(Ahmed) Salman Rushdie 1947–
Indian-born English novelist and critic.
Rushdie is best known for his second novel, Midnight's Children (1981), which was awarded both the Booker McConnell Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. This work established Rushdie as an innovative and accomplished young novelist.
Although his first novel, Grimus (1975), did not draw wide attention, several critics appraised Rushdie as a promising literary talent. Grimus relates a quest for the meaning of life undertaken by Flapping Eagle, an immortal American Indian. Flapping Eagle's encounters with supernatural events and bizarre characters and Rushdie's witty observations on the ways human beings rely on myth were particularly appreciated.
Midnight's Children chronicles the recent history of India, beginning in 1947 when India became independent from British rule. The protagonist, Saleem Sinai, one of a thousand and one babies born during the first hour of India's independence, is presented as a man in his early thirties who has aged prematurely and become impotent. The novel has been widely read as an allegory, with Saleem and the other thousand babies, many of whom died at birth, representing the hopes and aspirations as well as the frustrating realities of independent India. Midnight's Children is rich in allusions to Indian history, literature, and mythology. For this and other reasons, the novel is widely viewed as a stylistic tour de force. Rushdie introduces fantastic and comically absurd events into socially realistic settings, a technique known as "magic realism." Rushdie's use of magic realism and his exuberant prose, which features extensive use of symbolism and hyperbole, led many critics to compare his style with that of Gabriel García Márquez. Critics were also impressed with the multiple narrative perspectives employed by Rushdie to expand the scope of Midnight's Children. Several critics have placed Rushdie among the great chroniclers of India's political, social, and cultural history.
Rushdie's recent novel Shame (1983) presents a fabulistic account of events in an unnamed country that strongly resembles Pakistan. He examines the related themes of honor and shame, shame and shamelessness, as cultural influences that affect the personalities and actions of individuals in Pakistan. A number of characters in this novel embody various forms of shame and honor. While Shame lacks the sweeping scope of Midnight's Children, Rushdie's stylistic techniques are similar in both books, and in Shame he weaves an elaborate, multilayered plot that many critics found rich and intriguing. However, several critics objected to Rushdie's presentation of actual events, and some asserted that he was more interested in constructing an intricately complex story than in providing a serious examination of contemporary Pakistan. Nevertheless, Shame was generally received enthusiastically, and many found it a poignant artistic analysis of Pakistani culture and society.
(See also, CLC, Vol. 23 and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 108, 111.)