Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Surfing Salman

While Salman Rushdie is back in the news for his new nubile girlfriend, a fierce battle has been raging in the lit pages of newspapers, praising or tearing apart his latest novel, The Enchantress of Florence.

Here's a lowdown on the reviews so far. Good or bad. Take your pick.

But I want to talk about this particular review.

Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal did a review of the novel in Tehelka. The review was so skewed with wrong historical allusions that it made Salil Tripathi write a counter review. Quite fun:

The problem with Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal's review of Rushdie's new novel, The Enchantress of Florence, is precisely that: he (Dhaliwal, not Rushdie) has trouble with history. In his world, the Mughal dynasty has its origins in the India of the 11th century, after a succession of assaults. This can only be accepted if one accepts a fairly stereotypical view — that all Muslims are alike. Indeed, India was attacked by a wide range of Islamic rulers, from the time of the invasions of Muhammad Ghori — with Iltutmish setting up the first Mamluk dynasty in 1206, followed by Khilji, Tughlaq, Saeed, and Lodhi in 1526, when the Lodhis gave way to Babar. But these rulers were as Mughal as the ones found in Hollywood.

My point here is not to provide a history lesson on the dynasties of Delhi. But it is fair to expect a critic to know beyond a broad-brush Far Pavilions or Bhowani Junction-type view of Indian history that most British students are exposed to. As a British Asian, one suspects that's the exposure Dhaliwal had. (I know a bit about this, being a parent of two boys at a London school).

Read it all here.

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