I’ve said before how I believe that Salman Rushdie is the best author still working today and so with the release of his new novel The Golden House being put on shop shelves this very day, I thought I’d try and showcase some of his best work by ranking the top eight.
- Shame (1983)
Rushdie’s third novel had the daunting task of following, what I believe to be the greatest novel ever written, Midnight’s Children. Luckily, the quality was maintained and further cemented Rushdie as a masterfully talented prose stylist and story teller. This mythical and satirical novel recounts the story of a man named Omar who was raised in isolation by three mothers who all shared the symptoms of pregnancy. As Midnight’s Children before it was about India, Shame is about Pakistan and the relationship between two of its most important historical figures, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Mixing Rushdie’s signature blend of historical fiction and magical realism, Shame is an excellent follow on from Midnight’s Children.
- Shalimar the Clown (2005)
Shalimar the Clown is possible Rushdie’s ‘easiest’ novel to sink your teeth into. His writing is sometimes dense and his novels extremely digressive (all of which I love), but Shalimar is more concise and structured and benefits because of this. It tells the tale of Maximillian Ophuls who is a rich, former resistance fighter; his daughter, India; and the man who kills him. The novel that has more ties to the Western world than a lot of Rushdie’s other work, the language is beautiful and the story gripping. The Independent said of it that it is “Deeply disturbing and immensely moving” and that it was “an exquisite, broken thing of pain and beauty.”
- The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999)
The Ground Beneath Her Feet is one of Rushdie’s longer works and could do with having a trim, however it is one of his more playful novels as it is set in a world that is very similar to our own, but different in subtle ways. For example, Britain fought in the Vietnam War and certain songs you know and love were actually recorded by different artists in this alternate universe. Retelling the myth of Orpheus/Eurydice, but setting the action primarily in India and the UK. This is possibly the first and most genuinely enjoyable, rock and roll novel. Plus, the opening earthquake scene is quite possible one of the most thrilling and beautifully written pieces in English literature.
“In spite of all evidence that life is discontinuous, a valley of rifts, and that random chance plays a great part in our fates, we go on believing in the continuity of things, in causation and meaning. But we live on a broken mirror, and fresh cracks appear in its surface every day.”
-The Ground Beneath Her Feet – Salman Rushdie
- The Enchantress of Florence (2008)
The Enchantress of Florence is by far one of my favourite Rushdie novels. It’s tale of the East and West colliding is mesmerisingly written and the atmosphere of the novel is one a lot closer to pure fantasy than Rushdie has ever written before. Telling the tale of the ‘Mughal of Love’ travelling to the court of the Emperor Akbar (not the Star Wars guy) in order to tell the story of the Enchantress of Florence who was the lost Mughal princess who enthralled the entirety of Florence with witchcraft and beauty. Meeting the likes of Machiavelli, this is yet again a prime example of Rushdie combining historical fiction with fantasy and magical realism to create a kaleidoscopic novel of epic proportions.
- The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995)
Considered by some to be Rushdie’s best novel, or at least the one that deserves the most praise after Midnight’s Children, The Moor’s Last Sigh is a triumph of writerly genius. This is one of Rushdie’s funniest novels and one that showcases his supreme talent almost as much as Midnight’s Children. The titular Moor travels from India to Spain and as he does he weaves a web of labyrinthine tales full of magic and intrigue. One of Rushdie’s more imaginative works and quite possibly his most satirical.
“Ignorantly is how we all fall in love; for it is a kind of fall. Closing our eyes, we leap from that cliff in hope of a soft landing. Nor is it always soft; but still, without that leap nobody comes to life.”
-The Moor’s Last Sigh – Salman Rushdie
- Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990)
I wrote about Haroun the other day and I will continue to write about it until everyone on the planet has read it. This is my favourite piece of ‘children’s literature’ even though it’s not actually for children at all. Telling an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland style story, Haroun is equal parts charming, funny, intelligent, and to top it off, gorgeously crafted. This novel cuts to the very heart of what it means to be a story teller and the incredible power stories have over humans. With a series of fantastic creatures that would put JK Rowling’s imagination department to shame, Rushdie creates one of the most wonderful adventures contained within two paper covers.
- The Satanic Verses (1988)
The infamous Satanic Verses is also one of Rushdie’s crowning achievements. This novel is largely remembered because it angered large swathes of the world’s Muslim community who felt that the novel was blasphemous. This led to Fatwa that meant that Rushdie had to be killed, under Islamic Law. This event kicked off nearly a decade of Rushdie hiding as Muslim extremists tried to execute him and anyone connected to the novel (they targeted publishers, translators, and book shop owners) and they even blew up a portion of hotel, believing Rushdie to be there. Luckily this has largely blown over, yet the Fatwa is technically still in place. The novel itself is the story of good and evil, but told in Rushdie’s signature way with angels and demons and all manner of magical, digressive interludes. Don’t let the novels infamy take anything away from the incredible display of talent this book contains.
“Nobody can judge an internal injury by the size of the superficial wound.”
-The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie
- Midnight’s Children (1981)
No surprise that this is in the number one spot seeing as I stated it is the novel I consider the greatest ever written. I can sell the novel in a short sentence: The X-Men at the time of India’s independence and the partition of Pakistan. Any child born during the first hour of India’s independence in 1947 grows to possess mind-bending special powers, including mind-reading, flight, and witchcraft. Using these Children of Midnight, Rushdie explores the history of India leading up to that moment and the years after it. Fantasy and historical fiction collide in a mesmeric explosion of wit, charm, and incredible talent. The greatest novel ever written, and one that everyone and anyone should read.
“Most of what matters in our lives takes place in our absence.”
-Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
And keep your eyes peeled and focused on our Twitter @MugwumpBlog for the review of The Golden House, which should be up in the next week or two.