Salman Rushdie on Wikipedia
In his Defense of Poetry, Shelley emphasized the importance of the role of imagination in the discovery and direction of our lives. According to him, laws and conventions derived from ‘ethical science’ may be necessary for the conduct of ‘civil and domestic life’, but it the imagination that unlocks our full humanity.
At the end of the 20th century, many wars, revolutions and anathemas later, it is more evident than ever, that the active exercise of imagination is indispensable to the realization, establishment and defense of those values which define us and according to which we lead our lives. Salman Rushdie insists that the imagination, ‘the process by which we make pictures of the world…is one of the keys to our humanity.’
According to Rushdie, imagination liberates us from the crude ‘facts’ of history and may even absolve us from the unredeemed diary of our own lives. As a postmodern writer, Rushdie recognizes no unqualified fact or absolute fiction; the 2 categories overlap and leak into each other. To illustrate this, he quoted Graham Greene, in his Imaginary Homelands – ‘Novelists are trying to write the truth and journalists are trying to write fiction.’
Midnight's Children won the Booker Prize the year I was born - and ever since I can remember it was an ambition of mine to read (and comprehend) the novel. Several aborted attempts later, I finally read it after having gotten a grip over the genre of magic realism. I also read The Moor's Last Sigh as a part of my masters course. Studying Rushdie is NOT easy. But it's also not boring. The palempsestic nature of his works, the constant blurring of boundaries between myth, fantasy and reality make it, if nothing else, an extremely interesting challenge. A sort of mental masturbation, if you prefer that analogy.
Ask me if I am a fan of Rushdie, and I'll most likely reply in the negative. Yet I can't refute his contribution to the literary world as we know it today. The fact that juries of literary prizes were inclined towards post-colonial authors in the 80s does not and can not belittle his achievement, nor can it belie the fact that his success turned the literary limelight towards India, in a way that even Tagore's Nobel Prize couldn't achieve. Let's face it, you can love him. You can hate him. But you can not ignore him. Naipaul with that gigantic chip on his shoulder, not to mention nose up in the air simply doesn't deserve the kind of warm embrace Indians extended towards him. Brilliant he is, but a bit too pompous for my liking.
And so I find myself rooting for Rushdie in the race towards the Man Booker Prize 2005.
(Literary Trivia: In 2002 the Man Group became sponsor of the Booker Prize Foundation, and the prize is currently named the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. It is in no way the same as the Man Booker International which was founded this year in U.S.A. and which will award outstanding literary achievement once in two years. )