CORRECTION: This story in Monday’s edition of the Daily should have said that Salman Rushdie received the Booker Prize in 1993, not 2003.
Last night, celebrated author Salman Rushdie read from his latest novel
“Shalimar the Clown” at Borders Books and Music in Ann Arbor. Rushdie, a smallish man with graying hair, stood at the speaker’s podium with the comfortable air of a master at work. He drew a crowd of all ages that packed the upstairs room of the bookstore to its corners as people strained for a glimpse of him.
The result of many years of work, Rushdie’s new book begins with a violently climactic act of revenge, then tracks its plot mainly through back-story. Shalimar, a Muslim tight-rope walker who marries a Hindu girl, only to have his heart broken, was mostly inspired by a 1987 visit to Kashmir, Rushdie said. There, he met a group of village performers. “This is a story about a young boy,” he explained, “a clown in love.”
Rushdie read several excerpts from his novel, including the opening scene. The explosive beginning is the final act of a man whose passion leads him from marriage, to terrorist training camps and eventually, to murder.
Rushdie also read the scene where Shalimar and his future wife first make love. The encounter, which he offered up without hesitation, establishes the intense love affair that later becomes a marriage. Interestingly enough, he used to be embarrassed while writing sex scenes, Rushdie said he overcame his bashfulness through years of practice.
Rushdie, a celebrated novelist with a background of both Indian and English influence, won the Booker Prize in 2003 for his second novel “Midnight’s Children.” His other works include “Fury,” “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” and, most famously, “The Satanic Verses,” the novel for which Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran condemned him to death in 1989.
Throughout the reading, Rushdie maintained an easy sense of humor and a comfortable demeanor, joking with his audience and answering questions. When he stumbled onto the subject of other authors, Rushdie spoke of Dan Brown disparagingly, saying “(“The Da Vinci Code”) is the worst novel ever written,” provoking startled laughter from his listeners.
In response to a question about critics, Rushdie maintained a realistic position, and said, “I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone.”
Rushdie also spoke about his views on world affairs with regards to terrorism. “Shalimar’s” themes of terrorism and violence speak directly to what Rushdie perceives as a new era of human consciousness. Because the Sept. 11 attacks resulted in the collision of two worlds, in this case Arab and Western, Rushdie said, it was now necessary to write with that in mind
After the event, listeners lined up to have their books signed and talked enthusiastically about Rushdie. “He was a great speaker,” said LSA senior Stephanie Wang. “It was very entertaining to hear him read his own works.” These sentiments were echoed by Jessica Dixon, a first-year student at the School of Public Health. “It was great to hear the readings in his own voice,” Dixon said.
“Shalimar the Clown” was published on September 6, 2005 by Random House.