21 June 2006

Haroun and the Sea of Stories is the most accessible of Salman Rushdie’s novels, and this little book is almost perfect. No, seriously—in the way that The Great Gatsby, The Old Man and the Sea, or A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is perfect: a brilliantly cut, brightly polished little gem, with well-drawn, believable characters working through a well-paced, reasonable (given the magical realism of the circumstances) plot.

Set in an imaginary Kashmir, in a fictional now, Rushdie’s masterwork (and I say this knowing full well what a truly magnificent book Midnight’s Children is—but it, like Moby Dick, is a wonderfully, humanly flawed work, of such scope and complexity that perfection is unthinkable) is appropriate for children, in spite of the adult themes which spark the plot. Haroun, himself a child, undertakes to save his father’s career (and marriage) by traveling with a water genie to Earth’s second moon. Here, he must intervene in a war and reverse an intentional environmental disaster to save the Sea of Stories, from which his father draws the stories he tells for a living.

Of course, it all works out in the end and Haroun learns the value of stories. Read it as an environmental metaphor, as an allegory for contemporary degradation of our humanity, or simply for fun—but read it.


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