Enchanted Realms, Sceptical Perspectives – Salman Rushdie’s Recent Fiction

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This chapter explores the Islamic affiliations and affinities mapped by Rushdie’s post-9/11 fiction. Focusing on the transnational thriller Shalimar the Clown ([2005] 2006), it asks to what extent this novel offers a discursive, imaginative, or empathetic South Asian Muslim perspective on geopolitical events. Rushdie’s recent fictions, Shalimar the Clown and The Enchantress of Florence ([2008] 2009), have purported to provide international audiences with the reasons behind contemporary Islamic ‘terror’ and to excavate earlier histories of cosmopolitan Muslim civilization in India. They have featured a range of idiosyncratic affinities felt by Muslim protagonists for individuals from Islamic and other religious backgrounds, dramatized in scenes of harmonious multicultural coexistence and robust interfaith debate. In this sense, they continue partly to reflect the ‘mosaic of diverse cultural identifications’ experienced by Rushdie as a privileged, cosmopolitan intellectual and cultivated by the hybrid and migrant characters featured in his more diasporic fictions (Nasta 2002: 147). Yet I argue that the specifically Islamic networks or ‘affiliations’ that these novels also describe have many limitations. In these third-millennium fictions, the pursuit of orthodox Islam or ‘fundamental’ Muslim connections does not result in a healthy, heterogeneous, and ‘anti-essentialist’ realization of a multicultural self (Nasta 2002: 149). Rather, this pursuit invariably leads to an aggressive and monomaniacal erasure of any preceding allegiance or identity that may obscure an Islamist’s nihilistic understanding of ‘truth’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImagining Muslims of South Asia and the Diaspora: Secularism, Religion, Representations
Number of pages0
ISBN (Print)9780415659307
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2014


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