Feature

Shalimar the Clown

In Salman Rushdie’s latest novel, he tells about intertwining lives and diplomatic murder.

When a dashing former diplomat is murdered in L.A. by his Kashmiri chauffeur, the victim's daughter traces the crime back to a personal grievance with roots deeper than the assassin's terrorist ties. In Salman Rushdie's first great novel in years, said Ron Charles in The Washington Post, the obvious lesson is that everyone's stories these days are hopelessly intertwined. But it's the killer Shalimar's complexity, and the 'œliterary dexterity' with which Rushdie knits together distant village lore, World War II political adventure, slapstick comedy, and Ramayan epic that make this timely work a book that will be read 'œlong after this age of sacred terror has faded into history.' Yet Rushdie's point is too baldly expressed, said Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, and to me, the title character is a 'œthoroughly implausible, cartoonish figure.' Clearly, Rushdie's 'œpotent blend of magic' has limits, said Adam Kirsch in The New York Sun. Still, if Shalimar the Clown fails badly in its limited attempts to explain the evil it decries, it indisputably possesses, 'œlike all of Mr. Rushdie's best work,' the 'œenergy and color and speed' that only the best cartoons can offer.

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