The British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie is most renowned for the controversy surrounding his 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses. Perceived as blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad, the book prompted certain members of the Islamic world to issue a death sentence and bounty against the writer, forcing him in hiding for many years.
Nine books later, with Shalimar the Clown, Rushdie takes the reader on a colourful, historic voyage beginning and ending in L.A. and looping in and out of Kashmir’s past and present. Nostalgia towards two cities’ beautiful destroyed past-one through excesses, the other through religion and its wars-is clear not only in his descriptions, but also through the melancholic story of his characters.
Maximilian Ophuls (not the famous German filmmaker; the two Maxes have nothing more in common than a name and documentary filmmaking children) the main character is America’s counterterrorism chief. A strong, charming man of utmost intelligence, born in Strasbourg with an education counting many degrees, Max joined the French Resistance after his parents died during Hitler’s war. There he met the cunning “Grey Rat” and married her, before being appointed to Charles de Gaule and then moving to America. He was named ambassador and during his appointed travels, created very strong links with India. His infatiguable promiscuity bore him his illegitimate daughter, India.
Running parallel to Max’s story is that of Bhoonyi Kaul, the most beautiful and dangerously ambitious dancer in Kashmir’s Pachigam, a village of traditional entertainers. Bhoonyi Kaul, daughter of the pandit (wise man and village teacher) is in love with the village sarpanch’s (leader) son Noman, who also happens to be Pachigam’s most talented clown and tightrope walker-you’ve got it-Shalimar.
Both were offspring to the highest ranking men in the village, each of different faiths: Muslim and Hindu. Being adolescent artists, Bhoonyi and Noman’s passions knew no boundaries.
Because of the great friendship between the sarpanch and the pandit, along with the village’s exceptional respect of each other’s faiths, the lovers were allowed to marry. But don’t let this romantic fa