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The two links below take you to two comprehensive analyses of Rushdie's novel on this site. The book is a meditation on how the process of globalization has made the different and apparently far apart areas of our world extremely interconnected and interdependent. The seemingly private and intimate story of an American ambassador's seduction of a young Kashmiri dancer sets in motion a plot of epic dimensions which includes themes such as terrorism and international political and military alliances. The reference to the figure of the clown from the very title seems particularly fitting for a novel pervaded by postmodernist playfulness and distrust of unified, chronological narratives with a linear development. To quote the end of the second analysis, Shalimar the Clown is
the mixture of comedy, seriousness of purpose, and multicultural imagination that are exactly what readers have come to expect from the fiction of Salman Rushdie.
Salman Rushdie’s lastest novel, Shalimar the Clown, is the story of love, betrayal and revenge. The book is divided into four parts, each part telling the story of a major character. The protagonist of the story is Shalimar Noman alias Shalimar the Clown, an actor in a group of bhand players. He falls in love and marries an ambitious dancer of his own village, Boonyi Kaul. Tragedy strikes him when Boonyi leaves him to become the mistress of an American ambassador, Maxmillian Ophuls. Her over ambitiousness leads her to explore possibilities, which her life in the small village of Shirmal wasn’t allowing her. Not long after her elopement with Max she realized that she had made a mistake by leaving Kashmir and Shalimar in exchange of America and Max Ophuls.
It was after the news of her pregnancy spread that the world became aware of the illicit relationship between Boonyi and Max. This forced Max to desert her. With their baby girl, Kashmira, in her arms, she decided to go back to her village and beg for forgiveness. She hoped that her father and husband would forgive her after seeing her miserable condition. In America, she had suffered pangs of separation after having left her husband and her beloved Kashmir. She had grown to love them more now, that she had known her life without them. But fate won’t allow her dream to come true.
She reached Shirmal and found that due to the advise of the villagers, her father, her husband and in-laws had declared her dead, officially. The decision was made to cool the burning fury seething in her husband. Shalimar would have killed her but for her father and father-in-law, who set him on an oath that as long as they lived, he will not kill her. Exiled, Boonyi became half-crazy and started living on a hill some distance away from the village till after decades her father and father-in-law passed away and Shalimar took her life.
The story now moves to Shalimar the Clown. Betrayed and cuckolded, his personality changed dramatically. He joined the militants in Kashmir and slowly accustomed himself for killing. With time, he became a professional assassin and moved closer to his target, Max Ophuls. Max had grown old by then. One day, Shalimar slaughtered him beneath the house of his daughter, India.
In the next section, the story of Kashmira Noman alias India Ophuls unfolds. When she was a baby, Boonyi gave her up to Max’s wife Peggy Rhodes in exchange for a passage back to Kashmir. After the birth of India that Peggy had divorced Max. Between Peggy, a distant, unemotional, secretive mother, and Max, a lovable but hardly available father, India grew up. It was because of Max’s timely help that India was saved from the destructive clutches of her Peggy. She came to live alone in an apartment from then on.
Soon, India came to know that it was Shalimar who had killed his real mother, Boonyi and her father, Max. When the news of Shalimar’s arrest reached her, she menacingly began to enter his thoughts through her letters to torment him and kill him, the way he had killed her parents.
I have seen these, indeed, but I was looking for a full study guide, with summaries of the different chapters and detailed character descriptions, themes/symbols etc.
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