East, West Essay - Critical Essays

East, West

The controversial and award-winning author Salman Rushdie was born in Bombay, India. The issue of identity has played a central part in his fiction, including the novels MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN (1981), SHAME (1983), and THE SATANIC VERSES (1988). In 1989, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini was so outraged by THE SATANIC VERSES that he issued a fatwa proclaiming that Rushdie should die because he was an “enemy” of the Muslim faith. Since then, Rushdie has had to live in fear for his life. Given the fact that Rushdie has lived much of his life since 1989 in hiding, it is a remarkable tribute to his courage and perseverance as a writer that the stories of EAST, WEST exist at all. The collection is divided into three sections. Each section is made up of three stories. The first section (“East”) includes stories set in India, while the stories of the second section (“West”) are set in England. The three stories of the last section (“East, West”) blur cultural borders.

Although the first section purports to be only about the East and the second section to be only about the West, it can be argued that there is a definite overlapping of West in East and East in West. Rushdie is a master at exposing the strengths and weaknesses of one culture while at the same time laying bare another. As a migrant himself, Rushdie writes powerfully about displacement. Someone may cross a border, but one wonders what has he really given up in so doing. Within the fictional twists and turns of each of the stories, Rushdie probes the crazy quilt of assumptions and traditions that underlie modern societies of the East and West. As the author so poignantly details in EAST, WEST, the idea of “home” and where an individual truly fits in are not issues so easily resolved in the modern world.