Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Rushdie's Storytelling

I thought it odd that storytelling and literature seemed to have come to a parting of the ways. It seemed unnecessary for the separation to have taken place. A story doesn’t have to be simple, it doesn’t have to be one-dimensional but, especially if it’s multidimensional, you need to find the clearest, most engaging way of telling it.

Rushdie talks about his art of writing fiction in an interesting interview in The Paris Review. He also discusses his recent novel Shalimar The Clown along the way and makes interesting points, which, I guess, many of the reviewers have missed so far:

In Shalimar, the character Max Ophuls is a resistance hero during World War II. The resistance, which we think of as heroic, was what we would now call an insurgency in a time of occupation. Now we live in a time when there are other insurgencies that we don’t call heroic—that we call terrorist. I didn’t want to make moral judgments. I wanted to say: That happened then, this is happening now, this story includes both those things, just look how they sit together. I don’t think it’s for the novelist to say, it means this.

And this is what he says about inventing and charting the destiny of the characters in Shalimar:

Something strange happened with this book. I felt completely possessed by these people, to the extent that I found myself crying over my own characters. There’s a moment in the book where Boonyi’s father, the pandit Pyarelal, dies in his fruit orchard. I couldn’t bear it. I found myself sitting at my desk weeping. I thought, What am I doing? This is somebody I’ve made up.

Go read the whole thing or better still get a copy of the magazine (as a bonus, you get a cute cover picture of Salman Rushdie as a boy in Bombay!). The online interview is incomplete.

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