Get news about Literary Fiction books, authors, and more. “Rushdie’s novels pour by in a sparkling, voracious onrush each paragraph luxurious and delicious.”. “There can seldom have been so robust and baroque an incarnation of the political novel as Shame. Editorial Reviews. Review. Shame is a lively, amusing and exasperating work . What he invents, with enormous gusto, is "a sort of modern fairy tale". I found. For the online version of BookRags' Shame Premium Study Guide, including. Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Works: Introduction, Author Biography, Plot Summary, Characters, Sufiya Zinobia ("Shame") Hyder Shakil.
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Shame. bySalman Rushdie. Publication date Topics Shame -- Fiction., Pakistan Borrow this book to access EPUB and PDF files. Shame, the third novel of Salman Rushdie, deals with a smaller canvas and After his nostalgic glance at India in Midnight's Children, Rushdie turns to. RUSHDIE'S SHAME. I. Introduction: Salman Rushdie has hinted at the title of his next novel in. Midnight's Children through the recurrence of the word 'shame'.
This spirit of comradeship, of working selflessly together towards a common goal, is worthy of remark. It was an elegant procedure. The vendor got rich, the intermediary got his fee, you got your house, and nobody broke any laws. So naturally nobody ever questioned how it came about that the city's most highly desirable development zone had been allotted to the defence services in this way. This attitude, too, remains a part of the foundations of 'Defence': the air there is full of unasked questions.
But their smell is faint, and the flowers in the many maturing gardens, the trees lining the avenues, the perfumes worn by the beautiful soignee ladies of the neighbourhood quite overpower this other, too-abstract odour. Diplomats, international businessmen, the sons of former dictators, singing stars, textile moguls, Test cricketers come and go. There are many new Datsun and Toyota motor cars.
And the name 'Defence Society', which might sound to some ears like a symbol representing the mutually advantageous relationship between the country's establishment and its armed forces , holds no such resonance in the city. It is only a name. One evening, soon after my arrival, I visited an old friend, a poet.
I had been looking forward to one of our long conversations, to hearing his views about recent events in Pakistan, and about Afghanistan, of course. His house was full of visitors as usual; nobody seemed interested in talking about anything except the cricket series between Pakistan and India.
I sat down at a table with my friend and began an idle game of chess. But I really wanted to get the low-down on things, and at length I brought up the stuff that was on my mind, beginning with a question about the execution of Zulfikar AH Bhutto. But only half the question got past my lips; the other half joined the ranks of the area's many unasked queries, because I felt an extremely painful kick land on my shins and, without crying out, switched in mid-sentence back to sporting topics.
We also discussed the incipient video boom. People entered, excited, circled, laughed. After about forty minutes my friend said, 'It's O. They treated him civilly, without hinting that they knew why he was there, because otherwise he would vanish, and the next time they might not know who the informer was. Later, I met the spy. He was a nice guy, pleasantly spoken, honestfaced, and no doubt happy that he was hearing nothing worth reporting.
A kind of equilibrium had been achieved. Once again, I was struck by how many nice guys there were in Pakistan, by the civility growing in those gardens, perfuming the air.
Since my last visit to Karachi, my friend the poet had spent many months in jail, for social reasons. That is to say, he knew somebody who knew somebody who was the wife of the second cousin by marriage of the step-uncle of somebody who might or might not have shared a flat with someone who was running guns to the guerrillas in Baluchistan.
You can get anywhere in Pakistan if you know people, even into jail. My friend still refuses to talk about what happened to him during those months; but other people told me that he was in bad shape for a long time after he got out. They said he had been hung upside-down by the ankles and beaten, as if he were a new-born baby whose lungs had to be coerced into action so that he could squeal.
I never asked him if he screamed, or if there were upside-down mountain peaks visible through a window. Wherever I turn, there is something of which to be ashamed. But shame is like everything else; live with it for long enough and it becomes part of the furniture. In 'Defence', you can find shame in every house, burning in an ashtray, hanging framed upon a wall, covering a bed. But nobody notices it any more. And everyone is civilized.
Maybe my friend should be telling this story, or another one, his own; but he doesn't write poetry any more. So here I am instead, inventing what never happened to me, and you will note that my hero has already been ankle-hung, and that his name is the name of a famous poet; but no quatrains ever issued or will issue from his pen.
You have no right to this subject! I know: Shame?
Shame : a Novel
Nor are they ever likely to. We reject your authority. We know you, with your foreign language wrapped around you like a flag: speaking about us in your forked tongue, what can you tell but lies? I reply with more questions: is history to be considered the property of the participants solely? In what courts are such claims staked, what boundary commissions map out the territories? Can only the dead speak? I tell myself this will be a novel of leavetaking, my last words on the East from which, many years ago, I began to come loose.
I do not always believe myself when I say this. It is a part of the world to which, whether I like it or not, I am still joined, if only by elastic bands. As to Afghanistan: after returning to London, I met a senior British diplomat at a dinner, a career specialist in 'my' part of the world.
He said it was quite proper, 'post-Afghanistan', for the West to support the dictatorship of President Zia ul-Haq. I should not have lost my temper, but I did.
It wasn't any use. Then, as we left the table, his wife, a quiet civil lady who had been making pacifying noises, said to me, 'Tell me, why don't people in Pakistan get rid of Zia in, you know, the usual way?
The country in this story is not Pakistan, or not quite. There are two countries, real and fictional, occupying the same space, or almost the same space. My story, my fictional country exist, like myself, at a slight angle to reality. I have found this ofF-centring to be necessary; but its value is, of course, open to debate.
My view is that I am not writing only about Pakistan. I have not given the country a name. And Q. But I don't want to be precious about this: when I arrive at the big city, I shall call it Karachi. And it will contain a 'Defence'. Omar Khayyam's position as a poet is curious. He was never very popular in his native Persia; and he exists in the West in a translaEscapes from the Mother Country? I, too, am a translated man. I have been borne across.
Your balls dropped too soon and you got the hots, no more to it than that. Don't load your family problems on to me. As well as the name of a great poet, the child had been given his mothers' family name. And as if to underline what they meant by calling him after the immortal Khayyam the three sisters gave a name, too, to that underlit corridory edifice that was now all the country they possessed: the house was named 'Nishapur'.
Thus a second Omar grew up in a second place of that name, and every so often, as he grew, would catch a strange look in his three mothers' six eyes, a look that seemed to say Hurry up, we are waiting for your poems.
But I repeat no rubaiyat ever issued from his pen. His childhood had been exceptional by any standards, because what applied to mothers and servants wentwithoutsaying for our peripheral hero as well. The finely-calculated gesture with Shame? Unaware, in that hideously indeterminate frontier universe, of the curvature of space and time, thanks to which he who runs longest and hardest inevitably ends up, gaspingpanting, with wrenched and screaming tendons, at the starting line, he dreamed of exits, feeling that in the claustrophobis of 'Nishapur' his very life was at stake.
He was, after all, something new in that infertile and time-eroded labyrinth. Rescued from the Pack, they bit their saviours vilely in the arm; netted and caged, they are brought stinking of raw meat and faecal matter into the emancipated light of the world, their brains too imperfectly formed to be capable of acquiring more than the most fundamental rudiments of civilization.
Omar Khayyam, too, fed at too-many mammary glands; and he wandered for some four thousand days in the thing-infested jungle that was 'Nishapur', his walled-in wild place, his mother-country; until he succeeded in getting the frontiers opened by making a birthday wish that could not be satisfied by anything lifted up in the machine of Mistri Balloch.
First things first: for twelve years, he had the run of the house. Little except freedom was denied him. A spoiled and vulpine brat; when he howled, his mothers caressed him. Believe me when I tell you that he stumbled down corridors so long untrodden that his sandalled feet sank into Escapes from the Mother Country?
On one occasion he lost his way completely and ran wildly about like a time-traveller who has lost his magic capsule and fears he will never emerge from the disintegrating history of his race and came to a dead stop, staring in horror at a room whose outer wall had been partly demolished by great, thick, water-seeking tree-roots.
He was perhaps ten years old when he had this first glimpse of the unfettered outside world. Afterwards, when he had had time to consider things, he tried to retrace his steps, armed with a purloined ball of string; but try as he might, he never again found his way to that place in the maze of his childhood where the minotaur of forbidden sunlight lived. Not in the way you think! I wince as I record his vandalism: armed with broomstick and misappropriated hatchet, he rampaged through dusty passages and maggoty bedrooms, smashing glass cabinets, felling oblivion-sprinkled divans, pulverizing wormy libraries; crystal, paintings, rusty helmets, the paper-thin remnants of priceless silken carpets were destroyed beyond all possibility of repair.
It must be stated that even in those days nobody believed the boy's stories about the far-flung infinities of the house. After he descended upon the cohorts of history like a wolf or wolf-child on the fold, Omar Khayyam Shakil confined himself to the well-trodden, swept and dusted, used regions of the house.
Something - conceivably remorse - led him to his grandfather's dark-panelled study, a book-lined room which the three sisters had never entered since the old man's death. Here he discovered that Mr Shakil's air of great learning had been a sham, just like his supposed business acumen; because the books all bore the ex libris plates of a certain Colonel Arthur Greenfield, and many of their pages were uncut.
It was a gentleman's library, bought in toto from Escapes from the Mother Country? Now Omar Khayyam fell upon it with a will. Here I must praise his autodidactic gifts. For by the time he left 'Nishapur' he had learned classical Arabic and Persian; also Latin, French and German; all with the aid of leather-bound dictionaries and the unused texts of his grandfather's deceptive vanity. In what books the young fellow immersed himself!
Illuminated manuscripts of the poetry of Ghalib; volumes of letters written by Mughal emperors to their sons; the Burton translation of the Alf laylah wa laylah, and the Travels of Ibn Battuta, and the Qissa or tales of the legendary adventurer Hatim Tai. The continual passage of items from living quarters via dumbwaiter to pawnshop brought concealed matter to light at regular intervals.
Those outsize chambers stuffed brim-full with the material legacy of generations of rapaciously acquisitive forebears were being slowly emptied, so that by the time Omar Khayyam was ten and a half there was enough space to move around without bumping into the furniture at every step.
And one day the three mothers sent a servant into the study to remove from their lives an exquisitely carved walnut screen on which was portrayed the mythical circular mountain of Qaf, complete with the thirty birds playing God thereupon. The flight of the bird-parliament revealed to Omar Khayyam a little bookcase stuffed with volumes on the theory and practice of hypnosis: Sanskrit mantras, compendiums of the lore of the Persian Magi, a leathern copy of the Kalevala of the Finns, an account of the hypno-exorcisms of Father Gassner of Klosters and a study of the 'animal magnetism' theory of Franz Mesmer himself; also and most usefully a number of cheaply printed do-it-yourself manuals.
Greedily, Omar Khayyam began to devour these books, which alone in the library did not bear the name of the literary Colonel; they were his grandfather's true legacy, and they led him into his lifelong involvement with that arcane science which has so awesome a power for good or ill.
The trio of menservants became, therefore, Omar Khayyam's first, willing subjects. Practising with the aid of a shiny four-anna coin he put them under, discovering with some pride his talent for the art: effortlessly keeping his voice on a flat, monotonous plane, he lulled them into trances, learning, among other things, that the sexual drives which his mothers appeared to have lost completely since his birth had not been similarly stilled in these men.
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Entranced, they happily confessed the secrets of their mutual caresses, and blessed the maternal trinity for having so altered the circumstances of their lives that their true desires could be revealed to them.
The contented three-way love of the male servants provided a curious balance for the equal, but wholly platonic, love of the three sisters for one another.
But Omar Khayyam continued to grow bitter, despite being surrounded by so many intimacies and affections. Hashmat Bibi also agreed to 'go under'. Omar made her imagine she was floating on a soft pink cloud. It is good to be in the cloud; you want to sink lower and lower.
Soon after his twelfth birthday, his mothers were informed by the three loving menservants, who stared accusingly at the young master as they spoke, that Hashmat had apparently willed herself into death; at the very end she had been heard muttering, '. The three mothers stopped swinging in their seat and ordered Omar Khayyam to abandon mesmerism.
But by then the world had changed. I must go back a little way to describe the alteration. What was also found in the slowly emptying rooms: a previously mentioned telescope. He watched kite-fights between colourful, tailed patangs whose strings were black and dipped in glass to make them razor sharp; he heard the victors' cries - 'Boi-oi-oi! And when, shortly before his twelfth birthday, there strolled on to this ocular moon the incomprehensibly appealing figure of Farah Zoroaster, at that time no more than fourteen but already possessed of a body that moved with the physical wisdom of a woman, then, in that exact moment, he felt his voice break in his throat, while below his belt other things slid downwards too, to take their appointed places, somewhat ahead of schedule, in hitherto-empty sacs.
His longing for the outside was immediately transformed into a dull ache in the groin, a tearing in his loins; what followed was perhaps inevitable. He was not free. His roving freedom-of-the-house was only the pseudo-liberty of a zoo animal; and his mothers were his loving, caring keepers. His three mothers: who else implanted in his heart the conviction of being a sidelined personality, a watcher from the wings of his own life?
He watched them for a dozen years, and, yes, it must be said, he hated them for their closeness, for the way they sat with arms entwined on their swinging, creaking seat, for their tendency to lapse giggling into the private languages of their girlhood, for their way of hugging each other, of putting their three heads together and whispering about whoknowswhat, of finishing one another's sentences.
Omar Khayyam, walled up in 'Nishapur' had been excluded from human society by his mothers' strange resolve; and this, his mothers' three-in-oneness, redoubled that sense of exclusion, of being, in the midst of objects, out of things. Twelve years take their toll. At first the high pride which had driven Chhunni, Munnee and Bunny to reject God, their father's memory and their place in society had enabled them to maintain Shame?
They would rise, each morning, within seconds of one another, brush their teeth up, down and sideways fifty times each with eucalyptus sticks, and then, identically attired, would oil and comb each other's hair and twine white flowers into the coiled black buns they made of their locks. They addressed the servants, and also each other, by the polite form of the second-person pronoun. The rigidity of their bearing and the precision of their household instructions gave a legitimizing sheen to all their actions, including which was no doubt the point the production of an illegitimate child.
But slowly, slowly, they slipped. On the day of Omar Khayyam's departure for the big city, his eldest mother told him a secret that put a date to the beginning of their decline.
On your sixth birthday we renounced this greatest of pleasures, and after that nothing was the same, we began to forget the point of things.
They became soft, there were knots in their hair, they lost interest in the kitchen, the servants got away with murder. But still they declined at the same rate and in identical fashion; the bonds of their identity remained unbroken. Remember this: the Shakil sisters had never received a proper education, except in manners; while their son, by the time his voice broke, was already something of a self-taught prodigy. He attempted to interest his mothers in his learning; but when he set out the most elegant proofs of Euclidian theorems or expatiated eloquently on the Platonic image of the Cave, they rejected the unfamiliar notions out of hand.
He suffered the sensation of being lost inside a cloud, whose curtains parted occasionally to offer tantalizing glimpses of the sky Now then. Omar Khayyam Shakil is almost twelve. He is overweight, and his generative organ, newly potent, also possesses a fold of skin that should have been removed.
His mothers are growing vague about the reasons for their life; while he, in contrast, has overnight become capable of levels of aggression previously foreign to his complaisant fat-boy nature. I offer have already hinted at three causes: one, his sighting of fourteen-yearold Farah on the moon of his telescopic lens; two, his awkwardness about his altered speech, which swings out of control between croaks and squeaks while an ugly lump bobs in his throat like a cork; and one must not forget three, namely the timehonoured or dishonoured mutations wrought by pubertal biochemistry upon the adolescent male personality.
He surprises them by being sullen: 'You'll never give it, what's the point? Six hands fly to three heads and take up hear-no-see-no-speak-no-evil positions. Mother Chhunni hands over ears : 'How can he say this?
The boy, what's he talking? Ask only! What can we refuse? What's so big that we won't do? Cheek of the chappie! Quarrelsome syllables fly out of the maternal huddle, because the boy's requests have divided the sisters for the first time in more than a decade. They are arguing, and the argument is a rusty, difficult business, a dispute between women who are trying to remember the people they once were. When they emerge from the rubble of their exploded identity they make heroic attempts to pretend to Omar, and to themselves, that nothing serious has happened; but although all three of them stick by the collective decision that has been made, the boy can see that this unanimity is a mask which is being held in place with considerable difficulty.
Munnee takes over. You need not be too happy,' she adds, 'because when you leave this house you will be wounded by many sharp names, which people will throw at you, like knives, in the street. Finally, his eldest mother says her piece. This word: shame. No, I must write it in its original form, not in this peculiar language tainted by wrong concepts and the accumulated detritus of its owners' unrepented past, this Angrezi in which I am forced to write, and so for ever alter what is written.
Sharam, that's the word. For which this paltry 'shame' is a wholly inadequate translation. Three letters, shin re mim written, naturally, from right to left ; plus zabar accents indicating the short vowel sounds. A short word, but one containing encyclopaedias of nuance. It was not only shame that his mothers forbade Omar Khayyam to feel, but also embarrassment, discomfiture, decency, modesty, shyness, the sense of having an ordained place in the world, and other dialects of emotion for which English has no counterparts.
No matter how determinedly one flees a country, one is obliged to take along some hand-luggage; and can it be doubted that Omar Khayyam to concentrate on him , having been barred from feeling shame vb.
Reader: it cannot. What's the opposite of shame? What's left when sharam is subtracted? That's obvious: shamelessness. Owing to the pride of his parents and the singular circumstances of his life, Omar Khayyam Shakil, at the age of twelve, was wholly unfamiliar with the emotion in which he was now being forbidden to indulge.
They squabbled over the most alarming trifles, such as who should write the notes that were placed in the dumb-waiter, or whether to take their mid-morning mint tea and biskuts in the drawing room or on the landing.
It was as if by sending their son out into the sunlit arenas of the town they had exposed themselves to the very thing they denied him the freedom to experience; as if on the day when the world laid eyes for the first time on their Omar Khayyam the three sisters were finally pierced by the forbidden arrows of sharam. Their quarrels died down when he made his second escape; but they were never properly reunited until they decided to repeat the act of motherhood.
And there is an even stranger matter to report. In the chaos of their regeneration the wrong heads ended up on the wrong bodies; they became psychological centaurs, fish-women, hybrids; and of course this confused separation of personalities carried with it the implication that they were still not genuinely discrete, because they could only be comprehended if you took them as a whole.
Who would not have wanted to escape from such mothers? Only he remembered with hatred instead of love; not with flames, but icily, icily.
The other Omar wrote great things out of love; our hero's story is poorer, no doubt because it was marinated in bile. The pawnbroker Chalaak Sahib ceased to pay visits to the dumb-waiter; which indicates the existence of love, love of some sort. Just now the satchel has arrived via the Mistri's machine; now it hangs over the shoulder of the twelve-year-old escapologist; now he enters the dumb-waiter and the satchel begins its descent back to earth.
Omar Khayyam's twelfth birthday brought him freedom instead of cake; also, inside the satchel, blue-lined copybooks, a slate, a washable wooden board and some quill pens with which to practise the sinuous script of his mother tongue, chalks, pencils, a wooden ruler and a box of geometry instruments, protractor, dividers, compass. Plus a small aluminum etherizing box in which to murder frogs.
With the weapons of learning hanging over his shoulder, Omar Khayyam left his mothers, who wordlessly and still in unison waved goodbye. Omar Khayyam Shakil never forgot the moment of his emergence from the dumb-waiter into the dust of the no-man's-land around the high mansion of his childhood which stood like a pariah between the Cantonment and the town; or the first sight of the reception committee, one of whose members was carrying a most unexpected sort of garland.
When the wife of Q. The three of them, who had never ceased to believe that Yakoob Balloch's street-death was the direct result of his getting mixed up with the anchoritic sisters, agreed that the flesh-and-blood product of the longago scandal must be about to emerge into plain daylight.
They stationed themselves outside the Shakil household to await this event, but not before Zeenat Kabuli had pulled out from the back of her shop a gunny sack filled with old rotting shoes and sandals and slippers of no conceivable value to anyone, annihilated footwear that had been awaiting just such an occasion, and which was now strung together to form the worst of all insults, that is, a necklace of shoes.
Also present was the town postman, Muhammad Ibadalla, who bore upon his forehead the gatta or permanent bruise which revealed him to be a religious fanatic who pressed brow to prayer-mat on at least five occasions per diem, and probably at the sixth, optional time as well.
This Ibadalla had found his job through the malign influence of the beardy serpent who stood beside him in the heat, the local divine, the notorious Maulana Dawood who rode around town on a motor-scooter donated by the Angrez shabis, threatening the citizens with damnation.
It turned out that this Ibadalla had been incensed by the Shakil ladies' decision not to send their letter to the headmaster of the Cantt school via the postal services. It had been included, instead, in the envelope they had sent down in the dumb-waiter to the flower-girl Azra, along with a small extra fee. Ibadalla had been wooing this Azra for some time, but she laughed at him, 'I don't care for a type who spends so much time with his backside higher than his head.
Ibadalla, incensed by the Azra business, had spoken up first, thus incurring the displeasure of his patron Maulana Dawood, a loss of divine support which ruined the postman's chance of future promotion and intensified his hatred of all Shakils; because of course the Maulana thought it his right to begin the assault on the poor, fat, prematurely-pubescent symbol of incarnate sin.
In an attempt to regain the initiative Dawood flung himself to his knees in the dust at Omar's feet; he ground his forehead ecstatically into the dirt by Omar's toes, and called out: 'O God! O scourging Lord! Bring down upon this human abomination Thy sizzling fountain of fire!
This grotesque display greatly irritated the three who had kept the original vigil. Then who should be speaking now? Flesh of infamy! Think yourself lucky I do no more than this! You think I couldn't squash you flat like one mosquito?
Omar Khayyam began to giggle: such can be the effects of fear. And urchins giggled with him; even the widow Balloch had to fight back the laughter until it came out as water from her eyes.
In those days, people were not so keen on the servants of God as we are told they have become at present. Maulana Dawood rose up with murder in his face. Being no fool, however, he quickly turned this face away from the giant Bilal and reached out his claws for Omar Khayyam - who was saved by the blessed figure, shouldering its way through the mob, of Mr Eduardo Rodrigues, schoolmaster, who had arrived as arranged to fetch the new pupil to class.
And with Rodrigues was a vision of such joy that moonstruck Khayyam at once forgot the danger that had come so close. This town was already full of fools.
In its gardens trees also flourished, because the Angrez sahibs had diverted large quantities of the region's sparse water supplies into the hoses with which the Cantt gardeners strolled around all day. Drawing on his perspective, the present chapter has three closely related aims; firstly, it is intended to reinforce the argument regarding the distinctly individual perception of the sublime. Repression is a seamless garment; a society which is authoritarian in its social and sexual codes, which crushes the women beneath the intolerable burdens of honour and propriety, breeds repressions of other kinds as well.
Gothic tropes in Shame have already been discussed by Punter, Spearey and Ng2. The remaining, sinuous, woman-centred tale constitutes itself as a plea for a careful reconsideration of notions of masculinity and femininity, as well as a refusal to be encroached in a framework of stable gender borders.
In my reading, the post-modernist contamination of plots, as well as the imagery, the juxtaposition of public and private, external and internal, male and female sustains the reading of Shame as a sublime tapestry of multiple voices, all canonizing contradictions, clamouring for recognition, and demanding supremacy.
Writing about the sublime effect of loud noises, Burke claimed that: The shouting of multitudes has a similar effect; and by the whole strength of the sound, so amazes and confounds the imagination, that in this staggering, and hurry of the mind, the best established tempers can scarcely forbear being borne down, and joining the common creep and common resolution of the crowd. Theirs is a remarkable fictional presence, especially in that their story will somehow foreshadow the more general trajectory of other female characters.
Released by the providential death of a tyrannical father from the shackles of servitude and ignorance, Chunni, Munnee and Bunny decide to forge their own destiny. An unspeakable act requires an impossible space in which to unfold its full potential for subversion; moreover, as will be argued further on, a bizarre communion develops between the setting and the character of Omar Khayyam.
The Nishapur mansion — a Rushdian equivalent of the primordial Gothic castle and the locus that hosts sin and shame — also spills, extends its boundaries and becomes daemonic through its unheard of sexual and social contamination.
Imprisoned by tyrannically-loving mothers in a mansion completely isolated from the outside world, Omar Khayyam, the unnaturally common son of Chunni, Munnee and Bunny develops an uncanny ability, a different kind of perception altogether, to see his surroundings in infinitely magnified form.
Nevertheless, Omar Khayyam substitutes the natural feelings of shame he is forced to repress, with their very opposite, i.
Such alternatives and substitutions inform the atmosphere of many episodes of Shame, and they also define the psychological contours of many characters, among whom Sufiya Zinobia is arguably the most significant. Thus, knowledge turns to terror physical and psychological in the hands of the knowledgeable, albeit of the subtlest kind and disguised as freedom of choice.
Exit — temporarily — Omar Khayyam, enter Sufiya Zinobia, the character most famous for committing her unspeakable acts in a state of trance.
In my opinion, the surname Zinobia may have been inspired by the legendary queen of Palmyra who actively fought against the Roman occupation. Antonia Fraser in her thought-provoking book entitled The Warrior Queens. It is in this sense also that I chose to read her as a sublime, terrifying and ultimately free character.
If such creatures roam the earth, they do so on its uttermost rim, consigned to the peripheries of convention of disbelief That was the danger of Sufiya Zinobia: that she came to pass not in any wilderness of basilisk and fiends, but in the heart of the respectable world. That she was, as her mother had said, the incarnation of her shame. The more powerful the beast became, the greater the efforts to deny its very being. Shame: I quote this passage at length because it tackles several relevant aspects related to the discussion of Sufiya Zinobia as the intimate Other whose containment in the home was attempted but failed.
In a sense, the story of her birth replicates the sublime horror introduced in the novel with Omar Khayyam. Both characters disrupt the limits of respectability, of normality of expectations: the girl by her very femaleness followed by a fever which leaves her retarded at the age of two, the boy by his unknown paternal and maternal genealogy. In the characters of Sufiya Zinobia and Omar Khayyam, Rushdie achieves the fusion of family secrets and monstrosity.
In their double capacity, of themselves cast as family secrets, and offspring kept on the margins of the grey, muddy area of family secrets, Omar Khayyam and Sufiya Zinobia play with variations of the lethal, as inferred by Abraham and Torok. Thus, in different manners, Omar and Sufiya brutally break out of the crypt and thus defy personal and social confinements.
In so doing, they divert — especially Sufiya — our attention from the suggestion of metapsychology and begin to inhabit another realm of subjectivity which, as previously suggested, may be seen as the domain of the sublime.
I therefore contend that the lengthy quotation, apart from depicting the situation of the intimate Other carefully contained in the home, also conveys and suggests the feeling of the Gothic sublime, a useful lens for approaching the mystery, the horror, the very incompressibility of Sufiya Zinobia. In Gothic fiction, the monsters are there to strike a chord, to remind us of what should be annihilated or at least repressed, as the sine-qua-non rule for conceptualizing and maintaining identity, both culturally and nationally.
Punter In , ten years before the publication of his Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, whilst still an undergraduate at Trinity College, Burke was shocked by the extreme public enthusiasm, the social uproar raised by the execution of Lord Lovat: Chuse a day on which to represent the most sublime and affecting tragedy we have, appoint the most favourite actors; spare no cost upon the scenes and decorations; unite the greatest efforts of poetry, painting and music; and when you have collected your audience, just at the moment when their minds are erect with expectation, let it be reported that a state criminal of high rank is on the point of being executed in the adjoining square; in a moment the emptiness of the theatre would demonstrate the comparative weakness of the imitative arts, and proclaim the triumph of the real sympathy.
Jane Harrison uses the term for pre-Olympian Greek religion, and I adopt it as a substitute for Dionysian, which has become contaminated with vulgar pleasantries. The Dionysian is no picnic. It is the chtonian realities which Apollo evades, the blind grinding of subterranean force, the long slow suck, the murk and ooze.The memory of a right hand on the Book refuses to fade, however.
And there is an even stranger matter to report. Omar Khayyam Shakil is almost twelve. Then he happens to hear about the headless bodies and rushes to talk with his father-in-law. Because she cannot keep track of the specific terms by which her new relatives are to be addressed, she speaks only with Rani and Raza. Holding otherwise was Isky's blasphemous mistake.
It is not that he is fat or ugly, but something indefinable in his personality repulses her. Released by the providential death of a tyrannical father from the shackles of servitude and ignorance, Chunni, Munnee and Bunny decide to forge their own destiny.
Gichki has disappeared and rumors fly about his fate, since it is known he is a bitter enemy of Raza's favorite, Dawood.