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Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children was awarded the Booker McConnell Prize for 1981. Born in Bombay, he now lives in London.

Homage to Satyajit Ray

Salman Rushdie, 8 March 1990

‘I can never forget the excitement in my mind after seeing it,’ Akira Kurosawa said about Satyajit Ray’s first film, Pather Panchali (The Song of the Little Road), and it’s true: this movie, made for next to nothing, mostly with untrained actors, by a director who was learning (and making up) the rules as he went along, is a work of such lyrical and emotional force that it becomes, for its audiences, as potent as their own most deeply personal memories. To this day, the briefest snatch of Ravi Shankar’s wonderful theme music brings back a flood of feeling, and a crowd of images: the single eye of the little Apu, seen at the moment of waking, full of mischief and life; the insects dancing on the surface of the pond, prefiguring the coming monsoon rains; and above all the immortal scene, one of the most tragic in all cinema, in which Harihar the peasant comes home to the village from the city, bringing presents for his children, not knowing that his daughter has died in his absence. When he shows his wife, Sarbajaya, the sari he has brought for the dead girl, she begins to weep; and now he understands, and cries out too; but – and this is the stroke of genius – their voices are replaced by the high, high music of a single tarshehnai, a sound like a scream of the soul.’

Imaginary Homelands

Salman Rushdie, 7 October 1982

An old photograph in a cheap frame hangs on a wall of the room where I work. It’s a picture, dating from 1946, of a house into which, at the time of its taking, I had not yet been born. The house is rather peculiar – a three-storied gabled affair with tiled roofs and round towers in two corners, each wearing a pointy tile hat. ‘The past is a foreign country,’ goes the famous opening sentence of L.P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between, ‘they do things differently there.’ But the photograph tells me to invert this idea: it reminds me that it’s my present that is foreign, and that the past is home, albeit a lost home in a lost city in the mists of lost time.

Angel Gabriel

Salman Rushdie, 16 September 1982

We had suspected for a long time that the man Gabriel was capable of miracles, because for many years he had talked too much about angels for someone who had no wings, so that when the miracle of the printing presses occurred we nodded our heads knowingly, but of course the foreknowledge of his sorcery did not release us from its power, and under the spell of that nostalgic witchcraft we arose from our wooden benches and garden swings and ran without once drawing breath to the place where the demented printing presses were breeding books faster than fruit-flies, and the books leapt into our hands without our even having to stretch out our arms, the flood of books spilled out of the print room and knocked down the first arrivals at the presses, who succumbed deliriously to that terrible deluge of narrative as it covered the streets and the sidewalks and rose lap-high in the ground-floor rooms of all the houses for miles around, so that there was no one who could escape from that story, if you were blind or shut your eyes it did you no good because there were always voices reading aloud within earshot, we had all been ravished like willing virgins by that tale, which had the quality of convincing each reader that it was his personal autobiography; and then the book filled up our country and headed out to sea, and we understood in the insanity of our possession that the phenomenon would not cease until the entire surface of the globe had been covered, until seas, mountains, underground railways and deserts had been completely clogged up by the endless copies emerging from the bewitched printing press, with the exception, as Melquiades the gypsy told us, of a single northern country called Britain whose inhabitants had long ago become immune to the book disease, no matter how virulent the strain …

Mole

Salman Rushdie, 4 February 1982

Until recently, the only Saki story I had ever read was ‘Filboid Studge, the Story of a Mouse that Helped’. This is the one about the artist Mark Spayley who is wooing the daughter of Duncan Dullamy, ‘the great company inflator’, whose new breakfast food Pipenta ‘could scarcely be called a drug on the market; people bought drugs, but no one bought Pipenta.’ Spayley, the mouse of the title, offers the great man his help, renames the product Filboid Studge and devises an advertising poster in which the Damned in Hell are tormented by young dandies who hold bowls of Filboid Studge just beyond the lost souls’ reach. ‘A single grim statement ran in bold letters along its base: “They cannot buy it now.” ’ The product becomes a success, and the industrialist refuses Spayley his daughter’s hand: after all, Spayley is poor and Leonore is an heiress …

Cuban Heels with Twisting Tongues

Salman Rushdie, 4 June 1981

Cuba in 1961. The magazine Lunes de Revolution protests against the censorship of PM, a film about a black woman who sings boleros in Havana’s nighttown. The magazine is closed down forthwith, by that very revolution whose Mondays its title salutes. Lunes’ editor is a 32-year-old writer named Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and the director of the film is his brother, Saba Cabrera. Time-dissolve: four years pass. In 1965, Cabrera Infante, now Cuban Cultural Attaché in Belgium, is sacked (no reason given). Soon afterwards he leaves Cuba for good. Jump-cut to the present. Cabrera Infante is now living in London, almost completely ignored, like Elias Canetti before him, by the capital’s lovers of literature: however, his acclaimed novel Three Trapped Tigers has at last been published in England; a mere 13 years after its completion. In paperback, too: a snip at under three pounds. Hurry while stocks last.

Story: ‘The Prophet’s Hair’

Salman Rushdie, 16 April 1981

Early in 19—, when Srinagar was under the spell of a winter so fierce it could crack men’s bones as if they were glass, a young man upon whose cold-pinked skin there lay, like a frost, the unmistakable sheen of wealth was to be seen entering the most wretched and disreputable part of the city, where the houses of wood and corrugated iron seemed perpetually on the verge of losing their balance, and asking in low, grave tones where he might go to engage the services of a dependably professional thief. The young man’s name was Atta, and the rogues in that part of town directed him gleefully into ever-darker and less public alleys, until in a yard wet with the blood of a slaughtered chicken he was set upon by two men whose faces he never saw, robbed of the substantial bank-roll which he had insanely brought on his solitary excursion, and beaten within an inch of his life.

Letter

Born in Bombay

24 February 1994

I hadn’t been intending to mention it, but since Gerald Moore (Letters, 24 March) is kind enough to ask, my father, a Delhi man born and bred, chose our family name there in his youth, not in ‘what is now Pakistan’.For the record, while I’m at it, Christopher Hitchens’s tough-minded and heartening Diary (LRB, 24 February) contained a couple of other small, but not insignificant,...
Letter
SIR: John Bayley (LRB, 7 June) pauses in his review of Milan Kundera’s new novel to have a bit of a sneer at me, which is fine, but one thing puzzled me a bit. He says, of my piece about The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, that I ‘went on to bury it under all the chic epithets, sad, obscene, tender, wickedly funny, wonderfully wise, “a masterpiece full of angels, terror, ostriches...

Salman Rushdie’s ‘Quichotte’

Michael Wood, 12 September 2019

‘One​ can feel that there is always a camera left out of the picture,’ Stanley Cavell writes in The World Viewed. He is writing of a literal movie camera, but he suggests a...

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Rushdie’s Latest

Christopher Tayler, 16 November 2017

Some people​ don’t like the idea that they may be living in a metropolitan bubble, but René Unterlinden, the narrator of Salman Rushdie’s latest book, has been raised to call...

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Salman Rushdie

Carlos Fraenkel, 18 February 2016

Salman Rushdie​’s latest novel is a version of The Arabian Nights – two years, eight months and 28 nights adds up to 1001 of them. But it’s updated in every way. The climax,...

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Salman Rushdie

Colin Burrow, 8 May 2008

Even serious and persistent readers often say they can’t finish Salman Rushdie’s novels. His unfinishability has some obvious causes. Wearyingly encrusted description is the natural...

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Salman Rushdie

Theo Tait, 6 October 2005

With time and overuse, artistic style degenerates into mannerism. This is especially true of magic realism. Following the success of Gabriel García Márquez, a flood of...

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‘The Ground Beneath Her Feet’

Lorna Sage, 29 April 1999

The philosopher Plotinus was such a good Idealist that he refused to have a portrait done – why peddle an image of an image? – and argued that the true meaning of the myth of...

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Shenanigans

Michael Wood, 7 September 1995

The Moor’s last sigh is several things, both inside and outside Salman Rushdie’s sprawling new novel. It is the defeated farewell of the last Moorish ruler in Spain, the Sultan...

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Deadly Fetishes

Terry Eagleton, 6 October 1994

Magic realism is usually thought of as a Third World genre, appropriate to a place where the supernatural is still taken seriously, where fable and folk tale still flourish and where fantasy can...

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Toto the Villain

Robert Tashman, 9 July 1992

A good piece of writing on film, produced by a major literary figure, is as rare as a successful film adaptation of a major literary work. The fear and condescension felt towards the medium by...

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Embracing Islam

Patrick Parrinder, 4 April 1991

‘Our lives teach us who we are,’ Salman Rushdie observed in one of three widely-read and somewhat contradictory statements of faith that he published last year. These are now...

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Saving the Streams of Story

Frank Kermode, 27 September 1990

No doubt it would be possible to apply to this exercise in magic irrealism the terminology of V. Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale, by way of demonstrating that Salman Rushdie’s...

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Let’s get the hell out of here

Patrick Parrinder, 29 September 1988

Here, in these three novels, are three representations of the state of the art. In The Satanic Verses the narrator, who may or may not be the Devil, confides that ‘what follows is tragedy....

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Irangate

Edward Said, 7 May 1987

The ostensible reason for the enormous concern in America over the Irangate affair has been the question of whether the President and his National Security Council, together with the CIA and...

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Tristram Rushdie

Pat Rogers, 15 September 1983

Four titles, and an abstract noun apiece – well, Melvyn Bragg has two, but it’s the well-known coupling as in (exactly as in, that’s rather the trouble) a fight for...

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Experiments with Truth

Robert Taubman, 7 May 1981

Bent to the ground in the gesture of prayer, one morning in Kashmir in 1915, Aadam Aziz accidentally bumps his nose – and gives up prayer for ever. This event ‘made a hole in him, a...

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