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Salman Rushdie – Shalimar the Clown

Title: Shalimar the Clown
Author: Salman Rushdie
Year: 2005

Salman Rushdie seems to be one of the exceptionally few authors I’m prepared to read almost regardless of what he writes. Why? Because the language alone is likely to lift the book up to at least four snails. If he then adds an adequate plot and don’t botch something important, the sky is the limit.

Shalimar the Clown is a fairly recent work (2005), at least when compared to The Satanic Verses, which was the first novel I read by Salman Rushdie. I haven’t read enough of him to comment on development, but it seems to me that although the Satanic Verses were rich in its language and had a multifaceted story, Shalimar the Clown outshines it at least for the language part. The story sets out with a man called Shalimar the Clown murdering a former American ambassador to India and the rest of the book explores the events leading up to the murder: how the ambassador has an illegitimite child, India, with Shalimar’s wife and how that child grows up and Shalimar seeks revenge. The narrative is set in varying environments, but with an explicit focus on Kashmir and it’s stormy relationship to India and Pakistan.

After finishing a book, I rarely feel the urge to read it again, but I feel something like that after finishing Shalimar the Clown. It’s not that the story is extraordinarily good or anything, it’s just that i feel that I didn’t have time to appreciate the language enough. In short, this book is expertly written and is worth recommending solely on this basis. There are inumerable passaged worthy of quoting and if I were a more diligent reviewer, I would present some here, but let it suffice to say that language is what makes this book worthwhile. In addition to this, it also contains an interesting portrayal not only of Kashmir, but also of the characters which in a way can be said to represent the region. A possible drawback is that the book feels a lot longer than the 450 pages it spans, perhaps because of the shattered plot. I woudl need to read this book again before awarding it a higher (or possible lower) rating!

Do I recommend the book to everyone? No, not really. You need to be the kind of reader which is prepared to read without a specific goal in mind, without a clearly defined plot and so on. If you don’t regard story as the most important part of a book, you should read Shalimar the Clown now, because it really is the most well-written book I’ve read for a very long time.

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