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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars yes it comments on terrorism but is so much more
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...
Published on September 26, 2005 by L. Berlin

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dexterous manipulation
Salman Rushdie's latest novel bears the fingerprint of its author: like his previous works, it is an expertly implemented, well paced story that swings dexterously between different times, places, and people, and yet maintains a continuity. I read the book quite rapidly, in a few long sessions. The novel certainly grips the reader.

Like always, Rushdie has done...
Published on March 25, 2007 by Martti Mäntylä


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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars yes it comments on terrorism but is so much more, September 26, 2005
By 
L. Berlin "disraeli67" (Evanston, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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56 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing, October 9, 2005
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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars rushdie's heart-rending dream of return, October 12, 2005
By 
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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44 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "An age of fury was dawning, and only the enraged could shape it.", September 12, 2005
When India Ophuls finds the body of her father, his throat slashed by his Kashmiri chauffeur, Shalimar the Clown, she and the police believe the death to be connected to terrorism. Max Ophuls, "the Resistance hero, the philosopher prince, the billionaire power-broker, the maker of the world" was also "America's best loved, then most scandalous Ambassador to India." Though Max has been US counter-terrorism chief recently, his assassination by Shalimar the Clown, we learn, has been an act of pure, personal revenge, unrelated to terrorist organizations.

Through an extended flashback, Rushdie recreates the love story of Shalimar, a tightrope walker, and Boonyi Kaul, a dancer and acrobat, in a troupe from Pachigam, a small Kashmiri village where both Muslims and Hindus live and work together peacefully and govern the town together. Shalimar and Boonyi fall deeply in love at fourteen and marry soon after, but several years later, Boonyi has an affair with Ambassador Max Ophuls, and her abandonment of her husband turns the enraged Shalimar into a potential assassin, who swears revenge upon everyone involved in the affair.

The continuing story of Boonyi and Shalimar becomes an allegory for the history of Kashmir, its Hindu/Muslim conflicts and its political India/Pakistan conflicts, as young Muslim men including Shalimar, respond to the teachings of the "iron mullahs" with their fundamentalist messages. Incorporating local mythology, legend, and traditional story-telling, Rushdie sheds light on the actions of the main characters, emphasizing the traditional beliefs which underlie much of their behavior. Dreams, visions, and prophecies give warnings of disasters to come. Boonyi's relationship with Max becomes the story of betrayal by a powerful American, and Max's Jewish background, which is emphasized, injects fundamentalist hatred of Jews into the controlling allegory.

Though Rushdie stresses that Shalimar assassinated Max Ophuls as an act of personal revenge, not terrorism, he nevertheless extends the allegory and symbolism from the personal to the universal. When the focus of the novel moves from Kashmir into the broader realm of all recent world events, it begins to break down thematically. "Everywhere's story is now a part of everywhere else," Rushdie says. Shalimar, for example, has trained in the Philippines with Abu Sayyaf, a group aided by Libya and Malaysia. India Ophuls sees her father as Nelson Mandela in a dream. The Los Angeles riots, 9/11, Rodney King, and Reginald Denny are viewed as part of interconnected violence throughout the world. Even the 1974 murder of a nanny in England by Lord Lucan is somehow connected to Max's murder and Shalimar's personal revenge.

Dense with imagery, legend, and local color, the novel lacks Rushdie's trademark humor, word play, puns, and clever repartee. His characters, though layered and often complex, illustrate aspects of the historical allegory and behave in ways that advance the plot and symbolism, rather than as characters with lives of their own. Journalistic passages, inserted within the story, give further information about the Indian army, its fight against the insurgency, and reports of fidayeen attacks and atrocities.

A fascinating study of the Kashmiri conflict, the cultures of the area, and the growth of radical Islam, the novel conveys both the spectacular beauty and the spectacular violence of the area, offering much to think about in terms of the origins of such violence. In his attempt to broaden the scope from Kashmir to the world stage and to show all violence as connected, however, Rushdie has stretched his themes and created a novel which often feels dogmatic. n Mary Whipple
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rushdie and the Exquisite Myth, September 6, 2005
By 
Leave it to Salman Rushdie to tackle the most poignant issue of our day - terrorism, and do so with eloquence, wit, and true revelations into its distressing nucleus. While other authors have included 9/11 in their novels (Foer's rather trite attempt in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), Rushdie has managed to set the stage for a true exegesis of the zeitgeist prior to, and directly thereafter, this seminal event in American history. By investigating so perfectly the transformation of Shalimar into an extremist, Rushdie is able to weave together an explanation of why terrorists are born that remains personal, and yet also reaches an almost universal explication. This eerie gift is by far a better investigation of the reason for terrorism than any so-called scholarly work that has come out post-9/11. The fact that Rushdie provides his terrorist with such a layered biography is a testament to his talents, and allows the reader to understand there is far more to it than what they suggest on the nightly news. Rushdie's Shalimar becomes nearly the equivalent of Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost - we feel sympathetic towards him while at the same time, we know he is no hero. Like Milton, Rushdie is a myth-maker, and his ability to conjure up these new myths makes the novel all the more alluring.

Myths are universal. They capture the collective (un)consciousness of a given society. They tap into our most primal and complex notions and feelings. They work as symbols of our own actions and emotions. So, for an author to invent a myth, and do so with the perfection of actually capturing our attitudes, our new customs, our new thoughts, our new fears, he or she has accomplished something grand. And here, Rushdie has done so flawlessly. His characters work as archetypes, each one representing a given aspect of our worldly society today. Shalimar is those that we fear, Max is those we understand and respect (the West) but who are unequipped to understand and properly deal with the new world's greatest threat, Boonyi is the middle-point, the place where this friction collides, and it is fitting that she is the mother of complacency and American narcissism. For her child, living in Los Angeles in an absurd existence of self-indulgence and isolationism, with no understanding of her roots and the imminent catastrophe, is our attitude and response.

However, this novel is not all dire. Like all great myths, it is hilarious, erotic, absurd, and beautiful. It is a Divine Comedy, as well. The paradox of Dante's ominous subject is deftly played out here, as the humor and the beauty works to magnify the tragedy.

It has long been argued as well that the real frontline of terrorism is Kashmir, and here again, Rushdie beautifully expresses why this is, from a very interesting discussion of the history, to the events shaping the area into a hotbed of extremism. Long before there was Bush's war, there was the unending war between Hindu and Muslim. Kashmir is its home. Rushdie of course has intimate knowledge of this collision of cultures and the violence it can cause. His own forced reclusion after The Satanic Verse, when extremists were intent on doing away with him, is magically transferred into this novel, but without simply blaming Islam. Yet again, a feat of Rushdie's gifts.

Finally, Rushdie seems to be so in tune with our culture's prevailing attitudes, he appears to be almost speaking for us all. And not just those of us in the US or Europe, but our fellow humans across the globe similarly effected by terrorism. This notion of myth-making, of creating a new saga to highlight truths that cannot otherwise be expressed is a welcome return in contemporary literature. I am reminded of Christopher Wunderlee's The Loony, in which truth is so shrouded in mythology; we are incapable of understanding it. While Wunderlee's novel illuminates our mythologizing the past, and contorting the past to fit our current needs, Rushdie is looking at now, and requesting his readers to look forward. Both novels (interestingly both published this year) investigate the work of myth in our lives, untruths clarifying our basic truths, and how these sagas can still explain so much, even today.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shalimar for the Kashmiris..., June 1, 2006
By 
Prashant (Manlius, NY, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I was 13 when I had to run from Kashmir in the cover of the night, with my family, to escape being butchered by Islamic fundamentalist groups. I am 30 and I live in NY now, but the nightmares wont go. Hence my review might be biased.

I just finished reading this book - I have laughed, cried, wailed, fumed with anger and every possible emotion. It was a roller coaster that way. I LIKED IT A LOT for the following reasons:

1. Salman has researched the book very well. I can attest to most of its historical and cultural references pertaining to Kashmir and India. He has liberally used metaphors from the Kashmiri language. Made the read very lucid for me.

2. Most of the political analysis - I am in agreement with, and seeems correct.

3. The story has been commented on in other reviews so I will refrain from it. But what must be pointed out is Salman's own background. As far as I know he's of Kashmiri origin. His ancestral house was still standing in Kashmir till a few years ago when it was blown up by the the terrorists. That translates into a very emotional narrative, almost honest.

4. I wont comment on the author - enough has been said about him. He's a great writer and I have loved most of his other works.

I DIDNT LIKE:

1. The overtly brutal potrayal of the Indian army. That was definitely an exagerration.

2. Sometimes he goes on in too much detail, on wild tangents.

3. The ending(but that a personal thing).

Other works I would highly recommend:

1. Midnight's Children.

2. Haroun and the sea of stories - with lots of hidden references to Kashmir: Dull lake anyone?

Definitely a good read.

Peace.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dexterous manipulation, March 25, 2007
By 
Martti Mäntylä (Helsinki, Finland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Salman Rushdie's latest novel bears the fingerprint of its author: like his previous works, it is an expertly implemented, well paced story that swings dexterously between different times, places, and people, and yet maintains a continuity. I read the book quite rapidly, in a few long sessions. The novel certainly grips the reader.

Like always, Rushdie has done his homework well: the book is full of minute detail and paints a vivid and life-like picture of its multiple scenes. Yet, after completing the book I was dissatisfied. Why is that?

At surface, the book is a story of a triangle of people: a man, his daughter, and the mother's deceived and furious husband, Shalimar the Clown. A bit deeper it is a story of India and Kashmir, a lost paradise utterly devastated by both external and internal actors.

The man is one of the forces: while acting as the USA ambassador to India, he meets a Kashmir dancer and falls in love with her; thus, the daughter is born. Of cosmopolitan middle-European origin, the ambassador is painted a man of many admirable qualities: he is a hero of French resistance during WWII, he is an accomplished economist connected with creating the post-war western world from ashes, he is a star diplomat, he is a spy-master par excellence. Yet he also is an amoral womaniser whose love to the Kashmiri woman rapidly causes her ruin.

The subtext of the ambassador as a representative of the entire Western world is easy to read: his compassion and love to India and Kashmir, even if genuine, is shallow and ultimately empty. What puzzles me, nevertheless, is why the author chooses to call him Max Ophuls. I know who the real Max Ophüls was, and I know some of his work. I expect that those readers who are not movie freaks will not know the late 40's-early 50's movies of the German-French director, semi-obscure if influential as he was. So why this name? Is Rushdie under-estimating, or over-estimating the reader? I cannot see his point here, unless it is to create confusion in some readers.

The deceived husband, Shalimar, is the bête noir of the story. The actor-acrobat turns to an international terrorist who kills his targets with skill and vengeance. He is pictured as the mirror image of the ambassador, his eventual victim. He is fanatical, skilful, strong and dangerous. In his single-minded devotion, he is more like the Terminator character than a real human being. All in all, Rushdie makes little attempt to explain or understand Shallimar. Perhaps this would have been too much to expect from an author who was himself for years a living target of religious fanatics.

In my reading, the daughter, India Ophüls. also becomes more an amalgam of ideas than a real novel character. Cast in Los Angeles, the city with no center or sense of proportion, she is depicted as rootless and uncertain of what she is. Only after she reaches out to her hidden past, to her mother and Kashmir, does the find the strength to face Shalimar in the eventual and predictable showdown. To underline this, Rushdie makes her adopt the name her mother had whispered in her ear after birth, Kashmira.

Indeed it may be that Kashmir itself is the only genuine character of the novel: her nature and landscapes; her trees, flowers, and animals; her villages and customs; and her suffering people. Only here Rushdie is expressing real compassion and warmth towards his creation.

Perhaps there are more sophisticated ways to read Shalimar the Clown; I don't know. For me, nevertheless, the shallowness of its characters left a unpleasant feeling. They did not stand for themselves; instead, they stood for something else. I felt manipulated, and I do not like that feeling, irrespective of the direction I'm manipulated to.

I could not help comparing this reading experience to the recent novel of another popular and skilled author, the Until I Find You by John Irving. Like Rushdie, Irving too is a story-teller who likes to spread his novels over wide distances in time and space. However, Irving's characters, even if fantastic, are more complex and less easy to explain. More than that, I sense more warmth and compassion in his work. He likes his characters, and wants the reader to like them too.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Profound, Epic Work., January 30, 2006
By 
Robert Blake (Santa Monica, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
"Shalimar The Clown" is not just Salman Rushdie going into the mind of the kind of men who wished him dead during the 90's when Iran sentenced him to death for "The Satanic Verses," it is a novel that serves as a relevant tale for our own times, feelings and conditions. It is an epic work of classic scope that expresses the need for us to understand and listen. Why does a man decide to become an assassin? What darkness in a person's soul leads them to join radical religious groups that only believe in absolute rule through death and killing? Rushdie frames our troubled times with a troubled love story, where a beautiful Kashmiri dancer abandons her husband and long-time lover, Shalimar The Clown in their little town to chase an ill-conceived fantasy of fine living with the American Ambassador Max Ophuls. Shalimar swears revenge and is sucked into the growing armies of jihadists pouring into the troubled region between India and Pakistan. Rushdie brilliantly writes Shalimar's conversion from a quiet artist to a bloodthirsty terrorist with depth and insight into the kind of morality and ideas radical Islam espouses. It is not just the history of Shalimar and his lost love Boonyi, it is OUR history from the last 30 years, the history of the beast birthing itself under our noses and finally culminating in September 11. But what Rushdie really achieves with "Shalimar The Clown" is the reality that the current problem is not just political, it is internal, we don't to just stop ignoring other cultures, but PEOPLE. Sometimes we hurt and are hurt, and we don't know what we're creating when we inflict powerful inner wounds on others. Like Steven Spielberg's film "Munich," "Shalimar The Clown" looks INSIDE modern terrorism, not just at it. Rushdie writes with true elegance and an almost poetic prose, really bringing feelings and thoughts to life. The novel breathes with life and it is a true piece of modern literature, or best said, modern literature at its finest. It mixes mythology with history and like Rushdie's previous novels it brings a whole world to live with a fantastical style that expresses the realities of ourselves and our world. "Shalimar The Clown" is the definitive novel of the post-9/11 world and it will be hard to find a more profound, provocative work of fiction on the subject.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, November 30, 2005
By 
Rushdie uses words like an artist uses a paint brush. Reading "Shalimar the Clown" painted scenes that were more vivid than programs I see on TV. His story is current and historical. His story is about a girl with Hindu/Moslem/Jewish ties. The story travels, like a flying carpet, between Kashmir and the United States, with the Pakistani/Indian conflict and the terrorist dilemma the world is trying to deal with, thrown in. The only fault may be the ending which wasn't really satisfying for this reader, but it was whimsical. This is the first Rushdie book I've read, but he's the best author I've read in recent years.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kashmiri story . . ., January 10, 2006
It feels like there are at least three novels compressed into this one account of an American ambassador, a dancing girl, their daughter, and an Islamist hit man. Following the lives of these and a host of other characters, Rushdie's story covers large swaths of European and Indo-Pakistan (Kashmir) history while beginning and ending in modern-day Los Angeles. Taken together in all its interwoven narratives, its theme is the politics of gender in the twentieth century, and it poses the thesis that Islamist insurgency is driven chiefly by the rage, jealousy, and fear of dishonor that originate in the cultural gulf between men and women. The war of terrorism resolves finally in this brilliantly entertaining novel to a murderous final encounter between a man and a woman.

While Rushdie's story relies for much of its substance on the conflict between India and Pakistan over the territory of Kashmir, high in the Himalayas that lie above both nations, the Western reader is easily immersed in its cultural complexities and its history through story after story about people who are both "foreign" and recognizably human. Meanwhile, the ordinary and everyday mix with comedy, tragedy, historical fact and magical realism, and the reader is hurried through a portrayal of events without time to tell truth from illusion. Rushdie's achievement is his ability to illuminate a very nonfictional global-scale conflict through a fictional narrative graced at every turn by the finest art of compelling and witty storytelling. Like his title character, Shalimar, Rushdie keeps you turning the pages with his breathtaking high-wire act.
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Shalimar the Clown: A Novel
Shalimar the Clown: A Novel by Salman Rushdie (Paperback - October 10, 2006)
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