Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Stories beget stories. And amid nauseating realities, they are probably our only vehicle to a meaningful sail.
There are people who need to impose a shape upon the shapelessness of life.
And so, a Quichotte upon a Sam DuChamp, a Sancho over a Marcel DuChamp, a Human Trampoline over a Sister (DuChamp) – well, fictional characters to mirror the real characters including the author who is penning ‘Quichotte’. That’s right. A book within a book. A journey within a journey.
This book, as you know by now, is heavily (and lightly) drawn from Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s magnum opus, ‘Don Quixote’. And so, like the original, it chronicles the journey of the eponymous central character and his companion, Sancho and unlike the original, the two buddies turn father and son/ sister here – Quichotte and Sancho on a long, wide road trip to meet ‘the Beloved’, Miss Salma R and their creator, Sam, estranged in present from Marcel and his sister, longing to bury the hatchet before it is sunset.
The appeal of this book lied in doing the near impossible – making the two parallel tales meet . In such absolute command is the storyteller that to this reader, the foursome appeared to be members of an intriguing maze that refused to let go of any member despite them tottering into each other’s turf. Each character came blazing with such a demeanour and lingo of his own, interspersed with value systems, that I was forced to take sides and allow biases to rear their heads.
Beyond that, there’s only madness, aka getting religion. I have no intention of going crazy or getting religion.
… detachment is the key to survival. Obsession destroys the possessed.
In immensely rapturous and hubbub tones, Quichotte and Sancho epitomized the generational shifts and filial urgency without the melodrama. In near opposite fashion, Sam DuChamp’s discovery of his son and his penance towards his sister was filtered across monochromatic chapters that befit a lost, egoistic man in his late 50s.
Infusing the conversations with the scent of old Bombay and 90s’ America, the bane of today’s religious bigotry and calamitous science, the changing couture of courting and companionship across last two decades or more, the ambiguous modern-day chicanery of nihilism and radicalism, the vicious bite of political degradation across the world and irrational need for social media validation, the heartening sameness of life-driving emotions, Sir Rushdie spins a yarn so wide, so minute and so deliciously intoxicating that I smiled, hurrahed, sobbed, chuckled, guffawed, slumped without a care for the time and place.
Life had become a series of vanishing photographs, posted every day, gone the next. One had no story any more. Character, narrative, history, were all dead. Only the flat caricature of the instant remained and that was what one was judged by.
And almost like a tribute to his penmanship, akin to his’ to the great Cervantes, I read him at airports and flights, at beaches and hotel rooms, in different cities and time periods, in chaotic and serene joints. And must I say, Sir Rushdie was, clearly, one helluva helmsman.
P.S. Odyssey and Moby Dick, among others, make guest appearances and reaffirm my faith that stories are, after all, interconnected.