Table of Terrors

It's grdually become, from my resting place, to an area where I'm hunted by multiple narratives...none of them completed, each pretending to be important; and when avoided pretending to be intellectually above my intelligence. One such book is Milan Kundera's "The Joke", which lies hidden somewhere on the table, never appearing, in a constant state of newness amidst chaos; and awaiting someone who would lift it and disappear.
How does one deal with disorder? It's a recurring question to which I probably don't want to find an answer....

As a first novel Rushdie's Midnight's Children stormed into the western psyche, causing extreme wonderment and a sense of how far literature could yet, in times of compressed narratives, be stretched. The book was a feat; another non-fiction book by Naipaul, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, was published the same year and as usual went un noticed; although silently read by Naipaul's very few faithful readers. Now, looking back, both the books seem equally controversial and prophetic. It should have been some year for a reader in London or India. Midnight's Children was a book that did to India what "One Hundred Years of Solitude" did to South America; the beauty of the book was the extremely confident tone in which Rushdie customized English acording to the Indian social or political life. It gave an air of confidence to writers after him arising one after the other, good, mediocre; but all absolutely certain they could write. Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh, Amit Chaudhury, Pankaj Mishra and a lot fucking more have taken tons from that year 1981. I think Rushdie could controversially be called the father of Indian writing in English.

Although there have been many great writer preceding him; one such was R.K.Narayan. There was once a rumour, believable, that he was being consedered for the Nobel Prize; the rumour lasted a good five years. Narayan, whom Mr Naipaul admires alot, captured the Indian way of life through very simple rural lives of individuals, their families, their little concerns in the most magnificent way possible for a writer. But in his heyday there was still this belief among the westerners that Indian writing in English was hardly of any value and was stupidly emotional. One remarkable writer of that era was Nirad.C.Chaudhury, whose "Autobiography of an Unknown Indian" was praised in the western media for its erudition and realistic commentary on indian social customs, family values etc.
Althogh these and a few other good writers were operating at that time, you wouldn't recollect their books or names; what you would rather recollect is names like "Kipling" "E.M.Forster"; this was how it was, just like it was in Africa 2 decades ago; it needed someone to visit the place, bring back experiences in the form of a book. Ernest Hemmingway has been chided by Paul Theroux and Naipaul, all the three have been to and writen about Africa, as a guy who went to Africa to serve his ego, and bring back in the form of books experiences, either untrue or valueless, which could as well be composed fantasizing in the solitude of one's room.
What Rushdie brought in for India was a respectable attention in a global sense. It's a remarkable feat. A line of good Indian writers have since written some truely marvellous books, internationaly recognized. MNC is a ground breaking book because of Rushdie's unbelievable imaginative ambition, and the narrative excesses he covers in the book. About allegory William Golding, a master in allegoric writing, has said that if you're going to clarify your allegory to the exact point of what you want to say through it, you must minimize it and keep it very small. His point was if you spread across too wide you might lose the whole point of allegory itself, in the comprehensive narrative. It's true. Golding's books prove that. His allegories are an Island in "The Lord of the Flies", a Ship in "Rites of Pasage", A church, a School, Celebrity; he covers very small allegorical objects and the precision of his narrative gives his allegories brightened meaning.
Rushdie did the opposite of that. He expanded one allegory to such an extent that MNC became a book, if you read it closely, which was full of thouands of pieces of smaller allegories, unintegrated and living their own separate lives. Rushdie didn't care to integrate the allegories.
If one asks what so great about MNC, what does it say? Nothing, just that 50 years of independence hasn't brought as much developments as it should have, Salim Sinai is cute, he saw his mother's butts while she was bathing; not belittling the book, I'm saying there is an absense of a central integrated allegory, unlike in Golding's Kundera's Coetzee's or Calvino's writings; but his achievement was fuelling the narative with multiple allegories and leaving them unfinished, and in some cases partly superficial. And this is where lies his achievement.
It's no wonder Rushdie was enchanted with Arabian Nights as a kid; you could see the book's influence on MNC. Multiple stories, stories upon stories, entangled narrative.......
After MNC and except The Ground Beneath her Feet, Rushdie hasn't been able to any write anything substantial, promising his first book's narrative promise. Maybe he would never do it. MNC was once in a lifetime book, and the tragedy was it was his first published book. He's been constantly getting rewards for the book since 1981 though. He has tried writing a straight book; the last three books of his (Fury, Shalimar: the Clown, The Enchantress of Florence) have been attempts at fiction pertaining more to realism than magic; but all failures nonetheless.
Naipaul once said that the writers reputation should gradually grow, book by book, until he or his reputation becomes the sum of his books. Rushdie subtracted by MNC will not look as cute as Salim Sinai.
There is a story in Greek mythology in which a writer becomes a donkey because he, as a famous writer, loses his ability to observe, and the Gods punish him by metamophosing him into a Donkey so he would observe and think.


He had led a hard life. He was, as it seemed to me when I first saw him, somewhat consumed by a proud sense of physical inactivity. The excess of intellectual commitment, which he had worked out for himself, had made him look at other simple things in strict apathy. As a result he became totally secluded, in which lay his strong mysterious existence. He had once told me that to touch mediocrity was to invite pollution, to invite failure; and I wondered what idea it was that made him feel the opposite of failure. He said that mediocrity of any sort ate you away, and I knew most of the people around him were mediocre by my definition itself; and hence his seclusion. Companionship was absent in his life; he claimed it was deliberate...he said it was the first step towards intellectual delectation. I didn't agree with him then, and seeing him, now.
He drank a lot and almost always smoked; he constantly looked tired. A proud smirk of disarray was drawn on his face, and he knew that. I, disagreeing him in all aspect, still looked up to him. I wanted to see this man, everyday, stuck in an unknown depth of uncertainty.

I had been a spectator many a times when he was abused, awarded ridicule; I acted as if I didn't notice. I saw his expression, he looked like a prey, moments away from being eaten. But then I also saw him violating this very ridicule as if it was just a dream we had both seen, and knew it was a dream. But then I didn't see him as an achiever of any kind. I saw a lack of that flash in him. Maybe he just had this commitment towards demonstration. His idea of himself looked fake, he said so.

Ridicule threatened me. "Escape" to me looked like an answer. He, my man, was far from what I wanted to be, but was tending towards. I could smell his decay.

And I questioned myself. I tried answering. And I wasn't convinced. He was a reward for me and a punishment. Or at least a symbol of punishment; and that symbol, with all my might, I have always tried to rub off.
It felt indelible. And running away didn't diminish the feeling that the symbol was cruelly marked somewhere important in my psyche