Shalimar the Clown

Shalimar the Clown

A Novel

Book - 2005
Average Rating:
3
Rate this:
Random House, Inc.
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.


The second portent came on the morning of the murder, when Shalimar the driver approached Max Ophuls at breakfast, handed him his schedule card for the day, and gave in his notice. The ambassador’s drivers tended to be short-term appointees, inclined to move on to new adventures in pornography or hairdressing, and Max was inured to the cycle of acquisition and loss. This time, however, he was shaken, though he did not care to show it. He concentrated on his day’s appointments, trying not to let the card shake. He knew Shalimar’s real name. He knew the village he came from and the story of his life. He knew the intimate connection between his own scandalous past and this grave unscandalous man who never laughed in spite of the creased eyes that hinted at a happier past, this man with a gymnast’s body and a tragedian’s face who had slowly become more of a valet than a mere driver, a silent yet utterly solicitous body servant who understood what Max needed before he knew it himself, the lighted cigar that materialized just as he was reaching for the humidor, the right cuff-links that were laid out on his bed each morning with the perfect shirt, the ideal temperature for his bathwater, the right times to be absent as well as the correct moments to appear. The ambassador was carried back to his Strasbourgeois childhood years in a Belle Époque mansion near the now-destroyed old synagogue, and found himself marvelling at the rebirth in this man from a distant mountain valley. . . .
—from Shalimar the Clown

Baker & Taylor
In 1991, Ambassador Maximilian Ophuls--a World War II Resistance hero, ex-ambassador to India, and America's counterterrorism chief--is murdered on the Los Angeles doorstep of his illegitimate daughter India's home by his Kashmiri Muslim driver, who calls himself Shalimar the clown, in a sweeping story of love and revenge in a troubled age. 100,000 first printing.

Blackwell North Amer
Los Angeles, 1991. Maximilian Ophuls, one of the makers of the modern world, is knifed to death in broad daylight on the doorstep of his illegitimate daughter India, slaughtered by his Kashmiri Muslim driver, a mysterious figure who calls himself Shalimar the clown. The dead man is a World War II Resistance hero, a man of formidable intellectual ability and much erotic appeal, a former United States ambassador to India, and subsequently America's counter-terrorism chief. The murder looks at first like a political assassination but turns out to be passionately personal.
This is the story of Max, his killer, and his daughter - and of a fourth character, the woman who links them, whose revelation finally explains them all. It is a narrative that moves from California to Kashmir, France, and England, and back to California again. Along the way there are tales of princesses lured from their homes by demons, legends of kings forced to defend their kingdoms against evil. There is kindness and there is magic capable of producing miracles, but there is also war - ugly, unavoidable, and seemingly interminable. And there is always love, gained and lost, uncommonly beautiful and mortally dangerous.

Baker
& Taylor

In 1991, Ambassador Maximilian Ophuls--ex-ambassador to India, and America's counterterrorism chief--is murdered on the Los Angeles doorstep of his illegitimate daughter's home by his Kashmiri Muslim driver, who calls himself Shalimar the Clown.

Publisher: New York : Random House, 2005.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780679463351
0679463356
Characteristics: 398 p. ; 24 cm.

Opinion

From the critics


Community Activity

Comment

Add a Comment

WVMLStaffPicks Jan 19, 2015

A very timely novel about terrorism and the ongoing struggle between India and Pakistan for control of Kashmir. Shalimar is typical Rushdie: a novel that exists as a political thriller, folk tale, wartime adventure, slapstick comedy, and tale of romance. In a post 9/11 world Rushdie is able to see the horrors of extremism and religious conflict, however, his stories are always told with a decidedly humorous and cleverly satiric touch.

s
Samauribrarian
Sep 30, 2013

One of my top ten books of all time. Amazing story told through incredible mastery of language. An epic global tale that takes place in part in India & LA. A great first Rushdie if you've been wanting to read any of his tomes!

m
mvincelli
Mar 07, 2010

Not yet read.

Age

Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.

Summary

Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.

Notices

Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Quotes

Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings

  Loading...

Find it at OPL

  Loading...
[]
[]
To Top