I admit that I had already given The Moor‘s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie a couple of unsuccessful tries before I finally challenged myself to reading it in one go a couple of weeks ago. It seemed just the right time to plunge into something by Rushdie after I unexpectedly met him at a conference he was giving in Madrid as part of the World Book Day celebration.
And yes, it was a big challenge. If one can love and hate a book at the same time, admire and despise it, crave for more and wish to finish it immediately, then I experienced it as well while turning the pages of The Moor‘s Last Sigh. I couldn‘t but admire Rushdie‘s genius, his boundless imagination and his capacity to interweave the lives of the characters of the book and the historical facts into one single fabric full of new colors. And at the same time I hated the slowness of the plot, which became even slower mixed with my incapacity to read Rusdhie‘s ornate language faster.
I loved how the author‘s experienced hand mixed classes, religions, ethnic groups, politics, business, crime and art. And I pitied my lack of knowledge of the historical and political context, which made me miss a lot of allusions and connotations that would have made more sense for somebody living in India.
I was tired of long sentences. And I relished the poetry of the language.
I chose to quote one single sentence, which resumes everything I tried to say in this review, and everything I was not able to express:
“And if the flies buzzed in through the opened netting-windows, and the naughty gusts through the parted panes of leaded glass, then opening of the shutters let in everything else: the dust and the tumult of boats in Cochin harbour, the horns of freighters and tugboat chugs, the fishermen’s dirty jokes and the throb of their jellyfish stings, the sunlight as sharp as a knife, the heat that could choke you like a damp cloth pulled tightly around your head, the calls of floating hawkers, the wafting sadness of the unmarried Jews across the water in Mattancherri, the menace of emerald smugglers, the machinations of business rivals, the growing nervousness of the British colony in Fort Cochin, the cash demands of the staff and of the plantation workers in the Spice Mountains, the tales of Communist troublemaking and Congresswallah politics, the names Gandhi and Nehru, the rumours of famine in the east and hunger strikes in the north, the songs and drum-beats of the oral storytellers, and the heavy rolling sound (as they broke against Cabral Island’s rickety jetty) of the incoming tides of history.”
Give it a try. Or a few. You’ll love it or you’ll hate it. Or both.
Oh, and if you are not sure what a palimpsest is, this book will teach you everything you need to know about it, I promise.