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Luka and the Fire of Life: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 16, 2010
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Intrusion: A Novel
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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)
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a fable and has the conventions of a fable or fairy tale, yet it's a modern one in that Rushdie nods many times toward the audience as if to say, "Guess what? I'm having fun with this, and you should, too." It's mostly a wry commentary on families, life, and how everyone is searching for his own identity in his own way -- but it's done so well, and with so much brio, that it's almost impossible not to like it even though if you've read many fables or fairy tales, you know how this is going to end.
So plot by itself is really not the upthrust of this book; rather, I'd say this is a book to seek out if you enjoy language, social commentary, and a sideways look at our ever-shrinking world. It's enjoyable, witty, fast-paced in its own way (remember, it's fast-paced for a _fable_), and fun.
Four stars. Recommended.
Luka's story was created by Salman Rushdie for his own 12-year-old son, Luka. The novel is filled with contemporary references, clever puns, and wonderful language, so why would I rate it only three stars? Let me explain:
This is my first experience reading Salman Rushdie, and it's quite a treat. Mr. Rushdie has wide-ranging classical knowledge which he brings to his narrative. His use of the English language is stunning. For the first 100 pages of this novel, I was charmed by his skills.
For me, the problem with this novel is the story. In spite of the wonderful language, I was never able to connect with the story. In fact, after the first 100 pages, I found myself skimming rather than engrossing myself in the reading. Too bad, because Mr. Rushdie is a wonderful writer -- but a not-as-good story creator.
To illustrate: A dog named Bear, and a bear named Dog, were amusing when first introduced, but this name reversal quickly grew stale and, eventually, annoying. Although these two characters contributed to the story, it was not enough to rescue a tale that stretched on far too long.
So, would I buy this novel for my own 12-year-old son? No. I don't find the story strong enough to hold (what I remember of) his interest.
For his writing, five stars.
For the story, two stars.
Average: 3.5 stars
Luka Khalifa is the much younger brother of the title character in HAROUN AND THE SEA OF STORIES, Rushdie's earlier fantasy for the child in all of us. His father, the great storyteller, the Shah of Blah, is in a coma and Luka must journey into the Magic World to steal the Fire of Life before his being is sucked away by the spectral Nobodaddy, who becomes more and more visible as he empties the dying man of his substance. The quest involves the assistance of elephant-headed Memory Birds, a shape-changing dragon called Nuthog, and the benevolent but fierce-speaking Insultana of Ott, who provides a magic carpet to take Luka much of the way to his destination. But Luka is no shrinking violet himself.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As a sequel to the earlier book about Haroun, Luka did not catch my interest as well. Imaginative and artfully written, the story between magic and real still didn't seem to break... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Mark A. Shelly
The basic plot of this novel is that Luka's father, a famous storyteller, has fallen into a deep, incomprehensible sleep, and seems like he won't wake up. Read morePublished 8 months ago by David W. Kikuchi
I bought this book because one of my grandchildren is an avid writer and reader of magical realism and because one of my ex-students, now grown and a mother of two, is embarking on... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Deborah W. Seigman
Rushdie wrote this novel for his youngest son, and he brings to it his inimitable imagination and wit. Read morePublished 15 months ago by SWeberful
A tour de force of literary allusion and reference, from folk and fairytales of many cultures so the Illiad and Odyssey and Gilgamesh. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Jack Thompson
I read and liked "Haroun and the Sea of Stories," so I expected to like this fantasy novel, too. Read morePublished 20 months ago by California Freethinker
The book is a delightful trip into the world of imagination and the story telling world that Salmon Rushdie gives us.Published 22 months ago by Amazon Customer
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 on February 16, 2014 by wiredweird