Now its all one story

Salman Rushdie in a light hearted conversation. The final words convey the idea behind his latest novel- Shalimar, the Clown:

“It used to be possible to write a novel about, say, London or Kashmir or Strasbourg or California, without any sense of connection. But now it’s all one story. That’s what I want to say. Everybody’s story is running into everybody else’s story,” he says.

The same site also carries a review of the novel.

This book is a colossus almost bestriding the great and growing rift, though sometimes losing its balance. We have a double helix that spins together information and misinformation. Perhaps Rushdie expects us to be able to distinguish between truth and fiction, almost line by line. But this is a novel, and that must not be forgotten, particularly when it turns from tightrope to razor’s edge in the most powerful parts of the book, the ones that will be written about and argued over most.

…Rushdie’s boy-guerrillas driven by unearthly forces and passions, the clanking mullahs, and his personification of military frustration, are more Koestler or Marquez than those that I have lived among in Kashmir since 1989. Partial truth and part-anachronism recount that these fighters are baptised into a state wherein they become “the truth”, a concept more of Che than Osama. In practice these disenfranchised and easily influenced boy-men are trained to fight to the death as servants of a strangely distorted version of Allah. They are god-gun-fodder.

Rushdie collapses time, stirring the Soviet-Afghan war and the valley insurgency together, as though they were concurrent, and similar in military nature, rather than being sequential; the first a clearly defined war, followed by Kashmir’s deadlock conflict. To blur ideologies, to overlay them with templates from a different time, to telescope time, all this is allowed in the novel form. The risk is that the puppeteer can seem to be educating us. There are those who will close this book thinking that this is how it is.

This is an important book, a wonderful reversing story with a cast of characters with names that are not their names, and ideals that have been thrust upon them, but this is not a real study of the anatomy of terrorist warfare or its perpetrators. Remember this as you read this vast story set in a splintering world reflected in lakes.

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