Friday, 19 February 2016

East, West by Sir Salman Rushdie - Book Review



Publisher's write-up:

'In these nine stories Salman Rushdie looks at what happens when East meets West, at the forces that pull his characters in one direction, then the other. Fantasy and realism collide as a rickshaw driver writes letters describing his film star career in Bombay; a mispronunciation leads to romance and an unusual courtship in sixties London; two childhood friends turned diplomats live out fantasies hatched by Star Trek; and Christopher Columbus dreams of consummating his relationship with Queen Isabella. The stories in East, West show the extraordinary range and power of Salman Rushdie's writing.'

East, West is a collection of nine short stories, six of them published severally before this book was compiled. The book has three parts, the first being East with three short stories based in South Asia followed by West similarly set in the other hemisphere and the last portion being East, West where the stories feature Indians settled in UK.

This collection, as always, followed the typical Rushdie style of a strong theme delivered through an abstract story and from the first portion, East, I really loved the story The Prophet's Hair, where the author brings out how the lifestyle of a family changes when the head of the family, the local moneylender, ends up finding the sacred relic, a vial containing the hair of the Prophet and I interpreted it as  the author brought out his own views on literal interpretation of religion and how it impacts everyday lifestyle. While first portion followed a more narrative approach, the author begins to experiment with his style in West and here, the story Yorick was my favourite with author presenting a story on the childhood days of Prince Hamlet from Shakespeare's famous play by the same name, I particularly loved the way he started with a roundabout description on something as simple as the word paper and followed by the style of indulging in a conversation with the reader rather than plainly narrating it unlike the first portion. He also continually used this as a platform to bring out his own personal views on various ideas and I'd quote some of my favourites here:

'We have come to think of taking offence as a fundamental right. We value very little more highly than our rage, which gives us, in our opinion, the moral high ground.' - Page 89 (At the Auction of The Ruby Slippers)

'There is no doubt that a large majority of us opposes the free, unrestricted migration of imaginary beings into an already damaged relaity, whose resources diminish by the day.' - Page 94 (At the Auction of The Ruby Slippers)

With regard to this collection, I was really pleased with the style and the way it was delivered, but then, Rushdie is an author who has never failed to impress me with his writing; but then, I felt, in this case, some of the stories lacked the depth, especially the second portion West creating abstract stories out of an already existing story / incident as the base. I have been silent on the third portion of the book, East, West as it neither disappointed me, nor did I thoroughly enjoyed, it in fact, took the worst of both parts - East had a very good stories narrated in a simple way and West had average stories narrated in a brilliant unorthodox manner whereas, East, West was a collection of average stories narrated in a simple way.

But then, at the end of the day, I wanted a light read and the same time, ingrain the best of writing and I guess I got that satisfied in this book and on the whole, being a fan of Rushdie's works, I did enjoy reading the book, even the stories which I didn't particularly like, I loved the way it was narrated. So yeah, I'd say that it was a good read, but then, owing to the author's past, I guess I tend to set the standard as Midnight's Children and hence, that might probably pull down the rating to six.

Rating - 6/10

Have a nice day,
Andy

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