Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie
A Novel

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Synopsis

Shalimar the Clown is a masterpiece from one of our greatest writers, a dazzling novel that brings together the fiercest passions of the heart and the gravest conflicts of our time into an astonishingly powerful, all-encompassing story.

Max Ophuls’ memorable life ends violently in Los Angeles in 1993 when he is murdered by his Muslim driver Noman Sher Noman, also known as Shalimar the Clown. At first the crime seems to be politically motivated – Ophuls was previously ambassador to India, and later US counterterrorism chief – but it is much more.

Ophuls is a giant, an architect of the modern world: a Resistance hero and best-selling author, brilliant economist and clandestine US intelligence official. But it is as Ambassador to India that the seeds of his demise are planted, thanks to another of his great roles – irresistible lover. Visiting the Kashmiri village of Pachigam, Ophuls lures an impossibly beautiful dancer, the ambitious (and willing) Boonyi Kaul, away from her husband, and installs her as his mistress in Delhi. But their affair cannot be kept secret, and when Boonyi returns home, disgraced and obese, it seems that all she has waiting for her is the inevitable revenge of her husband: Noman Sher Noman, Shalimar the Clown. He was an acrobat and tightrope walker in their village’s traditional theatrical troupe; but soon Shalimar is trained as a militant in Kashmir’s increasingly brutal insurrection, and eventually becomes a terrorist with a global remit and a deeply personal mission of vengeance.

With sweeping brilliance, Salman Rushdie portrays fanatical mullahs as fully as documentary filmmakers, rural headmen as completely as British spies; he describes villages that compete to make the most splendid feasts, the mentality behind martial law, and the celebrity of Los Angeles policemen, all with the same genius.

But the main story is only part of the story. In this stunningly rich book everything is connected, and everyone is a part of everyone else. Shalimar the Clown is a true work of the era of globalization, intricately mingling lives and countries, and finding unexpected and sometimes tragic connections between the seemingly disparate. The violent fate of Kashmir recalls Strasbourg’s experience in World War Two; Resistance heroism against the Nazis counterpoints Al-Qaeda’s terror in Pakistan, North Africa and the Philippines. 1960s Pachigam is not so far from post-war London, or the Hollywood-driven present-day Los Angeles where Max’s daughter by Boonyi, India Ophuls, beautiful, strong-willed, modern, waits, as vengeance plays itself out.

A powerful love story, intensely political and historically informed, Shalimar the Clown is also profoundly human, an involving story of people’s lives, desires and crises – India Ophuls’ desperate search for her real mother, for example; Max’s wife’s attempts to deal with his philandering – as well as, in typical Rushdie fashion, a magical tale where the dead speak and the future can be foreseen.

Shalimar the Clown is steeped in both the Hindu epic Ramayana and the great European novelists, melding the storytelling traditions of east and west into a magnificently fruitful blend – and serves, itself, as a corrective to the destructive clashes of values it scorchingly depicts. Enthralling, comic and amazingly abundant, it will no doubt come to be seen as one of the key books of our time.

 

About Salman Rushdie

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Salman Rushdie is the author of nine previous novels: Grimus; Midnight's Children (which was awarded the Booker Prize in 1981 and, in 1993, was judged to be the "Booker of Bookers," the best novel to have won that prize in its first twenty-five years); Shame (winner of the French Prix de Meilleur Livre Etranger); The Satanic Verses (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); Haroun and the Sea of Stories (winner of the Writers Guild Award); The Moor's Last Sigh (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); The Ground Beneath Her Feet (winner of the Eurasian section of the Commonwealth Prize); Fury (a New York Times Notable Book); and Shalimar the Clown (a Time Book of the Year). He is also the author of a book of stories, East, West, and three works of nonfiction- Imaginary Homelands, The Jaguar Smile, and The Wizard of Oz. He is co-editor of Mirrorwork, an anthology of contemporary Indian writing.From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published September 6, 2005 by Random House. 416 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Science Fiction & Fantasy. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Shalimar the Clown

Kirkus Reviews

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Rushdie introduces numerous vivid characters variously related to Noman and Boonyi and describes Noman’s training as a terrorist within an increasingly violent Kashmiri “liberation front.” The pattern of the Ramayana—which recalls a hero’s “war” waged against the “demon” who steals his beloved—is...

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The New York Times

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In Salman Rushdie's novel, a gentle man is transformed by hatred, with disastrous consequences.

Oct 23 2005 | Read Full Review of Shalimar the Clown: A Novel

The Guardian

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Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie Jonathan Cape £17.99, pp398 Moraes Zogoiby, the wandering, displaced, mixed-race narrator of Salman Rushdie's novel The Moor's Last Sigh (1995), declared: 'I was nobody from nowhere, like no one, belonging to nothing.' Max Ophuls, one of the three central cha...

Sep 11 2005 | Read Full Review of Shalimar the Clown: A Novel

The Guardian

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Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie 416pp, Cape, £17.99 Even before you start this novel, you are aware that it is an important book.

Sep 03 2005 | Read Full Review of Shalimar the Clown: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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The book begins at the end, with the murder of the former American ambassador to India, Maximilian Ophuls, now a counterterrorist expert, then introduces his murderer, Shalimar the Clown, Kashmiri actor and acrobat-cum-terrorist, and Ophuls's illegitimate daughter, India, who brings the book to a...

Oct 31 2005 | Read Full Review of Shalimar the Clown: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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The neighbors to whom Rushdie introduces us are memorable and emblematic characters, especially his protagonists, the Hindu dancer Boonyi Kaul and her childhood sweetheart, Shalimar the clown, son of a Muslim family.

Jul 25 2005 | Read Full Review of Shalimar the Clown: A Novel

NPR

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Salman Rushdie's latest book is Shalimar the Clown, a story that mixes dark comedy with high politics and takes place between Los Angeles and Kashmir.

Aug 30 2005 | Read Full Review of Shalimar the Clown: A Novel

Book Reporter

Boonyi, a beautiful young Hindu dancer, and Noman Sher Noman (also known as Shalimar the Clown), a handsome Muslim tightrope walker, fall in love in the village of Pachigam.

Jan 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Shalimar the Clown: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

Originally posted Sep 02, 2005 Published in issue #838-839 Sep 09, 2005 Order article reprints

Sep 07 2005 | Read Full Review of Shalimar the Clown: A Novel

PopMatters

As Midnight’s Children‘s narrator Saleem Sinai asserts that he must his story by telling the stories of his parents and grandparents, Rushdie cannot explain the killer’s, who calls himself Shalimar the Clown, motivation without talking about the history of the town from which he hails, without de...

Oct 17 2005 | Read Full Review of Shalimar the Clown: A Novel

London Review of Books

Afterwards, panting with joy, Noman says: ‘Don’t leave me now, or I’ll never forgive you, and I’ll have my revenge, I’ll kill you and if you have any children by another man I’ll kill the children also.’ Around the basic plot, which inevitably follows this curse, Rushdie tells a bigger story, tur...

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Bookmarks Magazine

John Freeman New Yorker 3 of 5 Stars " The plot .

Oct 15 2007 | Read Full Review of Shalimar the Clown: A Novel

India Today

It is Kashmir redeemed from the banality of evil, it is Kashmir remembered in its pristine innocence, it is Kashmir lost in the fantasy of liberation and Kashmir liberated by the memorial service of the last living.

Aug 29 2005 | Read Full Review of Shalimar the Clown: A Novel

The Blurb

Not incidentally, it acts as a primer for those of us who have always felt under-informed on the troubled history of Kashmir, a place “like paradise … the flowers too numberless to name, ablaze with bright perfume,” yet which was depicted in my old school atlas...

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