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Shalimar the Clown: A Novel First Edition Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 115 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679463351
ISBN-10: 0679463356
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. [Signature]Reviewed by William T. VollmannThe focus of this novel is extremism. It tells the tale of two Kashmiri villages whose inhabitants gradually get caught up in communal violence. As we know from Yugoslavia, hatred takes on especially horrific manifestations when neighbors turn against each other. The neighbors to whom Rushdie introduces us are memorable and emblematic characters, especially his protagonists, the Hindu dancer Boonyi Kaul and her childhood sweetheart, Shalimar the clown, son of a Muslim family. Their passion becomes a marriage solemnized by both Hindu and Muslim rites, but as conflict heats up, Boonyi seduces the American ambassador. The resulting transformation of Shalimar into a terrorist is easily the most impressive achievement of the book, and here one must congratulate Rushdie for having made artistic capital out of his own suffering, for the years he spent under police protection, hunted by zealots, have been poured into the novel in ways which ring hideously true. Bit by bit, Shalimar becomes a figure of supernatural menace.The life of the ambassador, Max Ophuls, is also brilliantly invented. In a series of highly effective set pieces—Nazi-occupied Strasbourg, where he failed to persuade his principled parents to save the books they published, not to mention themselves, from the flames (the family was Jewish); southern France, where his exploits on behalf of the Resistance were so colorful that I would spoil the reader's pleasure if I betrayed them; England, where a glamorous wartime romance led him into his only marriage—the author builds our sympathy for the man who (with her connivance) ruins Boonyi's life and sets in motion Shalimar's destiny.Now for the novel's defects: Rushdie's female characters are generally less plausible than the male ones. When he is describing Kashmir's good old days of communal tolerance, he too frequently takes refuge in slapstick. His depiction of Los Angeles relies so much on references to popular culture that the place becomes a superficial parody of itself. In terms of technique, Rushdie's most irritating tic is the sermonistic parallelism or repetition, but the novel's best passages (not to mention his other great work, Shame) prove him capable of great style.Never mind these flaws. Shalimar the Clown is a powerful parable about the willing and unwilling subversion of multiculturalism. And for those readers who even in this post-September-eleventh continue to cling to American narcissism, the parable grows more urgently pointed: Ophuls and Boonyi conceive a daughter, who is taken away at birth and in due time becomes a beautiful, troubled, privileged ignoramus in Los Angeles. About Shalimar the clown, her mother's husband, she doesn't have a clue. Is that her fault? Is it our fault that we never paid much attention to the rest of the world? But one day, without any warning, two planes smashed into the Twin Towers, and now (wake up and run!) Shalimar the clown has arrived in Los Angeles. (On sale Sept. 6)Vollmann's most recent novel is Europe Central (Viking).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (September 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679463356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679463351
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,050,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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