Book Review: Haroun and The Sea of Stories


We all know of Salman Rushdie as the controversial author who has a fatwa hanging over his head for stepping into forbidden territory in his controversial treatise The Satanic Verses. But I had missed out, before I read this book, that he had soon after the fatwa stepped into action in what can be called a lit contrast – from combining magical realism with historical fiction he dived into children fiction. Titled Haroun and the sea of Stories and Luka and The Fire of Life, these two are Rushdie at his imaginative best. Random House dishes out a treat to readers by combining these two books into a Vintage Children Classics (the version I read) for

these two books fancifully and humorously relate the adventures of Haroun and Luka keeping us mesmerized and amused at the same time.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories is set in an oriental landscape where there are lands of Gupees and Chups, magic and the supernatural rule the show and the real world appears to lose its way. Haroun asks a question…What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true? He was referring to the storytelling powers of his father – The Shah of Blah – as he is called. But soon after Rashid loses his power and Haroun travels to the land of Gup to bring back his father’s gift of speech with the help of the water genie If and Hoopoe bird Butt. How he manages to enter the forbidden territory and finishes off Khattam shudh who threatens the world of words with extinction and brings back the lost powers for his father forms the matter of the story.

While in Luka and The Fire of Life, Luka and his brother enter the world of magic and bring with them the fire of life which rejuvenates their father Rashid who was facing death as Nobodaddy was threatening to devour him and become stronger. He takes the help of Bear, the Dog and Dog, the Bear, Insultana – the queen of otters, the elephant duck and drake to beat the Old man and steal the fire of life that burns on top of the Mountain of knowledge.

These two stories of the combined version were written for the author’s sons Zafar and Milan and he has used situations and people whom he thinks would appeal most to the children. We find Salman Rushdie in a brand new avataar in these stories unlike his novels. A master storyteller – he knows exactly where and how to ignite a child’s imagination and fire his heroic enthusiasm. We could call this a postmodern fairy tale written in an allegorical form. The characters of Blabbermouth, Walrus, Prince Bolo or the animals who speak in human voices or the ancient gods and goddesses of a bygone era create a world of magic and illusion which is at once absurd yet engrossing.

After The Satanic Verses Rushdie explores a new field altogether – Children Literature. And he excels. And how! It is almost renaissance in essence as it defends art and freedom of expression. There is a parallel meaning attached to all the situations which interests the adult readers as well as the children. There is a marked similarity in Rushdie’s situation and Rashid’s predicament making the treatise even more interesting. The style is unique and a new form of metre has been invented. Witty interludes and verbal innuendos create a kind of humour which is infectious. At times reminiscent of Arabian Nights, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland or Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne.. these two books by Rushdie are something else altogether.

Salman Rushdie has once again proven that he is a master of imaginative storytelling…very much like his protagonist Rashid Khalifa is.

Title : Haroun and The Sea of Stories
Author : Salman Rushdie
Imprint/ Publisher : Vintage Books/ Random House
Pages : 461
Genre : Fiction
Rating : 5 of 5
Reviewed for: Publisher

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