Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown

My review of Salman Rushdie’s new novel, Shalimar the Clown, appeared in the Sunday Oregonian. Here’s a snippet:

Despite all the political turmoil around him, Shalimar’s embrace of the fundamentalists is not an ideological choice but a personal one. His wife’s betrayal turns him into a killing machine, and he willfully joins with a group that can satiate his hunger for revenge while he awaits the right moment to strike. The trouble with Shalimar, Rushdie suggests, is that he values his honor more than his life — indeed, more than the lives of others. In so doing, he becomes part of the war that results in the destruction of his father’s dream, the artistic legacy of Pachigam and its multicultural way of life. Taking the reader from wartime Strasbourg to Bombay, from London to Los Angeles, from the valleys of Kashmir to Algeria, Rushdie weaves a tale in which all these characters, Muslims and Hindus, Jews and Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists, are ultimately connected. Their failure to understand this simple fact threatens them all.

“Shalimar the Clown” is a wonderful example of Rushdie’s trademark ability to mix high and low culture, to quote bits of Baudelaire as well as scenes from “The Magnificent Seven,” to describe the Indian legend of Anarkali as well as the regulars at Jimmy Fish’s boxing club in Santa Monica, Calif. As a prose stylist, Rushdie is in fine form here, his delicate sentences seamlessly taking the reader from English to Urdu and back. Add to this the characteristic humor and unflinching observation of a master storyteller, and you have Rushdie’s best work in many years.

You can read the full text here.