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Stranger Gods

Stranger Gods: Salman Rushdie's Other Worlds

ROGER Y. CLARK
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 216
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt8061m
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  • Book Info
    Stranger Gods
    Book Description:

    Clark's exploration of Rushdie's novels works on at least three levels. First, he clarifies and interprets Rushdie's often puzzling references to figures such as Loki and Shiva, settings such as the mountains of Qaf and Kailasa, and experiences such as the annihilation of the self and the temptations of the Muslim Devil, Iblis. Second, he demonstrates how otherworldy motifs work with or against each other, fusing or clashing with Dantean, Shakespearean, and other literary forms to create hybrid characters, plots, and themes. Finally, he argues that Rushdie's brutal assault on tradition and taboo is mitigated by his secular idealism and his subtle homage to mystical ideals of the past.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6880-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Works of A.S. Rushdie (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Time-Line: History, Culture, and Rushdie’s Fiction (pp. ix-2)
  6. 1 A Jungle of Books (pp. 3-17)

    Readers find in Rushdie a bright ocean of crisscrossing stories, a paper labyrinth of crosscultural references, and a world of transreligious trouble. If we leave aside for the moment the challenge of his tightly woven metafictional style, his work remains extremely demanding, presenting as it does an overwhelming variety of allusions – from the most inane pop trinkets of movieland to the most contentious points of Islamic theology. Not surprisingly, most readers have difficulty following everywhere he goes. This is less true, however, of the political and historical directions he takes. For instance, in Midnight’s Children he supplies dates and places,...

  7. 2 When Worlds Collide (pp. 18-29)

    There is no obvious way to do an introduction to the myriad of other worlds in Rushdie’s fiction, except perhaps to do a second introduction, a second run through that library of permutating letters, that jungle of books which changes with every reading.

    In attempting to give context to his work, one could start anywhere from the dawn of Vedic poetry to the latest postmodern transmutation of myth. Yet what seems constant in his finest writing is a love of the metamorphic and inconstant, which, when applied to what Forster calls “those large things, that huge scenic background of stars,...

  8. 3 Grimus: Worlds upon Worlds (pp. 30-60)

    The notion of an unlimited library which can be crossed many times and in many different ways helps to conceptualize the labyrinth that is Rushdie’s first novel. Grimus has a complex yet recognizable structure, an architectonic logic which contrasts with the tangential meanderings of Midnight’s Children and the confusing dream-within-dream convolutions of the Verses. Grimus has a much more definable shape, although this does not mean that it can be summed up easily or viewed from any one angle. Often the reader feels like Flapping Eagle, the protagonist who threads his way through a series of dimensions only to find...

  9. 4 Midnight’s Children: The Road from Kashmir (pp. 61-99)

    Midnight’s Children is well known as a novel that breaks new ground with its magical visions and revisions of twentieth-century India. Yet it is more than a sensational romp across Indian time and space: it also careens across diverse otherworldly terrain, hurling its readers from an Edenic Kashmiri past into cities teeming with mystics and many-headed monsters. It steers with the wobbliest of rudders through a vast green Wall of Time into a surreal afterlife, and then crisscrosses back through a battlefield of mythic heroes and demons into a present trembling with possible futures.

    While Grimus is structured along the...

  10. 5 Shame: An Other World Strikes Back (pp. 100-127)

    In Midnight’s Children Rushdie throws a spinning cosmos at his readers. Yet he manages to give this cosmos hidden meanings: he supplies sparkling impossible ideals which transcend, at least in part, the meaningless violence of figures such as the Widow with her scalpel or General Shiva with his crushing knees. In Shame Rushdie also throws a cosmos at his readers, yet it is neither so complex nor so studded with hidden meaning. For while at the end of Midnight’s Children Saleem still has hopes of a meaningful future, at the end of Shame Omar is confirmed in his fears that...

  11. 6 The Satanic Verses: Dreamscapes of a Green-Eyed Monster (pp. 128-181)

    In Othello Iago brings the great war hero to his knees, foaming like a dog and ready to kill his only love. Iago manages to do this through insinuation and deception, but why he does it is anyone’s guess (it is hard to believe the reasons he gives). In the Verses the narrator suggests that he knows the cause of Iago’s malice, yet he does not tell us what it is. Instead, he points to the animosity Chamcha feels toward Gibreel. The point becomes slightly clearer when we think in terms of myth, in terms of what might lie behind...

  12. 7 Post-Verses (pp. 182-202)

    While it would be too dramatic to insist on Ophelia’s “what a mind is here o’er thrown,” Rushdie’s fiction post-Verses is disappointing in various ways. Apart from Haroun, which is in a category of its own, his last two novels lack the kind of new trajectory, both in terms of idea and language, which lends excitement to his earlier work. This fall from literary brilliance is particularly noticeable in the areas of cosmology, mythology and mysticism, for only on occasion do the Moor and Ground rework other worlds in startling ways. In general, they display neither the primordial spark of...

  13. Notes (pp. 203-212)
  14. Bibliography (pp. 213-220)
  15. Index (pp. 221-226)
  16. Back Matter (pp. 227-227)