Is there an undercurrent of satire in the interface of history and fiction in Salman Rushdie's novels?

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

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I think that in addressing Rushdie's use of satire in coordination with history and fiction, one has to employ the metaphor of a river.  I think Rushdie defines consciousness as a convergence of rivers such as history, fiction, and satire.  Similar to the rivers that converge in his native India, Rushdie does seem to employ all three aspects to describe consciousness in his novels.  In "Midnight's Children," for example, one can see his use of satire in describing the geography of post Partition India (Comparing Sri Lanka to the snot out of India's nose), which is also meaningful because the main character's distinction lies with his nose.  He uses drops of satire quite well in describing Saleem's chaotic experience during the Emergency.  (Pay special attention to the small details such as the sterilization vans, as well as overall feel of narration that strikes a tone of sadness combined with a sense of bitterness.)  He deploys the same tools when he describes the Kashmiri village being plundered and raped by Indian soldiers in "Shalimar the Clown."  Finally, we can see how Indian history and its pantheism is highlighted in the first section of "The Satanic Verses", where Gibreel makes his living in young Bollywood with his strikingly powerful depictions of Indian Gods (Notice the details about how Gibreel will not wear the costumes of Ganesh when he sleeps with women, despite their claims that it excites them sexually.)  I believe that Rushdie's narrative is steeped in this convergence of history, satire, and fiction because this is how he views national identity and consciousness.  Any nation that prides itself on upholding higher notions of the good such as truth, freedom, and independence has to reconcile the truth that some of its reality does not honor what it is supposed to honor.  Rather, than arbitrarily condemn this, Rushdie uses satire to bring attention to it in the hopes of creating a dialogue that will change it.  In this setting, the convergence of the rivers of satire, history, and fiction is complete.

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