Salman Rushdie And The Magic Of Storytelling
Like an old father reading to his child right before bedtime, Rushdie read a page of his latest novel. It began with the magical world of Luka. A boy who is on a quest to save his storyteller father and find the “Eternal Fire” that would save him from his death. The 62-year-old Rashid, resident of the pseudo-Indian city of Kahani, (“Kahani” means “story” in the Hindi language) has lost the Magic in his stories.
Away from superficial titles and dysfunctional fantasies, Salman Rushdie sat in conversation with Reza Aslan, author of “How to Win a Cosmic War” and in ways much like a monologue explored Luka’s world, the political elements of this “childish” novel, and the grand world of imagination and its infinite power.
Rushdie has written the book for his younger son eighteen years junior than his first son Zafar-Haroun-Rushdie.
Many great stories have been written for one specific child, and through that one child was it that the story was inspired and enthused. Christopher Robin inspired A.A. Milne to write "Winnie the Pooh," J.M. Barrie wrote "Peter Pan" after William Davis’s child, and Lewis Caroll wrote “Alice in Wonderland” for Alice. Rushdie continued with his examples to emphasize how much a child and relationships with children can inspire one to write. This would be the second book that he writes for his children.
With great intricacy he applauded William Blake’s long time poetry and art on man’s infinite imagination and one’s desire to break away from any authoritative force. He lead the audience to explore Luka’s quest and “Nobodaddy” (the father’s) threatened world of fantasy.
“Nobodaddy” a God-type figure and a symbol of death has appeared in William Blake’s poem long before Rushdie used this authoritative figure and enemy of “Magic” in his book. The 18th century, poet, artist, and engraver had associated the figure with a didactic figure, one who sways and captivates human imagination into a confined world. Rushdie played with this notion in Luka, nearly two decades after what he calls a “companion” to his 1989 novel “Haroun and the Sea of Stories,” the book he wrote for his oldest son.
The conversation was not in need of any questions. Rushdie continued to entertain the audience with his witty humor, insight, and charming intellect. His always present passion for politics was explored as he explained the differences and similarities between the children’s stories and stories written for adults.
In this book, Luka is after a “fire”—a classic concept that could mean anything from passion and love, to knowledge, enlightenment, and other powerful elements. The boundary of adult writing and children’s writing is language. Rushdie continued: “It’s about the language, and the attempt to synchronize all stories—and children stories do that. Between language and form we have an artificial border.”
Political allusions were less visible in "Luka" than in his first children's book. A dark story given to his first son published right after Grand Ayatollah Khomeini’s (Iran's Supreme Leader at the time) Fatwa (a religious ruling that called on followers to kill Rushdie) in 1989. Yet, here and there, he named the characters that were guardians of thoughts, magic and imagination—characters named after إمام—a direct allusion to the fatwa and religious clergies.
The evening ended with a more broad scope on language, world of magic, and man’s power to alter language. “If you live in a narrative that you can alter, that’s a free story, and that’s the power of storytelling,” Rushdie allows the reader to understand and explore the world of magic, the infinite power of mind and the grand world of life through a shattering father-son-relationship—a quest that shows the power of storytelling and the infinite power of man’s mind.
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