Kakutani to Rushdie: You Can Do Better
The main problem with this novel, however, is its title character, Shalimar – Boonyi’s cuckolded husband and Max’s assassin, who emerges as a thoroughly implausible, cartoonish figure: an ardent lover turned murderous avenger, a clownish performer transformed into a cold-eyed terrorist. Whereas the other characters’ motives are complex and conflicted, Shalimar is depicted in diagrammatic, black-and-white terms. (…) For that matter, when Mr. Rushdie is writing about Shalimar and his doomed marriage to Boonyi, his usually vigorous prose has a way of turning clotted and cliched. He writes: “It turned out that hatred and love were not so very far apart. The levels of intimacy were the same.” And he has Shalimar say things like: “I’ll never forgive you. I’ll have my revenge. I’ll kill you and if you have any children by another man I’ll kill the children too.”
These are the sort of words spoken by mustache-twirling, snake-eyed villains in old cartoons – villains who are a lot less interesting and a lot less dangerous than the ones at large in the real world that Mr. Rushdie strives by indirection to address in this ambitious but ham-handed novel.