Salman Rushdie is the author of eight novels, one collection of short stories, and four works of non-fiction, and the co-editor of The Vintage Book of Indian Writing. In 1993 Midnight's Children was judged to be the 'Booker of Bookers', the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first 25 years. The Moor's Last Sigh won the Whitbread Prize in 1995, and the European Union's Aristeion Prize for Literature in 1996. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.
For Westerners, Rushdie's latest may be better heard than read. While readers might stumble over the Kashmiri, Indian and Pakistani names and accents, Mandvi glides right through them, allowing us to engage with Rushdie's well-wrought characters and sagas. Mandvi has a calm, quiet storyteller voice, often employing tempo to express emotional states and to make long, complex sentences entirely clear. In fact, one realizes he is nearly invisible (until he reads a few lines in a Romance language), leaving us to relish the sounds and images and rhythms of Rushdie's language. The book begins at the end, with the murder of the former American ambassador to India, Maximilian Ophuls, now a counterterrorist expert, then introduces his murderer, Shalimar the Clown, Kashmiri actor and acrobat-cum-terrorist, and Ophuls's illegitimate daughter, India, who brings the book to a conclusion as terror-filled and ambiguous as our own future. Suspense and tension are superbly built and layered through mythology and plots of lust and jealousy intertwined with cultural, religious, national and international affairs. Rushdie does get polemical for a while, even didactic; his writing in these sections sometimes sounds speechifying. Yet we come away with a mostly lyrical parable that offers us a way of grappling with the realities of our time and place, a way of refracting history through multiple lenses. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Reviews, July 25). (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The title hides how dark this novel can be, as Shalimar is not a clown but a trained terrorist and assassin who murders the former U.S. ambassador to India outside his daughter's doorway. The victim, Max Ophuls, had been a secretive figure in the world of counter-terrorism, beginning in World War II Europe. Rushdie captures current concerns with skill and keen insight, as shown in Shalimar's ability to gain Ophuls's trust, a scary and very true lesson in deception. This tangled web of history, both personal and political, creates a complex narrative that might be hard to follow at times in audio form. Some characters aren't fully developed, but the larger themes of love, betrayal, secrets, and family dissension are strongly sustained. Narrated by Aasif Mandvi, Shalimar is recommended for serious audiobook clientele.-Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.