Now out in ATLANTIS, the journal of AEDEAN (the Spanish Association of Anglo-American Studies), is my review – apparently the first – of Andrew Teverson’s book Salman Rushdie (Contemporary World Writers. Manchester: Manchester UP. 2007, ISBN 978-0-7190-7051-8). ATLANTIS appears twice a year in both print and (free-access) on-line editions.
Reference: Review of Andrew Teverson, Salman Rushdie, Atlantis, Vol. 30, No. 2, Dec 2008, 141-146
JOURNAL SITE – http://www.atlantisjournal.org/
EXTRACT FROM REVIEW:
“If ever a writer’s work lacked primal innocence, it is Salman Rushdie’s. It is impossible to write about the Indian-born, US-resident, British national, secular-Muslim, postcolonial and globalised novelist/polemicist/celebrity without being controversial. Equally, there is more than one Rushdie, and that in numerous senses. Generically, there is a postmodern Rushdie claimed as a British writer, and a postcolonial Rushdie seen as part of Indian Writing in English (IWE); ideologically and chronologically, there is an earlier Rushdie viewed as a standard-bearer of progressive movements and a later Rushdie seen by some, at least, as a convert to establishment values; qualitatively and again chronologically, there is, for many, an earlier Rushdie, author of epoch-making fictions, and a later Rushdie whose works are of lesser value. Above all, there is a ‘literary’ Rushdie, emblematic of magic realism and postcoloniality and the author of Midnight’s Children (1981), and a ‘non-literary’ Rushdie, his name a battleground between the advocates of free speech and those in both East and West who demand theocratic censorship, the author of The Satanic Verses (1988). Thanks to Khomeini’s fatwa and the surrounding controversy, Salman Rushdie has surely become the writer most written about in literary history by those who have not read and will never read a word of his writings. Any detailed study of his work has to operate some kind of balance between these ‘literary’ and ‘non-literary’ aspects, and the volume under review opts essentially for the former while incorporating comment on the latter. This is no doubt a necessary choice for a study which aims to cover Rushdie’s entire oeuvre, most of which is of no interest to those who see him only through the Verses prism; nonetheless, readers of a book like Andrew Teverson’s still need to remember that the name Salman Rushdie has global reverberations for those who do not read books.
The book is divided into two main parts, ‘Contexts and Intertexts’ (five chapters) and ‘Novels and Criticism’ (six chapters), plus an Afterword. It proposes a reading of the oeuvre up to Shalimar the Clown (2005), thus following in the footsteps of, for example, the French-language study by Marc Porée and Alexis Massery (1996), which offered a comparably detailed overview up to The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995). Teverson assumes that understanding Rushdie means swallowing him whole, and, across a literary production perceived by many as wildly uneven in quality, accounting for and integrating everything. There is a chronology at the beginning; the end matter consists of endnotes, a (fairly brief) bibliography, and an index.
The first half of the book locates Rushdie’s writing within a series of different frameworks – ‘Political and Intellectual Contexts’, ‘[Indian] Writing in English’, ‘Intertextuality, Influence and the Postmodern’, and, finally, ‘Biographical Contexts’ (a dimension which in this case not even the most fervent textualist can ignore) (…) The book’s second half centres on a detailed examination, again chronologically ordered, of Rushdie’s nine novels up to Shalimar the Clown (…)”