Book Review on “Shame” by Salman Rushdie
About the author
Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie graduated from King’s College, University of Cambridge where he read history. He is a British Indian Novelist born 0n 19 June 1947.He is well known for writing historical criticism and travel writing. His genre of writing is magic realism, postcolonialism and satire. He initially worked as a copywriter in an advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather. He wrote his novel Midnight Children (1981) at Ogilvy before he became a full time writer. This work of his won the 1981 Booker prize and in 1993 and 2008, was awarded the Best of the Bookers as the best novel to have received the prize.
He has won many awards for his literary work including the European Union’s Aristeoin Prize for Literature. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.
He wrote various novels like Grimus, Satanic versus, East West, Fury, Shalimar the crown, The Enchantress, The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Jaguar Smile etc. a total of eleven novels. He is also the co-editor of the Vintage Book of Indian writing. His second novel is Shame(1983) in which he discuss About the political issue of Pakistan.
Shame won France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (Best Foreign Book) and was a close runner-up for the Booker Prize. This Book comes under the postcolonialism and is written in the shades of magic realism.
Shame comes under the genre of magic realism. The title of the book with context to the theme depicts itself. It is published under the publication of Jonathan cape 0n 08 September 1983. Shame includes Violence, shamelessness, heritage, and the whole expression 0f all these themes on the individual protagonist Omar Khayyàm and Sufiya Zinobia. It is transformed from simpleness to violence over the time you read the novel. It has history, myth, politics and fantasy. This is a novel which has comedy and seriousness simultaneously. Rushdie describes about an imaginary place which is not Pakistan in its literal terms or we can say he talks about ‘’ not-quite Pakistan’’ after its independence from the colonizers. According to Rushdie the people of Pakistan do not value themselves and view themselves as objects because they are still not over the effect 0f the colonizers and the shame they put them through. Rushdie also states that he is not only talking about Pakistan but he has described about his own fictional country with slight angle to reality. The main protagonist in the novel is Omar Khayyam and Sufiya Zinobia. Sufiya is mentally retarded and is treated by Dr. Omar Khayyàm who falls in love with her and later they marry. Sufiya takes all the shame on her the unfelt and felt and so her inner beast takes over her. Dr. Omar Khayyàm and Raza hyder discovers it and imprison her. In the end the beast in Sufiya overpowers her and she beheads her husband in bed. The title goes well with the basic theme of the novel Shame. The result of her shame lead to an act of violence which tremble the heart and soul of Rushdie’s audience.
Themes in the novel
This novel discusses about various themes set in the ‘Q’ town of Pakistan as described according to the author . The theme of shame itself is very understandable on how a girl takes the shame of people on herself and the effect of that on her life and the people around her.
The Theme Of Love
The theme of love is very well described in the novel as to how a person who is raised to live a life without shame falls in love with a girl full of shame, guilt and also that she carries the shame of other people upon her but love is beyond everything and love comes with no conditions attached. Despite of knowing that his marriage will not be entirely complete that he won’t be having any physical relations with her due to her physical health struggles he still marries her.
The Political Theme Of Pakistan
This novel also contains the theme of political ideologies and politics in Pakistan during that time. The partition in 1947 have also effected in the politics of Pakistan . This novel is a political parable of Pakistani political world. It mainly talks about the lives of two men Raza Hyder who is a General in military and Iskander Harappa who is a politician and a millionaire. Both of these characters are based on the real life character of people of Pakistan. Both of the characters are based on the former President and Prime Minister of Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq and Zulfikar ali Bhutto respectively. The author has described Shame as the characteristic representation of Pakistan. The novel also focuses on the dominance of military leaders on the political leaders of Pakistan.
It is a combination of historical, political and social issues in Pakistan. The postcolonial rulers in Pakistan and their authoritarian measures divided the people of Pakistan into two sections that are opponents to each other. The first part comprises of the local population of Pakistan and the second part comprises of the emigrants arrived from India in partition period.
There has been three wars fought between India and Pakistan and so on. Thus, Rushdie has depicted the politics of Pakistani religious leaders and extremist groups which led Pakistan to downfall.
The Theme of Shame.
In this novel it is very well depicted that violence is born out of shame. He talks about the cultural problem directly in this novel as to how the shame of an individual person is deeply stricken by the flaws in the society and somewhat carried the burden of the society on her shoulder which leads to shamefulness. On the contrary the protagonist is shameless due to the restrictions being put on to him in order to feel sympathetic towards the society and because of all the burden she had on herself she couldn’t bear the shame on herself so she chose violence as a medium to get rid of it. Her shame depicts her family and nation’s shame.
The Theme of Magic Realism
Magic realism is where magic elements are part of a realistic environment. In this novel rushdie has created a imaginary country which is not Pakistan but which is quite. He creates a fictionalized version of Pakistan called Q in which the story takes place. Myth and fantasy are blended with reality in magic realism. Issues discussed in the novel.
Rushdie is a masterman in molding the language according to his purpose very successfully and productively. The political issue of Pakistan during that time is very brilliantly described in the novel. General raza hyder who is a military man is paired with the civilian political man Iskander Harappa. He has mixed up the characters very well. In Shame all the characters face identity crisis and fragmented issues. General Hyder (Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-haq) who is involved in the assassination of Iskander Harappa (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) who was the prime minister of the country to become the president – dictator of the country but is later hanged for the crime committed. The politics of gaining power and reality told in a style of magical fairytale is elaborated in the novel.
Rani, who is the wife of Harappa is banished to her husband’s country where she spends most of the time embroidering on the shawl which depicts all the shameful events in the family. The men in the novel are very sensitive for honor so much that any breach of which can result in shame. Referring that a father murders his own daughter because the shame she bought to the family by sleeping with an English man, the murder was to wipe out the shame. Also the shame which Gen. Hyder feels because a daughter with physical issues is born in a family who desperately dreamed of a boy. He rejects his own blood his own daughter and later he even burns the lips of an old lady who kisses herT
he novel portrays the colonial and the post-colonial era and the story keeps on moving back and forth in past and present. He has described the political and social system of Pakistan. He talks about the shameful consequences which occurred in the partition of India in 1947. It also portrays the pain and suffering of the masses of the Pakistan by the rulers. It gives an insight in the political world and the moves and counter-moves of the political leaders. History is also talked about in the novel but not in a genuine sense it may confuse the actual historical knowledge as he mixes the fictional with the historical which gives us an idea that he believes that the fictional and the historical co-exist.
Literary devices used in the novel.
The collection of visual images is known as imagery. In this novel imagery is used very beautifully. The entire sequence of Old Mr. Shakil’s death is described so prominently that it starts creating an image in the mind of the reader when he continues with the text. Other than this the entire novel can be imagined in our mind and it helps in connecting with the characters and understanding their thought processes.
Comparison of one thing with other thing of a different kind is known as simile. Rushdie has used very few simile in the novel. He has also used symbolism in the novel Sufiya Zinobia is a symbol of shame in the novel. Motifs are used in the novel to enhance the symbolic factor, themes and mood.
By using the technique of magic realism Rushdie has narrated a very beautiful story which gives us goosebumps when reading and it also creates such an interest that the readers would want to read the novel in one go and as soon as we complete a chapter or even a page we would want to flip chapters and pages more but the drawback of this novel is that it is a one-time read as a reader i wouldn’t want to read this novel again and also after reading this if we stop in between then the continuity breaks and u feel disconnected with the story. He has beautifully described the politics and social of the country. Some of his tools are exaggerated that reader gets unamused and feels a repulsion and takes a step back for example the three sisters getting pregnant together and giving birth to a baby and 6 breasts feeding a child is impossible in the real world this might create a repulsion in the minds of reader but on the other hand this will also cause curiosity in readers to read it further and get to know what exactly the logic behind this is given so it creates a sense of irony. The completely false start and the over exaggeration of the novel can become a little unbearable to the readers. Shame is a mixture of everything in its literal sense.
In the end I would want to conclude that it is one time read but it definitely has a great effect on our brains and it gives us an inside about the mentality which people had after the partition of India and how they were treated as objects and what happened in the past and what is happening in the present . It is Mr. Rushdie’s delight and source of bright stream of words hitting on your thought process.
Haroun and the Sea of Stories: Salman Rushdie’s Use of Allegory
Haroun and the Sea of Stories: An Allegory for all Readers
Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories tells a fictional tale of a young protagonist named Haroun who travels to the Sea of Stories to help his father gain back his skill of storytelling. This narrative was a consequence of Rushdie’s many years in hiding. After he published The Satanic Verses, a novel about Pagan Meccan goddesses which insulted many Muslims, former Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering the death of Rushdie. As a result, the English government put Rushdie in hiding and he was forced to be separated from his young son, Zafar. In an effort to reconnect and entertain his son, Rushdie wrote an entertaining story for children: Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Although the tale resonates with younger audiences and portrays a sense of magical realism, the allegory also makes several allusions to works only familiar to older audiences. Rushdie’s references to King Lear, Plato, and The Beatles demonstrate this dichotomy, resulting in a work which aims to please a child’s sense of wild creativity, yet also attracting more experienced readers familiar to complicated topics. One way in which Rushdie hooks his second, presumably older, audience is by explaining the importance of speech and storytelling in a profound philosophical context. Describing the circumstances of his fatwa, Rushdie appeals to the second audience which an overarching framework of how speech promotes a richer private and public life. In the tale Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Rushdie simultaneously appeals to children and experienced older readers. By utilizing magical realism to further the plot, allude to other known children works, and introduce a myriad of magical creatures, Rushdie immediately grabs the interest of children. Almost contrastingly, Rushdie informs the readers about the importance of storytelling, painting Khattam-Shud, the opposition to all storytelling, as an antagonist and developing Haroun’s gradual love for storytelling and culture.
After several years of hiding and isolation from his family, Rushdie longed to connect with his young son, Zafar through a story which would entertain him. Thus, Haroun and the Sea of Stories is formatted as a children’s book to demonstrate the bond between Rushdie and his son. The first way in which Rushdie exemplifies this is through using the art of magical realism to further the book’s plot. Magical realism is defined as genre of fantasy fiction which expresses a distorted, magical account of the real world. Magical realism is a commonly used when writing children’s stories, such as Peter Pan or Harry Potter, both of which begin with a protagonist living in reality and discovering a revolutionary, magical world. Rushdie’s first allusion to other children’s works is early in the third chapter, when Haroun is introduced to Iff, the Water Genie. The character Iff most closely resembles the genie from Aladdin’s Magical Lamp, as he serves as Haroun’s guardian throughout the plot and has some physical similarities. Iff is described to have baggy pants and a turban, common Middle Eastern garments which strongly resembles the genie’s background from Aladdin. The description and role of Iff, a significant role in the allegory, shows the reader Rushdie’s primary intention was to write a book that caters to younger children, especially his son. Furthermore, in the fourth chapter, Rushdie makes an explicit mention of the fairy tale Rapunzel, writing, “What Haroun was experiencing, thought he didn’t know it, was Princess Rescue Story Number S/1001/ZHT/420/41(r)xi; and because the princess in this particular story had recently had a haircut and therefore had no long tresses to let down (unlike… Rapunzel)” (Rushdie 73). The story is placed into the narrative of a different, popular story which furthers the adventure and reaffirms Rushdie’s intention to make this a story accessible to children. Finally, another visible allusion is in the seventh chapter, when Haroun observes a man viciously fighting against his own shadow with a sword. However, the shadow was fighting back “with equal ferocity, attention and skill” (Rushdie 124). The reference to Peter Pan in this scene is evident, as Peter Pan similarly fought his own shadow. The adventurous and magical plot of the book makes it far more accessible to younger children. Similarly, using magical realism to shift a change in the storyline is common for children’s fairy tales. Thus, the use of magical realism, the countless allusions to popular child fairy tales, and the introduction of different bizarre characters affirms the notion that Rushdie wrote Haroun and the Sea of Stories in an attempt to entertain his son and other children.
Although Rushdie’s primary intention when crafting Haroun and the Sea of Stories was to write an entertaining fantasy for his son, he also wrote it to explain the circumstance that fatwa had put him in. Rushdie begins this process by telling the reader of Khattam-Shud, translating to “silence.” Khattam-Shud is the story’s antagonist who poisons the streams of the Sea of Stories and captures Princess Batcheat. Haroun best describes Khattam-Shud as a “a skinny, scrawny, snivelling, drivelling, mingy, stingy, measly, weaselly, clerkish sort of fellow, who had no shadow but seemed almost as much a shadow as a man” (Rushdie 190). Immediately, the reader is presented with a negative connotation of the character responsible for silencing Haroun’s father. Rushdie stresses the importance of free storytelling, which Khattam-Shud vehemently opposes. Rushdie continues to write, “The Chupwalas… turned out to be a disunited rabble… many of them actually had to fight their own, treacherous shadows! And as for the rest, well, their vows of silence and their habits of secrecy had made them suspicious and distrustful of one another…The upshot was that the Chupwalas did not stand shoulder to shoulder, but betrayed one another, stabbed on another in the back, mutinied, hid deserted” (Rushdie 185). The Chupwalas, translating to “the quiet ones,” were silenced by Khattam-Shud, and as a result, suffered due to censorship. Rushdie once again argues that a society which suffers from censorship can never stand when challenged and fight themselves and their own shadows. He viciously criticizes the Khattam-Shud character for his lack of tolerance and authoritarian rule, but also portrays the acceptance of storytelling in a positive light. He explains from Haroun’s point of view, “he looked into the water and saw it was made up of a thousand thousand thousand and one different currents, each one a different colour, weaving in and out of one another like a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity… these were the Streams of Story… each colored strand represented and contained a single tale” (Rushdie 71-2). Haroun’s realization of the beauty of storytelling indicates a shift in the plot, as he admires both his father’s and Rushdie’s occupation. Khattam-Shud, the enemy of speech and destroyer of myth, most closely resembles Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, as he attempts to silence and orders a fatwa on Rushdie. As a result, Rushdie indirectly criticizes Khomeini in his tale, while also explaining the societal harms of censorship and why storytelling and free speech is so valuable. As Haroun comes to discover, imaginative storytelling promotes a rich inner life and a stronger, healthier, human community. Thus, to address the injustice of having the fatwa placed upon him, Rushdie explains to his experienced audience why unrestricted and creative storytelling has such merits.
In the tale Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Rushdie simultaneously appeals to children and experienced older readers. By utilizing magical realism to further the plot, allude to other known children works, and introduce a myriad of magical creatures, Rushdie immediately grabs the interest of children. Almost contrastingly, Rushdie informs the readers about the importance of storytelling, painting Khattam-Shud, the opposition to all storytelling, as an antagonist and developing Haroun’s gradual love for storytelling and culture. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is the product of a father-son relationship. As Rushdie certainly appeals to younger readers through his vivid description of bizarre events, he also attracts older, experienced readers by formulating a storyline which philosophically addresses the importance of speech and words. Rushdie proceeds to tie these two components together by explaining the circumstances of his fatwa. The publication of Haroun and the Sea of Stories and the framework of free storytelling are byproducts of the fatwa and being forced into hiding.