Share for friends:

Imaginary Homelands: Essays And Criticism 1981-1991 (1992)

Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991 (1992)

Book Info

3.96 of 5 Votes: 3
Your rating
0140140360 (ISBN13: 9780140140361)
penguin books

About book Imaginary Homelands: Essays And Criticism 1981-1991 (1992)

I read "Commonwealth Literature Does Not Exist," "Hobson-Jobson," "Is Nothing Sacred?" and "Why I have Embraced Islam." I must say, I actually prefer reading Rushdie's essays to reading his fiction. His narrative voice is more pleasant to me when it's in an essay.Thoughts on each essay:"Commonwealth Literature Does Not Exist"Nicely coincides with my recent obsession with the idea of strategic essentialism. Like, in the fifth paragraph Rushdie says it's weird how there's "a school of literature whose supposed members deny vehemently that they belong to it." And then later he suggests that the disempowered or "colonized" peoples are remaking English itself. He talks about how "Commonwealth literature" is a category which narrows "English literature" to be "something topographical, nationalistic, possibly even racially segregationist" and how it's divisive. He's a big proponent of a universal community of writers. And he makes a good case for it. Examples? Rushdie himself was born in India and wrote about Pakistan from England, which he cites as evidence for "the folly of trying to contain writers inside passports." He ends by saying that "Commonwealth literature" should not exist. But that "even ghosts can be made to exist if you set up enough faculties, if you write enough books and appoint enough research students." Well said, sir."Hobson-Jobson"Evidence for that whole remaking of English thing? I don't know what his point was, really."Is Nothing Sacred?"Love it. Rushdie definitely won over the book-lover in me for the way he clearly loves the written word. And how did that make me love him? Because of the way he talks about kissing books. And describes novels as "the form created to discuss the fragmentation of truth." And likens the author's role to something religious("It is for art to capture that [mystical] experience, to offer it to, in the case of literature, its readers; to be, for a secular, materialist culture, some sort of replacement for what the love of god offers in the world of faith.") only to revoke that "sacralizing" of literature a couple of pages later. And then, of course, there is that awesome description of life as a house. Which ties up the speech/essay with an extended metaphor for the importance of literature: "Literature is the one place in any society where, within the secrecy of our own heads, we can hear voices talking about everything in every possible way ." Yes."Why I Have Embraced Islam"I don't think he actually answers the question in this title. Or maybe I was just overwhelmed/confused/slightly upset with the retraction of the atheism which was so fundamental to the voice I fell in love with in "Is Nothing Sacred?" That said, it was interesting still. And I definitely respect his eloquence in describing the intent behind what he wrote and how he now feels about it. And the way he shared his experience with Islam. This essay definitely offers interesting context for Rushdie's controversial Satanic Verses. And insight into how authors' perspectives on their own words shifts and reflects/reacts to public opinion.Overall: ambivalence? I liked (read: agreed with) much of what Rushdie wrote. When I understood (read: could relate to) what Rushdie was saying, I appreciated it. But he has a way of seeming to write from somewhere that I can't quite understand. Like maybe he's withholding or suppressing some anger? I don't know, there's just something which pushes me away even as I want to love him. Maybe that I don't actually like his fiction much? Or maybe they're both just part of that same undefinable undercurrent.

IMAGINARY HOMELANDS is a collection of Salman Rushdie's writings from 1981 to 1991. They include essays, book reviews, interviews, and random musings dating from the beginning of his popularity after his novel MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN until the third anniversary of the death fatwa pronounced on him by the Ayatollah Khomeini for his book THE SATANIC VERSES.As with any collection of essays, IMAGINARY HOMELANDS is inconsistent and not every essay will interest every reader. However, there's sure to be a lot of gems here for fans of Rushdie. The literary legacy of the 1980's is quickly being erased from the popular memory, and readers today are forgetting the output of that underappreciated decade. There are reviews here range from one of Graham Greene's last novels to physics superstar Stephen Hawking's A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME. Reading IMAGINARY HOMELANDS today is important to refresh one's knowledge of the 1980's from a literary standpoint. Also, Rushdie proves himself again a man deeply troubled by oppression. He often mentions Pakistan's ruthless US-supported General Zia, and in "A Conversation with Edward Said" deals with the issue of Palestinian identity. His review of V.S. Naipaul's "Among the Believers", a journal of travels through the new Islamic states that sprung up in the 80's, and his two essays on the reaction of Muslims to THE SATANIC VERSES are helpful works to read in this time when dealing with Islamic extremism is such a driving force in international relations. Critics have often found Salman Rushdie hard to classify, wondering if he is an Indian or British writer, or a "Commonwealth" novelist, and Rushdie confronts the madness of classifying everything in "There Is No Such Thing As Commonwealth Literature".If you enjoyed greatly the wry irony of THE SATANIC VERSES and other Rushdie novels, IMAGINARY HOMELANDS may interest you. While it won't engage the average reader, fans of Rushdie will get a lot out of this collection.

Do You like book Imaginary Homelands: Essays And Criticism 1981-1991 (1992)?

My favorite quote, "The word 'translation' comes, etymologically, from the Latin for 'bearing across'. Having been borne across the world, we are translated men. It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately to the notion that something can also be gained." "Translated men" what exactly is that? It kept me wondering for quite sometime. A transactional activity where you gain and lose? But what do you lose? Originality? What exactly is originality? Originality is nothing but a perception and that's a very existential question.
—Rasika Saikia

Reading Imaginary Homelands is a lot like viewing the other side of the intricately engraved coin that is Salman Rushdie. For all the fantastical elements of his fiction, here he shows the realism needed to assess the wider world without sacrificing his literary talents for the sake of accessible criticism. He certainly has a lot to say, or did in the 80’s at any rate. Those wanting to know more about India and Pakistan, places that I could know a lot more about, will find that there. I found the contemporary view of Rudyard Kipling, ever the symbol of British India, particularly fascinating. Many in today’s surge of anti-racist sentiment will relish in the numerous articles Rushdie wrote about the dire circumstances of blacks and Asians (in British English, Asian refers to people from the Indian subcontinent). Though now there are severe anti-racial laws in Britain that probably infringe on freedom of speech in several ways (from what I’ve heard), it nevertheless begs the question that perhaps they are necessary, if the conditions were as bad as Rushdie writes about in that time. Rushdie’s literary criticism was like most literary criticism, only better written; I found his interest in German writers like Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll surprising. His work on apartheid South Africa is particularly qualitative, but I find it strange that after he lamented how no black South Africans writers are acclaimed in the West that he didn’t himself write an article highlighting any Zulu, Xhosa or other authors (at least in no article that is included in this collection). That’s not to say that he hasn’t spread the word about other lesser known writers. At the least his article on Indian writer Anita Desai has convinced me. The V.S. Naipaul articles are also well done, though I can’t say whether they had anything to do with the freeze in relations between the two writers. Most interesting perhaps is his defense of The Satanic Verses which, as is known, infuriated the Muslim world and, in a time when sensitivities towards Muslims weren't well understood (they still aren't today of course, but we have come a long way since then), made many Westerners view Rushdie as a no-good provocateur. Though the recent memoir of Joseph Anton may have superseded this (and any other) Rushdie response to the controversy, this is one of the best ways to learn more about Rushdie's own response to fatwa and the outrage, which is imperative to consider for anybody who feels strongly about having an opinion on the matter. For the purposes of reading them, the articles in Imaginary Homelands admittedly sound samey after some time. That and it’s true they are related most directly to events from the 80’s. But those wishing to see another side of Salman Rushdie and witness a different insight to the aforementioned topics will benefit from checking out some of these articles. To sum it up in a sentence: anybody coming to this collection to learn something will learn something.
—Felix Purat

In this collection of essays from the 80’s, Salman Rushdie reviews authors, past and present, and political issues, foreign and domestic. Since Rushdie is originally Indian, now British, “foreign” and “domestic” take on shifting meanings. He observes that “Commonwealth Literature” is marginalized in England, but argues that the English language in India and in other post-colonial lands has taken on a life of its own, often appropriating British values and using them to better effect than the British did.He says that even though the British Empire is no longer, the British have reconstituted the Empire within England. Former subject peoples from India, the Caribbean, Africa and elsewhere have migrated to England, and Rushdie notes that they are treated as outsiders, even after having been in England for generations. Zadie Smith, another writer with a colonial heritage, writes about the same issues, but always with a relentlessly upbeat and striving take on them. Rushdie takes a more Olympian and pessimistic view of the same struggles.On a completely different topic, Rushdie offers his opinion of Rudyard Kipling, which compares nicely with the opinions of Edward Said, the author of Orientalism, and of Wendy Doniger, the author of The Hindus. Edward Said argued that Kipling took for granted the colonial assumptions with regard to India, notwithstanding his obvious love for India. Doniger argued that many of the British, including Kipling, appreciated what was good about India, notwithstanding negative interactions as well.Rushdie’s take is that there were two Kiplings, “Ruddy Baba” and “Kipling Sahib,” the bazaar boy and the colonial Brit. They battle each other, like Jekyll and Hyde, in the novel Kim, and in other stories, and sometimes Ruddy Baba prevails in spite of Kipling Sahib. This is a charming personal interpretation of the struggle of values in Kipling, and allows us to love the Ruddy Baba while questioning the Kipling Sahib.Rushdie has obviously suffered from his treatment over The Satanic Verses (only three years past in the concluding essay). This leads him to discuss the relations among religion, politics and literature with particular insight, and to defend himself in a way which makes me want to return to the book.His interactions with authors comparable to himself (as magical realists and as national narrators), such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Gunter Grass, are especially revealing. Rushdie always reminds me that intercultural boundaries are where the action is, whether it is in the immigrant experience or in the adjustment to changing times. Reading about making a life in a foreign land is my best guide to making my own life in an unknown future.
—Jon Stout

download or read online

Read Online

Write Review

(Review will shown on site after approval)

Other books by author Salman Rushdie

Other books in category Fiction