Sanjay is a Bombay street child who scales the dizzying heights of the "Silver Castle," the Indian film world, to stand at the parapet of success. Unfortunately for Sanjay, he is required to jump.
Told with Clive James's trademark dry wit, The Silver Castle is a tragicomic morality tale for our time. Part Candide, part Oliver Twist, part Huckleberry Finn, The Silver Castle defies its reader to remain aloof from the suffering of the world's swarming poor while it inspires laughter over the human condition generally. It is a novel of wonder despite its unrelenting realism-- indeed, only wonderment is possible in the face of Sanjay's knack for survival and more than occasional good fortune.
In his astonishing odyssey from the gutter to the soundstages and salons of Bollywood, Sanjay meets up with every variant of sinner and would-be savior, and along the way he trades on his "heart-breaking" physical beauty and canny lingual facility to grab at luck wherever it may be had--in the pocket of a tourist, as a guide for the Western news crews who regularly descend on Bombay to update their stock footage of grinding poverty, or in the bed of an older male protector or a past-her-prime cinema princess.
Throughout, Sanjay's spirit is sustained by the movies, and by his first behind-the-scenes glimpse,
as a young trespasser on the set of the Silver Castle, of the magical artifice of filmmaking.
It is a true vision of an utterly false reality, the source of Sanjay's subsequent triumphs and of his ultimate
misfortune. But what happens to Sanjay in the end is not a singular event. As this deeply humane novel
convincingly argues, Sanjay's fate is the world's.
Perhaps it would have been better for [Sanjay] if he had never seen the Silver Castle, never felt a guiding hand, never blinked at an unstained smile. Then he would not have missed these things. It is just possible, however, that the memory of his first visit to Long Ago sustained him. Imagination and energy are part of each other, and few of us, even though we live in circumstances far more favourable, would ever get to where we are going unless a picture of it, however inaccurate, was already in our minds. If we had to, we too would have to dodge the rain between rubbish dumps, on the long journey back to the taste of a cheese roll, the tang of sparkling water, trumpets that crackle and toe-nails stained with plums. We don't have to, but Sanjay did.
About Clive James
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Published January 1, 1996
by JONATHAN CAPE LTD.
Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment.