The main objective of my project is to analyze the representation of national history through the individual story of the protagonists in the novels of Salman Rushdie. In the process, I will analyze the novels from diverse angles. I will try to ascertain the very mode of narrative. I will study them as postcolonial-postmodernist stories. Moreover, I will churn out the techniques used in the narrative. This dissertation will also briefly try to find out the forces behind the (Islamic) terrorism as well as to decipher the challenges caused by today’s modern phenomenon of change in our society and to discuss it in relation to the process of migration.
Obviously, this is a theoretical rather than an empirical methods paper. So, I will not be dealing with statistical numbers. I prefer to support my propositions by reference to the critical studies by other theorists. Migration being a core aspect of the novels of Rushdie, one of my broad aims will be to investigate the challenges caused by today’s modern phenomenon of change in relationship with the consequences of people’s movement around the globe every day. Migration is the resettlement of the people within a country or across the national borders and the term thus encompasses both movements from (emigration) and movements to (immigration) a country.
One key issue will be the impact of migration on nationalism. In deciding upon my theoretical framework, I had to select from the vast literature produced by Salman Rushdie. In order to help me address my research question, I have chosen three of the most relevant and popular novels of the author. I, therefore, approach my research question hereby minutely going through Midnight’s Children, Shame, and The Satanic Verses.
Structure of the Thesis
The dissertation is divided into ten chapters apart from the appendices. The first three chapters are introductory in nature. Therein I have first tried to write about the life and letters of the author in question. The second chapter elaborates upon the works of other critics on the author and his produce. I have desisted from discussing here the fatwa, which was part of politico-religious reception, and not literary-critical. Before embarking upon the main body of the essay, I will try to present, in chapter III, a bird’s eye view of the favourite themes of the author. I have assigned separate chapters to each of the three major novels, viz. Midnight’s Children, Shame and The Satanic Verses. Midnight’s Children is revisited – from the core of the thesis statement – in the seventh chapter.
Although strictly speaking, it was not absolutely essential to ponder upon the structure and techniques of the novels in this dissertation, I have gone through these aspects in chapter VIII because I think that the means and the ends are rather inseparable in postcolonial literature. In the same vein, I have not proscribed myself from producing sometimes brief and sometimes a bit longer plot summaries of the novels though I do understand that that is not the standard practice. After all, the stories are so captivating and complicated as well. In the next chapter, I discuss, in brief, other novels of the author. They are The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Grimus, and Shalimar the Clown. The last – tenth chapter – presents a summing up of the points raised and discussed.
Literary Criticism as Political Act
Literary criticism is a political act within its own place and time. Now that the force of Islamist ‘fury’ reverberates all over the globe and especially in this part of the world, we may say that although the Iranian government explicitly distanced itself from the inglorious fatwa on the acclaimed novelist Salman Rushdie, the humankind itself – including the Muslim brethren – is constantly living under a fatwa. Interestingly, Rushdie’s unflinching criticism of the religion into which he was born has not got muffled.
Authors are sensitive individuals. Trans-cultural novelists are more so. They cannot forget the past even when they revolt against it. Salman Rushdie, being a migrant storyteller, does not choose to revolt. To him, ‘the past is home albeit a lost home in a lost city in the mists of lost time.’ And, the city to him is Bombay. He would rather cling to the past.
In this essay, I propose to present a first-hand reading of Salman Rushdie’s novels from a secular Indian critique’s point of view. I seek to achieve this objective by going through three of his major novels viz. Midnight’s Children, The Satanic Verses and Shame. While focusing on the interplay of history and individual, I shall also endeavour to discuss the mode of narrative of the author. Thus, in short, Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of carnivalesque, narrative mode of magic realism and postmodern-postcolonial thematic issues will be the peripheral subjects of study.
While trying to get and go through the papers presented earlier, this essay does not purport to be a summary of the studies made earlier or merely to focus upon the conclusions of earlier monographs. Admittedly, the study draws upon various books – paperbacks and e-books as well as other sources – some cited at the end of the paper, several unintentionally remain uncited. Still, in its defects and in its qualities, the proposed study would claim entire independence and allegiance to me alone.
Salman Rushdie’s novels – particularly, Midnight’s Children – are works of seminal importance and they possess the quality of “multivalence”, a term coined by Rene Welleck. Despite a changing readership, such literature has a special meaning and value for everyone and relevance for all times. The following chapters are an endeavour to explore, from my own individual perspective, the interface of contemporary history and individual in his novels. Through the thesis, I would not only try to re-explore the novels, adopting Victor Shlovsky’s concept of ‘defamiliarization’ as discussed in his essay ‘Art as Technique’ (1917) but also to explore and enrich my own world-view.
My view of Rushdie’s literature is that of an outsider, who is indeed a fervent admirer of its strength and splendour, but yet have an independence of mind due to the issue of my belonging. I have not inherited nor been nurtured on this literature, but have approached it consciously and out of deliberate choice, as a working woman facing the world every day rather than as an excited postgraduate in a university. The judgments may in consequence have an added impartiality.
 ‘Imaginary Homelands’, Salman Rushdie, 1991, p. 9.
 The name for Bombay probably evolved from the name of a local earth goddess, Mumba Devi. In 1995, the name was changed to Mumbai.
 When you lose the past, you’re naked in front of contemptuous Azraeel, the death angel. Hold on to what you can, he told himself. Cling to yesterdays. Leave your nail-marks in the gray slope as you slide. — The Satanic Verses
 Theory of Literature