pop culture, and magical realism. In shimmering (if sometimes baroque) language, Rushdie invokes clever satire and imaginative wordplay. Yet, despite its diverse genres and styles, Shalimar is, at heart, a story of love, honor, and revengeand the global consequences of such emotions and actions. Critics particularly praised Rushdies shocking description of Shalimars transformation into a cold-blooded Islamic terrorist, from his participation in training camps to forced humiliations before Taliban leaders. Similarly, wrenching descriptions of pre- and post-war Kashmir, his homage to a paradise lost, confirm Rushdies brilliant powers of observation and keen social insight. Some reviewers felt that some characters lacked psychological depth or complete plausibility, or were too allegorical, but most described Shalimar as convincingly realtoo real, even.
In the 21st century, Shalimars painful, terrifying themes are both fantastical and devastatingly real. To evidence otherwise, Rushdie offers a note of cautious optimism: people can work out their differences if left alone by ideologues or fanatics. Shalimar provides a timely, ultimately idealistic, message for our times.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Editorial Reviews
It took me a while to make my way through this book, but it was well worth the time. Rushdie writes so elegantly that you can't rush through his prose. Read morePublished 5 days ago by Patricia Englin
I loved this book. The narrator does not do it justice but honestly I never really thought so before I read other reviews complaining about it. Read morePublished 25 days ago by average consumer
I had to get this book in the audio version to understand it. Then it made sense.Published 1 month ago by Murdoch_007
The book describes the plight of Kashmir in a great tragic love story. The way the entire story unfolds in between the situation in Kashmir is really gripping. Loves it.Published 5 months ago by Deepa Vaidyanathan
Mr Rushdie is a supreme novelist, and this is a dense but highly enjoyable novel. The author tells the story unconventionally and does not follow a straight narrative arc; rather,... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Alex