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Shalimar the Clown: A Novel Paperback – October 10, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

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 revenge—and the global consequences of such emotions and actions. Critics particularly praised Rushdie’s shocking description of Shalimar’s 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 Rushdie’s 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 real—too real, even.

In the 21st century, Shalimar’s 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.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (October 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679783482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679783480
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sir Salman Rushdie is the author of many novels including Grimus, Midnight's Children, Shame, The Satanic Verses, The Moor's Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Fury, Shalimar the Clown and The Enchantress of Florence. He has also published works of non-fiction including, The Jaguar Smile, Imaginary Homelands, The Wizard of Oz and, as co-editor, The Vintage Book of Short Stories.

He has received many awards for his writing including the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. In 1993 Midnight's Children was judged to be the 'Booker of Bookers', the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first 25 years. In June 2007 he received a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By L. Berlin on September 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Yes I am a fan of Rushdie, but I found this to be his best since Satanic Verses, although much different. As the other reviewers note part of this book is about terrorism. The other reviews also do a nice job of covering plot so I will skip it.

I would suggest the book is about so much more than terrorism. In fact I think his views of terrorism are not integral to the story and would not recommend reading it as a text in support of or against current US policy. Rushdie condemns politicians and their inane behavior in many ways, but I do not view that as central.

First and foremost, I believe this book is about the meaning of freedom. This brings it close to the heart of Rushdie who of course had to give up his freedom, at least for awhile to take advantage of his freedom to think and write. The book recounts the flights to freedom and differing views of it through many of the characters in the book. It explores the struggles of many characters to attain freedom or to benefit from it. This includes Max Ophuls who fled the nazis, Boon-yi, the heroine of sorts, who is trapped in her life, India Ophuls, the daughter of Maxand other characters. It is also about Kashmir and its loss of freedom at the hands of India and Pakistan who use it for their political ends.

I also believe this book is about the western concept of fate as passed down from the Greeks and its meanings. It is also about women and their role in societies and how they cope with men, life, love, tragedy and more. Much of it reminded me of the classics by men and written about women. Yes this is a short list, but Rushdie does such an amazing job of dealing with these issues, I can hardly do it justice.

All this is done through a tight plot with typical Rushdie humor, twists and turns and a good share of mysticism. It was a pleasure to read and I heartily recommend it.
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57 of 66 people found the following review helpful By huckledude on October 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A mesmerizing tale centered in Kashmir but roaming around the world and throughout history. The large cast of characters are each enchanting or entrancing in turn (although, oddly, the protagonist, India Ophuls, is not). The central tragedy of the story is the transformation of Kashmir from a Garden of Eden populated with warm, humble, enchanting, and enchanted rural villagers, into a ravaged moonscape populated by cold-blooded, fanatic, malevolent marauders from Pakistan and India; the story of Shalimar the Clown and Boonyi recapitulates the tragedy on a personal level, each proceeding toward their respective dooms after Boonyi eats from the forbidden fruit of modernity and Shalimar the Clown becomes an Islamist terrorist by way of passage to the execution of his personal terrorist agenda.

Rushdie's writing is mesmerizing throughout. The narrative is a dense tapestry that seems to lead in many directions but is all, in the end, tightly woven together. The only weakness, in my humble opinion, was that his protagonaist, India Ophuls, is an unappetizing character in her own right. The story of her childhood as the "root cause" for her unappealing traits is an oddly sociological, Oprah-istic formulation in a novel that is dominated by innocence and evil frankly declared.

Notwithstanding the overarching tragedy of the narrative, there is considerable humor of both the life-affirming and the splenetic varieties. On the other hand, Rushdie's proper English gentlemanliness creeps in occasionally in his disdain for those sullied by commerce or uniforms.

As someone who does not read a great deal of fiction, I was familiar with Rushdie only because of his unpopularity with the famous literary critic, Ayatollah Khomeini. I can see from Shalimar the Clown that I have been missing out on one of the most substantial literary talents of our time.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Raymond Rice on October 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Salman Rushdie is our world's greatest living novelist and "Shalimar the Clown," quite simply put, is one of his greatest creations. Heart-rending, heart-breaking, filled with fury and indignation, love and the hope of reconciliation, political diatribe and aesthetic redemption, "Shalimar" reads like no other contemporary work. Passages of marvelous beauty (particularly of the early love between Shalimar and Boonyi, two of the novel's central characters), of the triumph of art over ideology (particularly Bombur Yambarzal's humorous and heroic deflation of the humorless and despicable mullah, Bulbul Fakh), and of the unmitigated horrors of war (particularly the destruction of the once near-utopian village of Pachigam, perhaps one of the most tragic passages in modern literature) confront readers at nearly every turn. This is one of the most densely populated (in the sense of characterization as well as ideas) novels of recent years, perhaps even more apocalyptically epic in scope than Rushdie's own "Midnight's Children." Most important of all, Rushdie proves (once again) that politics and literature can be mutually enriching as well as informative; that art can teach more profoundly than any ideology (religious or political); and that hope and beauty--in the midst of the very worst of human-made atrocities-- will find a way (sometimes) to persevere. This is a difficult, angry novel; but make no mistake, it will reward the patient (and thoughtful) reader with a profoundly moving experience. Indeed, Rushdie reminds us all why the novel remains one of the most pertinent and potent of today's artistic venues.
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