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How does the concept of belonging arise in Salman Rushdie's context of controversy and...

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mecramarathon88 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 29, 2009 at 6:57 PM via web

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How does the concept of belonging arise in Salman Rushdie's context of controversy and persecution?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 30, 2009 at 10:32 AM (Answer #1)

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This is really a challenging question.  I think that the answer could constitute a dissertation or a considerably longer response than can be provided within the confines of this answer.  I would suggest that the primary method of answering this question lies in its second part.  Rushdie's context of controversy and persecution brought on by the fatwa does much to assess what it means to "belong."  Rushdie's experience can be seen as an affirmation of belonging, as he was provided a certain level of sanctuary and respite from the unending hell of over a half decade in forced hiding.  In this respect, he resembles, to a certain extent, Saladin as he represented the hideous creature, who had to rely on the kindness of individuals with whom he might not have associated prior to his transformation.  Rushdie did find a small level of "belonging" in this time period.  However, I cannot but help to feel that he really experienced more estrangement and separation than belonging.  This must have left a profound sense of betrayal within him.  The chronology indicates this as such.  India, his native country, is the first one to ban the novel and begin the process of using his literature as a political battle cry.  A nation of his own faith, Iran, issues the fatwa, causing his hiding.  The land where he grew up, Britain, does little to assist him, citing diplomatic sensitivity in the process.  Essentially,  Rushdie's book of essays entitled "Imaginary Homelands," might be an appropriate way to envision his sense of identity and belonging in this time period.  Saladin's plight is much the same in the book.  Doing everything that was expected of him and "playing by the rules," he is arrested and completely abandoned by Gibreel.  Despite the fact that he strives to be a "good British" citizen, he is looked at as a foreigner first and treated as such.  Through his experience, Saladin understands the complexity of his identity and what it means to "belong" is far from simple, in much the same way Rushdie, himself, understood the concept of belonging through his own experience of isolation and persecution.

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