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Cosmology, mythology and mysticism in the novels of Salman Rushdie Clark, Roger Young 1996

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COSMOLOGY, MYTHOLOGY AND MYSTICISM IN THE NOVELS OF S A L M A N RUSHDIE ROGER YOUNG C L A R K B.A., The University of Calgary, 1982 M.A , The University of Calgary, 1984 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT, OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of English : V We accept this thesis as conforming • to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OFBRITISH COLUMBIA January 1996 © Roger Young Clark, 1996 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT Otherworldly constructions such as "the Mountain of Qaf1 or "the Serpent" are seldom the focus of Rushdie criticism, yet they are integral to Rushdie's narrative structures and to his assault on coercion, division and violence. In particular, Rushdie uses Attar's Sufi poem Conference of the Birds to supply Grimus and Haroun with narrative structure, cosmic topography and iconoclastic ideals, and to supply Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses with mystical ideals which persist in symbolic opposition to tyrannical and demonic figures. In the fantastical other world of Grimus, the iconoclastic journey of Flapping Eagle to the peak of Mount Calf/Qaf structures the novel and provides an ontological and epistemological framework for a multidimensional universe, a conflated cosmology made up of S u f i , Dantean, Germanic and Hindu elements. In the magical yet historical world of Midnight's Children, otherworldly constructions create a shifting, uncertain cosmos, one in which mysticism furnishes Saleem and his nation with moon-high ideals and with paradoxical meanings, and one in which clashing mythic constructions exacerbate the ambiguity with which the novel ends. In contrast to Midnight's Children, Shame depicts a focused dynamic between the worldly and the otherworldly: Raza's fundamentalist regime forces democratic, sexual and other expressions beneath the geographic and psychological "landscape" of Pakistan, from where they rise in the demonized form of the Beast/Kali, a satanic yet scourging counterforce to Raza's God-centred, monotheistic regime. In The Satanic Verses Rushdie pushes the role of the Beast a dangerous step further by allowing a "satanic narrator" to swoop in and out of a text dominated by satanic revisions of cosmology and morality, by a rhetoric which makes Satan look heroic, and by the hellish visions of the conveniently schizophrenic "archangel" Gibreel Possessing Chamcha and manipulating events so that Chamcha plays the parts of Iago and the Devil, the satanic narrator drives the archangel to murder Alleluia, who yearns to ascend Everest/Qaf. Rushdie's fiction thus becomes increasingly dominated by coercive, violent, divisive and demonic figures, yet the children's fantasy Harotm and the Sea of Stories marks a return to the triumphant mystical values and to the conflated cosmologies of Grimus. iv TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Table of Contents iv List of Abbreviations v Acknowledgement vi Chapter One Introduction 1 Chapter Two Grimus: An Infinity of Dimensions 22 Mystical Journeys The Devil and the Dervish Destroying the God-Object Eschatology and Cosmogony Chapter Three Midnights Children: The Road from Kashmir 74 A Mythic Cycle The Snake Man and the Lotus Goddess Mystical Personas The Forces of Death and Regeneration Shame: An Other World Strikes Back 131 Raza's State Borders of the Godly Subterranean Angels and Impossible Mountains Sufiya as the Beast/Kali The Satanic Verses: Dreamscapes of a Green-Eyed Monster 174 A Dangerous Experiment Satanic Revisions and Invasions Debating the Satanic Narrator Previous Satans Blaspheming Muhammad, God and Angels The Satanic Lives of Saladin Chamcha and Mirza Saeed Raising Hell Shirking Revelation Murdering Alleluia Conclusion 258 265 Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Bibliography V LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS G Grimus H Haroun and the Sea of Stories IH Imaginary Homelands M C Midnight '.v Children S Shame SV The Satanic Verses ACKNOWLEDGMENT I would like to thank Aruna Srivastava, Graham Good, Margery Fee and Jackie Tahara for their helpful comments. If it were not for the patient interest of my supervisor, Ronald Hatch, and if it were not for his home-made ale or his wife Veronica's delicious scones, I am not sure we would have made it to the end of this project. I would also like to thank my family and friends for their unflagging support. My wife, Ruby Mah, deserves a medal for perseverance Her sympathy and good cheer have made the writing of this thesis a joy rather than a chore. 1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Over the last fifteen years Rushdie's fiction has provided critics with innumerable points of reference for their studies in metafiction, narratology, cultural identity, postcoloniality and postmodernism. Mehdi Abedi and Michael Fischer's Debating Muslims: Cultural Dialogues in Postmodernity and Tradition provides a striking case in point. The authors note that "Rushdie was always a reference figure along with James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon for notions of encyclopedic postmodern novels." They also suggest that with the publication of The Satanic Verses Rushdie becomes almost inescapable in any exploration of postmodernism as it pertains to Islamic culture: Increasingly, the essays [in Debating Muslims] seemed to provide important background in understanding the furious struggle for political appropriation and interpretation of Rushdie's book; and inversely, the Rushdie literary imagination seemed to complement our own intercultural crossreadings, providing one powerful example of the various sorts of hybridization we see emerging, (xxxiii-xxxiv) In a more cautionary vein, Revathi Krishnaswamy observes that Rushdie "stands foremost among those [...] who have been elevated by global media-markets and metropolitan academies as the pre-eminent interpreters of postcolonial realities to postmodern audiences." He adds that since writers such as Rushdie are "increasingly forming the critical archival material of alternative canons in the metropolitan academy, the language of migrancy has gained wide currency among today's theorists of identity and authority" (127).1 Not 1 One could quote from a wide variety of sources praising Rushdie's postcolonial and postmodern sensibility, yet 1 quote from Krishnaswamy because he highlights some of the problems created by giving too much importance to Rushdie's position as the "insider-outsider endowed with a unique, although splintered, sensibility " While seeing reality in fragments may sit well with the 2 surprisingly, Rushdie's novels figure prominently in postcolonial studies such as Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin's The Empire Writes Back (the title of this work is taken from an article by Rushdie) and in postmodern studies such as Akbar Ahmed's Postmodernism and Islam: Predicament and Promise and Linda Hutcheon's two general studies on postmodernism (The Politics of Postmodernism and A Poetics of Postmodernism; History, Theory, Fiction). Rushdie's fiction is also the subject of some twenty books,2 and of at least 1001 articles, '"postmodernist epistemologv of the fragment''--the "affirmation of the partial nature of all perception" (141-143)~one must also ask. What are the criteria the migrant writer uses to choose certain fragments and to leave out others? How do such choices marginalize the experience of those who have not migrated? By giving too much prominence to "immigrant writers," critics run the risk of overlooking "alternative strategies for change [and for] dismantling the dichotomy between margin and centre" (144). 1 agree with Krishnaswamy here, although I wish he would elucidate these "alternative strategies." Also, Rushdie's metafiction, his constant questioning of his own texts, exonerates him somewhat from the charge of setting himself up as an "insider-outsider" authority on subcontinental culture as it pertains to postmodern identity. In general, it is Rushdie's genius as a writer, rather than his migrant perspective, which makes him stand out. His popularity results from his humour, his verbal dexterity, his idiosyncratic characters, his structural complexity, his metafictional explorations, and his ability to frame difficult questions of ontology and epistemologv in ways which challenge readers from all sorts of philosophical and cultural backgrounds. Jean-Pierre Durix points out that much of "the pleasure produced by Rushdie's work" derives from his "play on verisimilitude" and from his "adept juggling with different levels of'reality.'" This juggling is "meant to confuse and entertain readers, who hesitate between fully accepting the conventions of fiction—consequently forgetting that this is fiction--and realizing that they remain in a world of make-believe" (1984:454). I will explore the way Rushdie plays with different levels of reality, yet I focus less on the metafiction of his texts than on the interplay of worldly and otherworldly versions of reality. The metafiction in Rushdie could easily constitute a study in itself, and it remains crucial to my interpretation of The Satanic Verses, in which Rushdie structures a gap between a conventional narrator and a satanic narrator, and to my interpretation of Midnight's Children, in which Saleem constantly questions his own existence as a writer in Man's pickle-factory. 2 Among these twenty books, one finds the following: one biography (William Weatherby's Salman Rushdie: Sentenced to Death), one critical study of Rushdie's novels prior to The'Satanic Verses (Uma Parameswaran's The Perforated Sheet: Essays on Salman Rushdie's Art), two critical studies of Rushdie's novels prior to Haroun and the Sea of Stories (Timothy Brennan's Salman Rushdie & The Third World: Myths of the Nation and James Harrison's Salman Rushdie), two critical studies of Rushdie's novels published well after The Satanic Verses yet which avoid reference to that novel (Madhusudhana Rao's Salman Rushdie s Fiction and R.K. Dhawan and G.R. Taneja's The Novels of Salman Rushdie), three collections of letters and responses to Rushdie's fatwa predicament (Lisa Appignanesi and Sara Maitland's The Rushdie File. Steve MacDonogh's The Rushdie Letters: Freedom to Speak. Freedom to Write and Anouar Abdallah et al.'s For Rushdie: Essays by Arab and 3 essays, poems and shorter pieces, many of which are listed in the Bibliography. The variety and mass of Rushdie criticism demonstrates the relevance of his fiction to contemporary worldly issues and theories In this study I accept this relevance as a given, and I focus instead on the relevance of ancient otherworldly constructions to the narrative structures and to the values found in his novels prior to The Moor's Last Sigh." I will focus on the problematic dynamics between mystical ideals, mythical figures and cosmological dramas, as well as on the way otherworldly elements and patterns are integrated into Rushdie's characterizations and into his complex narrative structures. While the manner in which otherworldly constructions determine structure and theme will be central to my analysis, I also argue that Rushdie's use of cosmology, mythology and mysticism remains consistent with his basic values of individual liberty, multivocal democracy, tolerance, compassion and love. Muslim Writers in Defense of Free Speech), ten studies focusing on The Satanic Verses and the Rushdie Affair (Shabbir Akhtar's Be Careful with Muhammad!; The Salman Rushdie Affair, Rashadath Ali's The Satanic Conspiracy, Munawar Anees' The Kiss of Judas: Affairs of a Brown Sahib. MM. Ashan and A.R. Kidwai's Sacrilege Versus Civility: Muslim Perspectives on The Satanic Verses Affair, Raphael Auberts L 'Affaire Rushdie; Islam, identite et monde moderne. Cohn-Sherboks The Salman Rushdie Controversy in Interreligious Perspective. Merryl Davies and Ziauddin Sardar's Distorted Imagination: Lessons from the Rushdie Affair. Daniel Pipes' The Rushdie Affair: The Novel, the Ayatollah. and the West, Malise Ruthven's A Satanic Affair; Salman Rushdie and the Rage of Islam. Richard Webster's A Brief History of Blasphemy; Liberalism. Censorship and The Satanic Verses'), and one study including all of Rushdie's novels to date (Sylvia DuVemet's Salman Rushdie and the New Age New Wave Postmodernism). I have not included Majid Ali Khan's The Holy Verses: In Reply to Salman Rushdie s 'The Satanic Verses' among the above twenty studies since it does not examine Rushdie's fiction but instead supplies a "holy" account of Islam designed to counter Rushdie's "unholy" account. 3 This study examines the following novels: Grimus (1975), Midnight's Children (1981), Shame (1983), The Satanic Verses (1988) and Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990). Because The Moor s Last Sigh (1995) was published after this study was virtually complete, it has not been included here. Because Haroun and the Sea of Stories does not present the degree of textual difficulty found in Rushdie's other novels, I do not devote a chapter to it, although I refer to it throughout the thesis and I use it in the Conclusion to gauge the degree of structural unity and thematic clarity in Rushdie's other novels. 4 For want of a better phrase or term, I use otherworldly constructions to refer to settings, scenarios, ideals, schemes, figures, motifs, themes, paradigms, images, symbols and ideas which one finds in the vast and overlapping fields of cosmology, mythology and mysticism. In employing the word constructions I do not mean to imply that otherworldly settings, figures or ideas have no existence independent of human thought or linguistic fabrication. Instead of implying that they were originally constructed by human thought or language, I maintain that they have been and that they continue to be constructed in language. Given that most of these otherworldly constructions derive from antiquity and from sacred history, their contemporary status is an extremely involved and sensitive issue that cannot be resolved to everyone's satisfaction. Rushdie's reworking of these constructions has been seen by some as an assault on the purity and integrity of traditional systems of belief, and by others as a revivification of elements and concerns found in these systems. I would contend that it is possible to see his fiction as both a destructive, iconoclastic assault and a creative, regenerative reconstitution My use of othemor/dly is also tailored to this study. I might have used metaphysical, religious, magical or miraculous, yet each of these terms has its drawbacks in the context I wish to establish. Metaphysics is often associated with specific Western traditions, such as those of Aristotle or Kant. Such an association presents a problem given that the Western distinctions between physics and metaphysics do not necessarily apply to Islam or Hinduism, the two main sources of otherworldly constructions in Rushdie's novels. Religion is a term I use repeatedly, yet I avoid making it a key umbrella term for two reasons. First, religion tends to exclude, or put itself above mythology. Some would have it the other way around, 5 arguing that the recurrent mythic elements in different religions are more valid than any one particular religion. Second, religion tends to distinguish itself from mysticism, the latter often being seen as marginal or unorthodox Also, for my purposes, magic is either too closely associated with legerdemain and the occult or to magic realism, which is a helpful term yet which does not usually refer to mythological figures such as Shiva or to cosmological paradigms such as Qaf Mountain. Like miraculous, magic tends to describe an event rather than a symbol or motif; I need a term which covers both the concrete and the abstract. Another problem with miraculous is that it is usually associated with sacred occurrences. It would be difficult, for instance, to think of the Devil's appearance as a miraculous event. In using otherworldly I make a distinction between the verifiable, everyday and practical (the worldly) and the fantastical, metaphysical, magical, miraculous, mythical, occult, mystical, mystic and revelatory (the otherworldly). In the latter category I include cosmologies found in mythology and religion, although I do not include the studies of astronomy and astrophysics. I realize that my terminology forces astronomy and astrophysics into the category of "worldly," given that they are based on, or oriented towards, scientific verification This is not a serious problem, however, since Rushdie's fiction is rarely concerned with the other worlds of astronomy and astrophysics. For instance, the dimension of Calf in Grimus is entirely fantastical, the moon in Haroun lies in a fabulous realm inhabited by Gups and Chups, and the intersteller space in Shame is inhabited by imaginary gas monsters. While Rushdie refers to "many potential presents and futures" (G 235), to "the parallel universe of history" (S 64) and to "the parallel universes of quantum theory" (SV 6 523), these references are clearly along the lines of metaphysical, historical and ontological speculation rather than scientific inquiry. Rushdie explores both worldly and otherworldly versions of reality, and the freedom he allows himself in exploring sacred otherworldly constructions remains based on the conviction that no one has a monopoly on the truth about whatever might lie beyond this world of practical experience or positivist inquiry. Rushdie opposes the implementation of religious rules in the political arena, yet he also recognizes the need to take otherworldly beliefs seriously. For instance, he says that in writing about India one ought to "develop a form which doesn't prejudge whether your characters are right or wrong," one ought "to create a form in which the idea of the miraculous can coexist with observable, everyday reality." He makes it clear that his ideal of "form" includes ancient, time-honoured constructions, for immediately following his comment about the coexistence of the miraculous and the mundane, he adds the following: "The way I've always written has been shaped by the everyday fact of religious belief in India—not just Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh, but every belief (Rushdie with Wachtel 149). Rushdie's interest in "every belief," in every version of reality, crops up again and again in his fiction, from the infinite dimensionality of Grimus to the infinite Sea of Stories in Haroun. While he does not attempt the impossible task of reconciling the multitude of beliefs in the world, he insists that imposing one's own vision of the universe at the expense of another's is a violation of the most basic form of respect or tolerance. Rushdie's personal view of otherworldly constructions is difficult to determine. He has defined himself as an atheist, yet his fiction is permeated by figures from Islamic 7 cosmology and Hindu mythology, and he returns again and again in both his fiction and his criticism to the mystical symbols and ideals of Farid ud-Din Attar. In the essay "Tn God We Trust'" (1985, 1990) he claims that he lost his belief in "God, Satan, Paradise and Hell" at the age of fifteen (IH 377), and in the essay "Is Nothing Sacred?" (1990) he says that his "sense of God ceased to exist long ago" (IH 417). Yet he follows up this latter statement by one which suggests a large scope for the exploration of religious belief: as a result I was drawn towards the great creative possibilities offered by surrealism, modernism and their successors, those philosophies and aesthetics born of the realization that, as Karl Marx said, 'all that is solid melts into air.' It did not seem to me, however, that my ungodliness, or rather my post-godliness, need necessarily bring me into conflict with belief. Indeed, one reason for my attempt to develop a form of fiction in which the miraculous might coexist with the mundane was precisely my acceptance that notions of the sacred and the profane both needed to be explored, as far as possible without pre-judgement, in any honest literary portrait of the way we are. (IH 417) Rushdie's attitude to religious belief is further obscured by his later affirmation (in 1990) of "the two central tenets of Islam—the oneness of God and the genuineness of the prophecy of the Prophet Muhammad" (IH 430)—and by his retractions of this affirmation, the most recent being on April 3, 1995 (Rushdie with Cronenberg 24). While it may seem unfair to quote from a declaration he has since withdrawn,4 his initial affirmation is accompanied by the suggestion that the sensibility he finds in Sufism (Islamic mysticism) has consistent value in his fiction: I have been engaging more and more with religious belief, its importance and power, ever since my first novel used the Sufi poem Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-din Attar as a model. (IH430) In addition to changing his mind, Rushdie withdrew the essay "Why I Have Embraced Islam" from Imaginary Homelands (1991). 8 Rushdie makes extensive use of Attar's notions of a conference of birds and a flight of bird-souls to the Mountain of Qaf.5 Indeed, Attar's poem supplies the main structural and thematic foundation for Grimus, it supplies one of the two structural and thematic models for Haroun, and it supplies mystical ideals of "unity" and "annihilation" which persist in symbolic opposition to tyrannical and demonic figures in Midnight's Children, Shame and The Satanic Verses. Rushdie often interprets Attar's conference in terms of democratic tolerance and he almost always interprets Attar's journey in terms of the self s struggle towards an indeterminate Divinity and Love, towards an abstract infinity of dimensions which is the antithesis of political tyranny and demonic coercion. For Rushdie, Attar's conference can symbolize the tolerant interaction of disparate selves within society, and Attar's flight to Qaf can symbolize a spiritual ideal which is neither devoid of a mysterious, magical depth nor manacled by dogma. Rushdie's interest in spiritual flight—and in the love, yearning and anguish which are associated with mystical flight in Attar's poem—surfaces forcefully in several essays from Imaginary Homelands. In "The Location of Brazir Rushdie comments that in Terry Gilliam's film Brazil "flight represents the imagining spirit" and that this spirit is at war with the real world in which "centres cannot hold." He adds that Brazil is about "the struggle between private, personal dreams (flying, love) and the great mass-produced fantasies, eternal youth, material wealth, power" (IH 122, 124). In "Is Nothing Sacred?" Rushdie defines transcendence as "that flight of the human spirit outside the confines of its material, physical 5 Attar's poem The Conference of the Birds was written in Persian in approximately 1177 A.D. For detailed information on the Impossible Mountain of Qaf, the Simurg, and the various stages in Attar's iconoclastic quest, please see the beginning of "Mystical Journeys" in my chapter on Grimus. 9 existence which all of us, secular or religious, experience on at least a few occasions" (IH 421). In "Rian Malan" he comes closest to commenting on what in his own fiction might be seen as a combination of mysticism and tragedy. He describes Malan's novel, My Traitor's Heart, as a "cr/ de cam too painful to be controlled fully" (IH 198), and he contends that the novel exemplifies the notion that love enables one "to transcend defeat." My Traitor's Heart tells of "the defeat of its author's illusions, his ideals, his sense of his own goodness, his courage, and his ability to comprehend his fellow South Africans," yet even though it "is full of bitterness, cynicism, anger and storms," it remains "a triumphant instance of this type of defeated love" (IH 200). A similar mixture of mystical idealism and tragic realization first surfaces in Virgil's resignation in Grimus, and this combination takes on greater force in Saleem's tragic view that Attar's ideals can only be realized in their destruction. Shame and The Satanic Verses present a further marginalization of Attar's ideals, a further suggestion that idealism cannot survive in the midst of dictatorship, ethnic hatred or diabolic possession and intervention. In The Satanic Verses Allie's devotion to Everest/Qaf does, however, carry an implicit, symbolic power, one which takes an optimistic and comic form in the children's novel Haroun, where Attar's Muslim ideals merge effortlessly with Somadeva's Hindu ideals. In using Attar's conference to symbolize multivocal democracy and in using Attar's "annihilation" in tragic contexts, Rushdie may be creating his own "Attar"~extending Attar's mysticism beyond the bounds which the poet himself would countenance.6 Rushdie's possible 6 It is of course impossible to verify whether or not Attar would approve of Rushdie's fiction, although such approval appears unlikely given that the Persian poet displays a conservative streak largely absent in Rushdie. One might recall that Attar condemned his contemporary Omar Khayyam because of the latter's supposed hedonism. 10 distortion of Attar is an important question, yet it is one I leave for experts on Sufism. This study is less concerned about whether or not Rushdie is faithful to the sources from which he draws than about the way he uses otherworldly constructions to create his own fictional worlds and to promote the values he considers essential to the imagination and to a healthy society. I will on occasion take note of the general manner in which Rushdie may be distorting otherworldly constructions or employing them in a stereotypical fashion, yet given that Rushdie borrows from a wide array of sources and that many of these are exceedingly complex, it would be folly on my part to pass judgment on whether or not Rushdie is being true to his sources. I am not even sure that I know what being "true" to sources really means. In any case, I leave such deliberations to those who are intimately familiar with both English Literature and one or more of the traditions employing Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Italian, Norse, etc. The tension between mystical unity and demonic division in Rushdie's fiction is often expressed in terms of the opposition between an abstract notion of transcendental divinity, usually Attar's Mountain of Qaf, and a far less abstract demonic figure, sometimes a mythicized figure such as General Shiva, more often the Devil. The dynamic between these two poles is often intricate and paradoxical, requiring a general familiarity with the otherworldly constructions themselves and an intimate grasp of Rushdie's complex narrative designs One complicating factor is that both poles are elusive by nature. Qaf cannot be located (just as God cannot be defined) and Satan slides surreptitiously in and out of this world. Also problematic is the way Rushdie occasionally associates Qaf and God with figures 11 such as the egomaniacal Grimus or the indifferent and tyrannical "Oopervala," and the way he occasionally allows his "Devil" to liberate humans from a tyrannical "God." Yet the ideal of unity which Qaf represents transcends any portrait of a limited, anthropomorphic God, and the possessions and coercions of the Devil nullify any of his "liberating" actions. I should note here that I consider satanic possession, which figures prominently in Shame and The Satanic Verses, to be both coercive and divisive. In the cases of Sufrya and Chamcha, possession entails the forceful division of the self from what the self desires and it situates the soul as far as possible from God. Rushdie's notion of mystical unity is accompanied by notions of tolerance, democracy, liberty, peace and love, and his view of demonic division is correspondingly associated with coercion, tyranny, repression, war and violence. Because Rushdie's fiction is often parodic, ironic, metafictional, and at times intentionally convoluted and ambiguous, the opposition between the negative values of division, coercion and violence on one hand and the positive values of unity, tolerance and love on the other is often difficult to discern. This opposition becomes clearer, however, when one sees that Rushdie consistently slants his stories against characters or figures who embody or express negative values. This slant is particularly evident in the children's fantasy Haroun, in which Khattam-Shud divides the Chups from the Gups and in which this Cultmaster censors and terrorizes the entire population of the moon. Rushdie's preferred values are also evident in Midnight's Children. While Saleem's possession by his two-headed demon leads to his uncle's death, and while Saleem excludes Shiva from his otherwise democratic Conference, Saleem's aims remain antithetical to the evil designs of figures such as Ravana, General Shiva and the Widow. Rushdie's basic values are 12 more difficult to see in The Satanic Verses, yet they become clear once one acknowledges the presence of a satanic narrator. This narrator possesses Chamcha and turns him into a demonic puppet, one which divides Gibreel from his sanity and from his heavenly Alleluia. Exacting revenge on God via His human creations, the satanic narrator turns love and unity into jealousy and alienation. Grimus and Shame also require some explanation, for in both novels tyrants attempt to impose uniformity, a negative type of unity, on their subjects. This coercive "unity" is antithetical to tolerance and to what I mean by unity or the meaningful coexistence of otherwise disparate selves or communities. By coercing others to follow an esoteric Order and a religious Law, Grimus and Raza impose a uniformity which crushes the freedom to express, confront, appreciate or resolve differences. Grimus differs from Shame in that it exemplifies the principle that violence is justified only insofar as it is used to counter tyranny. While Flapping Eagle uses just as much force as necessary to destroy Grimus' hold over Calf Mountain, the Beast in Shame becomes coercive, tyrannical and vengeful in the course of its scourging assault on the dictatorship of Raza. * While one can easily understand why a writer would promote the values of tolerance, unity and love, it is less obvious why a secular and at times skeptical writer such as Rushdie uses otherworldly—rather than worldly—constructions to promote such values. One reason is that he wishes to express the otherworldly beliefs of the subcontinental citizens who are his primary subjects. Apart from this, however, Rushdie may be wanting to shake up his more skeptical, realism-oriented readers, supplying them with a jolt of the unexpected, much as writers of magic realism introduce the inexplicable into otherwise realistic scenarios. Or, as 13 Rushdie puts it in his essay on Gilliam's Brazil, "Unreality is the only weapon with which reality can be smashed, so that it may subsequently be reconstructed" (IH 122). This possible motive seems to fit with what one might call a Romantic project, with a post-Enlightenment struggle to escape a universe dominated by rationality and materialism. In Blakean terms, Rushdie invokes the otherworldly in order to break the mind-forged manacles of an empirical, realistic or positivist view of reality. In his essay on Michel Tournier's Gemini, Rushdie repeats Louis Aragon's idea that the marvellous "is the eruption of contradiction within the real." Suffusing the marvellous into everyday life "requires a relentless intensity of vision, powered by an innately iconoclastic form of intellectual energy." Rushdie is not only thinking about the otherworldly of the magical and the marvellous, but also about the otherworldly of religion and mythology: he praises Tournier for suggesting that this type of iconoclastic enterprise does not necessarily imply the destruction of such constructions as God: "in a passage of startling metaphysical originality, we are told that 'Christ has to be superseded'— not by any Manichean Satan, but by the Spirit, the Holy Ghost" (IH 249). Yet such a stance contains a problem: the otherworldly can help to liberate the self from a materialist conception of the universe yet it can also present manacles of its own. While the introduction of a magical or inexplicable event may not force the writer into an established system or cosmology, the use of a religious symbol or motif can lock the writer into a religious system, a pre-fabricated universe dominated by such figures as Satan and God. In The Sacred and the Profane Mircea Eliade suggests that a hierophany, an eruption of the sacred, "allows the world to be constituted, because it reveals the fixed point, the central axis for all future orientation" (Eliade 1959:21). In Rushdie's fiction, such an eruption 14 occasionally provides liberation from an existential universe, yet it also opens up a cosmology in which the self can become trapped in a scheme or system and in which the self can become prey to nefarious forces or figures in that system. What starts off as a liberating orientation, a meaningful vision of the universe, can turn into a nightmare. This is particularly the case in Shame and The Satanic Verses, where the main characters succumb to the violent disorientations, the cosmic inversions and the chaotic meaninglessness promoted by the otherworldly figure of Satan. Perhaps in order to harness the liberating potential of the otherworldly without allowing it to lock his protagonists into one particular orientation, Rushdie depicts hierophanies of many types in a single continuum. Whether one sees a hierophany as an event or a symbol (both signify a greater "orientation"), multiple hierophanies call into question both the value of the orientation and the danger of confinement inherent in any single eruption. While multiple hierophanies create the problem of conflicting orientations or epistemologies, such a problem may be preferable to being trapped in a seamless material existence or to allowing any one sacred orientation to dominate over all others. Or, multiple hierophanies might be seen as inevitable rather than preferable, especially to a writer who has been steeped in the diverse orientations of Islam, Hinduism and Christianity.7 Rushdie's recurrent use of Qaf seems an exception here, seems to present a 7 Ahmed Salman Rushdie was bom on June 19, 1947, to Anis Ahmed Rushdie (a businessman from Delhi) and Negin Rushdie (a schoolteacher from Aligargh), and the family members were keenly aware of their status as Muslims in the largely Hindu city of Bombay. Salman's sister Sameen attests, "From a very young age, we were conscious of being a Muslim minority in India" (Hamilton 92). The family was not, however, orthodox or strict, and their parents (who would speak to their children in both Urdu and English), allowed them to read whatever they wanted. Rushdie was also strongly influenced by the liberal, scientific and Christian biases of English education at the English-language school to which he went in Bombay (the religious bias is evident in its name, Cathedral School), at Rugby School (where he went at the age of thirteen), and at King's College, Cambridge (where he completed his Masters degree in Islamic History in 1968). Details of Rushdie's life can be found in lan Hamilton's succinct 15 fixed point and a clear orientation. Yet one must remember that Rushdie uses Qaf as an iconoclastic, auto-destructive symbol, one which suggests rather than defines an infinity of potential dimensions and orientations. Qaf is "Impossible" precisely because it cannot be fixed or clearly defined. The question remains: Why does Rushdie make such extensive use of ancient otherworldly constructions rather than fabricate constructions which do not carry such ontological and epistemological baggage? If he were to follow in the footsteps of magic realist writers, he could shake up a reader's four-dimensional view of the universe without trapping his characters in a traditional system or cosmology. Yet one could also argue that in order to break free of conventional conceptions one cannot ignore them, one cannot focus exclusively on magical moments which shatter a positivist universe in a startling or illuminating way. Given that ancient otherworldly constructions orient the individual and constitute the world in a psychologically, culturally and historically responsive way, one could argue that in order to offer effective alternatives to any one particular established orientation one ought to respond to it with an equally weighty or developed orientation. For instance, in and lively 16-page biography, which appeared in the December 25, 1995-January 1, 1996 edition of The New Yorker, in William Weatherby's 1990 biography, Salman Rushdie: Sentenced to Death (this biography is heavily slanted towards the Rushdie Affair and it appears very conjectural at times), and in his interviews-especially those with Phillips (1995), Haffenden (1985) and Scripsi (1985). Further biographical information can be found in the early sections of the chapters in this thesis. Hamilton notes that in Rushdies fiction "autobiography is re-experienced as fairy tale," the intention being at times "celebratory and fond" and at others "lavishly delinquent." Referring to the similarity between Anis Ahmed Rushdies propensity to tell never-ending bedtime stories and Rashid's "Ocean of Notions" in Haroun. Hamilton asks, "What if his father could be turned into a character in one of his own bedtime stories? What if all supposedly true-life experience could be fabulously reimagined? The wilder the fictional conjecture, the more gleefully energized Rushdie becomes. As he has said, his books have a spirit of connection with real life. But the spirit is mischievous. Readers who try to tease out links between Rushdie's life and Rushdie's fiction are likely to end up feeling teased" (92). 16 promoting an alternative to the notion of a single afterlife in Paradise or Hell, a scenario exemplifying the doctrine of karma-samsara is more challenging than a story which introduces magical or fantastic worlds inhabited by souls of the departed dead. Even if one does not believe in any particular version of the afterlife, there is nevertheless a hierarchy based on usage and precedence, a sort of Common Law of the Unknown which makes mythological and religious constructions carry more weight than those which never gained adherents or which appear to be freshly hatched from the imagination. Rushdie may not believe in the otherworldly constructions he includes in his fiction; yet he knows that these have been employed for centuries and that they consequently have a deep-seated place in the human heart and mind. In The Study of Literature and Religion David Jasper observes that when people ask themselves fundamental questions, the language used is still steeped in figures and settings such as those of Eden and Satan: The story of Eden and the figure of Satan remain alive in our emotions, and in the textuality of theodicy they continue to address the problem of suffering and evil in God's world, however dead their 'theory.' (129) While the "theory" or "system" which provides a superstructure for particular otherworldly constructions may be "dead" in the sense that its status as eternal or absolute can be undermined by skepticism and by other theories, Rushdie nevertheless brings various superstructures to life by acknowledging their influence on characters such as Padma or Gibreel, and by revivifying their constituent elements in ever new and changing forms. In his fiction, Rushdie engages in an iconoclasm which sometimes appalls the orthodox, yet which also bring sacred constructions to the fore, working them into new and 17 vibrant contexts In this sense he resembles what Jorge Luis Borges calls "the heresiarch," a figure which, according to Elizabeth Dipple, acts both destructively and creatively: One of Borges's favorite terms or ideas is that of the heresiarch~the arch heretic who questions all before him, and particularly all forms of established dogma. For Borges, the artist and writer [...] reality itself is an infinite mise-en-abyme that cannot be traced to any secure source and requires a brilliant heresiarch to demonstrate its infinite resonances. (66) Rushdie's attack on dogma or established ways of conceptualizing the universe is most evident in Grimus and Haroun: in the former Flapping Eagle destroys Grimus' cosmic Order and replaces it with non-insistent allusions to Shiva, who destroys and creates cosmic schemes ad infinitum; in the latter the tyranny and censorship of the Cultmaster is defeated so that the Sea of Stories (which resembles Borges' Library of Babel) can continue to harbour the outpouring of new, and the reworking of old, tales. The iconoclasm of the "heresiarch" is also evident in Rushdie's other novels, yet these novels highlight the tyrannical imposition of cosmic Plans rather than the playfulness and creativity which results from the destruction of rigid and coercive versions of reality Rushdie differs slightly from the Borges who, according to Andre Maurois, is "attracted to metaphysics" yet accepts "no system as true" and "makes out of all of them a game for the mind" (Borges xii).8 Rushdie is certainly a great game-player, yet he does not 8 Borges is a particularly appropnate writer to compare to Rushdie given their intense interests in ontological and epistemological exploration, and given that they both use ancient otherworldly constructions to express their contemporary sensibilities. For instance, Rushdie's use of the Phoenix, Dante, Norse mythology and Islamic mysticism in Grimus mirrors Borges' use of the same in "The Sect of the Phoenix," "Inferno, I, 32," "Ragnarok" and "The Zahir" (all of which can be found in Labyrinths). In his interview with Scripsi, Rushdie expresses his admiration for the Argentinean writer: "Borges is one of those writers who opens doors. He shows you. It seems to me that Garcia Marquez is only the confirmation of the kinds of possibilities that Borges showed. Borges opened the doors and Marquez went through. [...] the South American novel was all to do with the emotions, with 18 reduce metaphysics to a game. In Grimus the extraterrestrial Koax is reprimanded for turning Flapping Eagle's mind into his private testing-ground, and Grimus is blamed for transforming esoteric ideas into a game, for not seeing Qaf as an ideal which transcends his own mental satisfaction. Rushdie's criticism in Imaginary Homelands makes it clear that while he delights in "elegant correspondences," "skillfully woven shimmering web[s]" and "twining thick forest[s] of marvellous ideas," he dislikes it when a narrative "web becomes a trap," when links offer no "enrichment" and when the "journey to [a] truth becomes so turgid that it's impossible to care about reaching the goal" (IH 350, 249, 256, 293, 242, 272). Rushdie's elaborately constructed novels do reach a goal, albeit an abstract one, for they promote what Elizabeth Dipple (in her discussion of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose) calls "an open cosmos of understanding." His fiction does not lead to any "rigid myth," but rather to a reverberative perspective which will "lead the mind fluidly forward," thus helping the self to accommodate new versions or orientations of reality (118). The result is neither a reaffirmation of any one traditional religious view nor an affirmation of any vague notion that all religions and mythologies have some hidden underlying cohesion or universal meaning. In questioning and in not entirely dismissing the notion that different epistemologies can be marshalled into a heterogeneous yet coherent view of the universe, Rushdie's fiction can be situated somewhere between what Lonnie Kliever calls monotheistic and polytheistic polysymbolism. Kliever associates monotheistic polysymbolism with modernity and with the "passion" and so forth, and it was Borges who showed that ideas came first. He placed the mind before the emotions, and the result was El Boom, as they call it" (116-117). 19 view that diverse systems contain universal meanings. Polytheistic polysymbolism on the other hand rejects this universality: It too celebrates the variousness and many-sidedness of all expressions of culture and religion. But it decidedly rejects the monotheistic ideal of a fundamental unity underlying and integrating this heterogeneity. Thereby it calls into question modernity's sense of centered self, integral universe, and historical destiny. In short, this rival form of polysymbolic religiosity appears to be polytheistic and postmodern. (178) Rushdie often suggests fragmented, pessimistic, "polytheistic" perspectives. His novels from Midnight 's Children to The Satanic Verses increasingly reflect the "historical dislocation," the "apocalyptic pessimism" and the "rising tide of occultism" which accompanies the ontological and epistemological chaos of polytheistic polysymbolism (Kliever 178). Yet Rushdie also suggests universal, idealistic, "monotheistic" perspectives, for he returns again and again to Attar's ideals of mystical unity and annihilation, and to paradigms of infinite contextuality and creativity. Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses in particular suggest—albeit indirectly, esoterically or tragically—a mystical point of view, a possibility of underlying transcendental unity. Rushdie's interest in an indeterminate number of ontological and epistemological orientations might also be seen in terms of postcolonialism, insofar as it signals a reaction against the monocentrism of colonialism, and in terms of modernism and postmodernism, insofar as postmodernism signals an exacerbation of the fragmentation inherent in modernism. In The Empire Writes Back, the authors observe that the alienating process which initially served to relegate the postcolonial world to the 'margin' turned upon itself and acted to push that world through a kind of mental barrier into a position from which all experience could be viewed as uncentred, pluralistic, and multifarious. (Ashcroft et al. 12) 20 Rushdie expresses a similar notion in the aptly titled essay "Imaginary Homelands": he claims that "those of us who have been forced by cultural displacement to accept the provisional nature of all truths, all certainties, have perhaps had modernism forced upon us" (IH 12). Rushdie here uses modernism much as one would use postmodernism, as he does when he equates modernism with a "rudderlessness," a "moment beyond consensus" (IH 387). It is not until his essay "Is Nothing Sacred?" (1990) that he starts to use postmodern rather than modern to indicate the uncertainty of the age in which we live: he says that there are several reasons "for proposing the novel as the crucial art form of what [he] can no longer avoid calling the post-modern age." He argues that because the literary text offers alternative versions or orientations of the universe, it is, "of all the arts, the one best suited to challenging absolutes of all kinds." He adds that "because it is in its origin the schismatic Other of the sacred (and authorless) text, so it is also the art most likely to fill our god-shaped holes" (IH 424). Rushdie explores such "holes" in Grimus, in which Flapping Eagle destroys that part of himself which defends traditional beliefs (G 89), and in Midnight's Children, in which Aadam Aziz's inability to "worship a God in whose existence he could not wholly disbelieve" creates a "hole" (MC 12). In The Satanic Verses Rushdie pushes the notion that the novel is the schismatic Other of the sacred text to a dangerous extreme, for events and rhetoric in that novel are manipulated by the cosmic Other, Satan. Yet even here Rushdie does not give up on unifying or "monotheistic" mystical ideals. While the Devil slips in and out of the text, wreaking havoc, encouraging revolt, and generally "raising hell," the Impossible Mountain of Qaf (disguised as Everest) presents readers with a beleaguered, marginalized, yet nevertheless potent ideal of unity, tolerance and love. 21 One could debate endlessly whether or not Rushdie's fiction mitigates the problems posed by modernism and postmodernism, whether or not it helps to fill what Rushdie calls "the god-shaped holes" (IH 424) left by the lack of belief in a single text which explains the whole of the cosmos. Yet, clearly, Rushdie's fiction confronts the problems resulting from the traces left by the otherworldly in a secular world, a world which lacks what Theodore Ziolkowski calls a "unified faith" and an "epistemological field" deriving from such a faith. As Ziolkowski notes, this lack of a unifying context or field creates a critical dilemma: the general secularization of Western culture has produced a new problem for literary interpretations because there is no longer a unified faith—what structuralists would call an epistemological field—that provides an automatic context of understanding for the literary work. (20) This dilemma is also a challenge to which Rushdie's novels respond, for they insistently question their own structure and meaning, and they consistently offer a confluence of secularism and multiple hierophanies, a disorienting exploration of the lack of any unified faith and an exciting exploration of a universe in which one finds an infinite number of potential orientations or fields. Because Rushdie refuses to discount the possibility—or the iconoclastic, mystical "Impossibility"—of transcendent meaning amid shifting layers of truth, he challenges those who would argue that multiple versions of reality necessarily imply the absence of spiritual or otherworldly meaning. 22 CHAPTER 2 GRIMUS. A N INFINITY OF DIMENSIONS Among Rushdie's novels, Grimus is arguably the most otherworldly: its characters have strong mythological and mystical associations, its structure derives mainly from Attar's mystical journey and its main setting is a strange conflation of four cosmic topographies. Rushdie's first published novel,1 Grimus was written for a science-fiction contest it did not 1 Grimus appears to be Rushdie's fourth literary attempt. Of his first endeavor, Hamilton makes the following comment: "Salman's Sunday-morning outing to the cinema [in Bombay] was the high point of his week, and it is no surprise that the first story he attempted, at the age of ten, was movie-based. Its title was 'Over the Rainbow," and it featured 'a talking pianola whose personality is an improbable hybrid of Judy Garland, Elvis Presley and the "playback singers" of the Hindi movies'" (93). His first-hand experience of racism at Rugby led him to pour out his feelings "in a short autobiographical novel entitled Terminal Report that featured a conservative, conventional hero—such as he had once been— transformed by his experiences into an aggressive, radical fellow whenever he encountered racial prejudice" (Weatherby 18). From Rugby, Rushdie went to King's College, Cambridge, where he completed his M.A. in Islamic History in 1968. Rushdie's first serious or mature experiment in writing came after finishing at Cambridge and after visiting his family, who had moved in 1964 to Karachi. Settling in London, Rushdie acted on occasion at the Oval Theatre and worked as a copy-writer for Ogilvy and Mathur. In 1971 Rushdie completed the manuscript of The Book of the Pir. which "featured a Muslim guru, in some unnamed Eastern land, who gets taken up by a military junta and installed as the figurehead President of its corrupt regime" (Hamilton 100). A pir is a spiritual master, a sheik (Schimmel 22). Hamilton continues: "It was a strong enough plot, but it was written in what the author calls 'sub-Joyce." After being rebuffed by various literary agents ('It couldn't even achieve that!' Rushdie says of it), the book was set aside, and Rushdie decided to go back to advertising" (100). Weatherby comments that after finishing the novel, Rushdie "decided its experimental style made it "totally incomprehensible" to the general reader, and he abandoned it. He was still trying to find his own style forged by his experiences in both East and West" (Weatherby 33). In Grimus Rushdie forges strong links between East and West, although less in terms of geography, history or psychology than in terms of cosmology, mythology and mysticism. Grimus was written in the Lower Belgrave Street flat vacated by Clarissa Luard's mother in 1973. Rushdie met Clarissa in 1970, although, according to Clarissa, their relationship "was clandestine for about two years" because she "had a boyfriend and he had a girlfriend" (Hamilton 100). Rushdie married Clarissa in April, 1976, 23 win, perhaps because its unearthly setting is more a product of cosmology, mythology and mysticism than of anything one might associate with science.2 Rushdie himself calls the novel a "fantasy that didn't grow out of the real world" (Rushdie with Haffenden 246) and the degree to which this is true can be gauged by comparing it to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Rushdie's only other novel whose main setting is an imaginary world. In Haroun Rashid and Haroun have a normal father-and-son relationship and they begin and end their fabulous journey (to the moon Kahani) in a contemporary city similar to Bombay. In Grimus, on the other hand, Flapping Eagle seems more archetypal than human, he begins his journey (to the dimension of Calf Mountain) near the post-apocalyptic city of "Phoenix," and he ends his journey in a nebulous infinity of dimensions. Flapping Eagle also lacks the engaging emotional complexity of later Rushdie protagonists such as Midnight's Children's Saleem, who remains too human to lose himself forever in the blank-mindedness of his "buddhahood" or in the oblivion offered by the houris in the Sundarbans Jungle. Flapping Eagle does not exhibit the types of human traits that would tie him to this world—let alone to anything as specific as a country or a family. It therefore comes as no surprise that, instead of returning to "Phoenix," he extends his journey into an indeterminate number of settings or dimensions. In depicting Flapping Eagle's journey, Rushdie champions the notion that we live in an infinity of dimensions and that whoever attempts to define or "fix" this infinity into one pattern ought to be opposed. In this sense he resembles Borges' heresiarch, "the arch heretic who after Liz Calder (who was an editor at Victor Gollancz and who was the third resident in the Belgrave Street flat) had Grimus published in 1975. 2 Weatherby notes that Grimus did not win the Gollancz science fiction contest in which it was entered. He surmises that "probably the judges didn't know what to make of this attempted literary flight masquerading as science fiction" and he adds that critics "liked it even less than the judges" (37). 24 questions all before him"~especially "all forms of established dogma" (Dipple 66). Consistent with this aim, Rushdie ends the novel with an open-ended scenario which implies any number of future patterns or dimensions. This open-endedness prevails throughout the novel, which conflates figures, landscapes and scenarios deriving from the following four sources: Attar's Conference of the Birds, Dante's Divine Comedy, Shaivite mythology and the Voluspd of Germanic or Norse mythology.' Borrowing from these four sources, Rushdie depicts a scenario in which the mystic (Virgil) and the demonic trickster (Deggle) both help the iconoclastic hero (Flapping Eagle) defeat the God-like tyrant (Grimus). Grimus's wide spectrum of literary, philosophic and religious sources has created confusion in the minds of some critics. While most critics echo Rushdie's dissatisfaction with his use of language,4 Timothy Brennan, Catherine Cundy and James Harrison also suggest that the various elements of the novel do not come together in a coherent manner. In Salman Rushdie and the Third World Brennan complains that Grimus is "a volatile playground of Western and Eastern literary sources that mix together uneasily in a sustained and 3 The Voluspd or Prophecy of the Seeress gives an overall account of Germanic cosmology and constitutes the first book of The Poetic Edda. 4 In a Scripsi interview Rushdie says that he is unhappy with his use of language in the novel. "It's a question of hearing your own voice, and I don't hear it because I hadn't found it then" (125). The dialogue is rather wooden and at times awkward. Also, Rushdie makes excessive use of anagrams and puns, mam of which are deciphered by Parameswaran in The Perforated Sheet (57-60). After unravelling "an elaborate reordering of the same fifty-six letters," Parameswaran comments that this reordering is "rather heavy-handed." although it indicates "the method we should adopt for analysing the theme of the novel." The obsessive transpositions involved in this anagram point to Grimus' convoluted thinking and to ""the elitist isolation that is intruded upon by Flapping Eagle" (60). Apart from obsessive word-play, Grimus might be faulted for its awkward shifts in the narrator's point of view. These shifts from first to third person only vaguely anticipate the metafictional gamesmanship of Midnight's Children. While they suggest that Flapping Eagle is revising his account (or having his account revised~the changes in person thus slipping into the narrative) from another world (Paradise? Gimle? some other dimension?), such speculation remains inconclusive. I return to this question at the end of the chapter. 25 uninterpretable allegory" (70).5 Cundy likewise comments that the elements in Grimus are "insufficiently blended to make the novel appear a skillfully amalgamated whole." She contends that Rushdie comes short of a "synthesis of diverse cultural strands and narrative forms" (137). Brennan, Cundy and Mujeebuddin Syed also imply that because Rushdie's later novels explore cultural and postcolonial themes, his first novel must initiate such exploration. This enforced postcoloniality seems somewhat contradictory in Cundy's article, where she stresses the importance of Menippean satire and Sufi mysticism. She quotes from Mikhail Bakhtin's Problems of Dosioevsky 's Poetics, in which the author observes that Menippean satire's "bold and unrestrained use of the fantastic and adventure is internally motivated, justified by and devoted to a purely ideational and philosophical end." In this satire the self of the protagonist "ceases to mean only one thing; he ceases to coincide with himself (134). Cundy also stresses that in the Sufi quest "the multiplicity of existence is seen to be gathered into totality and unity," an experience which Laleh Bakhtiar describes as passing "from form to formlessness" (133). If Menippean satire and Sufi idealism are central to the novel, then it makes sense that Rushdie does not ground his concerns in a specific political, national, cultural or postcolonial context or identity. Cundy argues that "Rushdie's failure to engage fully with questions of migrant identity in Grimus has led to a dissipation of critical interest, away from the seeds of the engagement and towards more abstruse theorization of the novel's 5 Brennan also notes the confluence of "Persian, Quranic, Dantean" and Shaivite myths related to Calf Mountain (77), yet he does not link the references to Shiva's lingam to the sexual and eschatological climax of the novel. Instead, he returns to a political reading, concluding that Grimus fails to attain "a transcendent vision of heterogeneity" and Flapping Eagle fails to reach a "home" (77-78). Yet it is Flapping Eagle~not Grimus--\vho is the seeker on the novel's mystical quest, and it is Flapping Eagle who succeeds in attaining or incarnating a mystical vision of heterogeneity. He attains this vision precisely because he, like Shiva, is occasionally pulled toward, yet ultimately rejects, the notion of a fixed abode. 26 complex structure" (133). Yet Rushdie does engage fully in questions of migrant identity, to the point where the protagonist "ceases to coincide with himself and to a point where, to borrow from Cundy's own citation of Laleh Bakhtiar, "one passes the tree-line and enters the world with-out [sic] forms" (133). Just because Rushdie does not develop migrant identity in the manner to which some postcolonial critics are habituated does not mean that the novel is not successful in its own philosophical and mystical terms. Harrison is somewhat less damning than Brennan or Cundy, although he does contend in Salman Rushdie that the disparate elements in the novel lead to a "lack of focus" and that the novel presents readers with "a plethora of possible readings, none of which fits perfectly but all of which are interestingly if in some cases only marginally relevant" (38). Harrison ends his chapter on Grimus by suggesting that it is an "incipient Nietzschean black farce culminating in the death of God as a stone frog." Yet the symbol or figure of God in the novel is not a frog, but rather the Mountain of Qaf, the Simurg, the Stone Rose, and, to a lesser degree, Grimus himself. Harrison adds that the "death of God" in Grimus makes even The Satanic Verses seem innocuously tame. If that is Rushdie's intended message, it clearly self-destructs en route to the reader. But it is worth noting that his grasp, even in his notorious fourth novel, may have been exceeded by his reach in his first. (40) Yet the message about the death of God does not "self-destruct." Rather, it forms part of an iconoclastic argument in which Rushdie attacks fixed and self-serving notions of God. Johansen comes closer to appreciating Rushdie's mix of otherworldly constructions in Grimus. In "The Flight of the Enchanter,"6 he calls the novel a "strange blend of mythical or 6 In this article Johansen lists a range of potential influences on Grimus. one of which suggests a parallel between Grimus and an evil sorcerer in the Walam Olum. "According to several Native American myths evil enters the world through the intervention of an evil, sorcerer, who starts messing 27 allegorical narrative, fantasy, science fiction, and Menippean satire." He observes that the text "is characterized by its very heterogeneity, its refusal to adhere to any one particular semiotic code, any one narratological scheme." Unlike Cundy, he applies the notion of Menippean satire in an appreciative manner: he says that Rushdie's "predilection for code switching" fits with such satire, which is typified by "its lack of homogeneity and its ability to incorporate and assimilate to its own purposes a number of other genres." Quoting Northrop Frye, he notes that the purpose of Menippean satire is not to attain realism, for it "deals less with people as such than with mental attitudes" (29). As I noted above, Cundy takes this point further when she quotes Bakhtin, who says that Menippean satire is "internally motivated, justified by and devoted to a purely ideational and philosophical end." Yet Cundy does not seem to see this as a valid mode of writing. I prefer Johansen's "abstruse theorization," which explores the manner in which Rushdie aims at the ideational and the philosophic. I disagree, however, with Johansen when he argues that because Flapping Eagle's quest lacks a final goal the novel therefore parodies the journey in Dante's Divine Comedy and degrades the Simurg and Qaf in Attar's Conference. Ignoring the figure of Shiva, he concludes that Rushdie parodies Dante because "there is no successful search for an ultimate or divine truth" (24). Cundy makes a similar point when she contends that the "confusion of genres and philosophies in Grimus means that the truth sought by Flapping Eagle is never things up, creating new beings of his own, etc., etc. In the Walam Olum, the creation myth and poetic record of the history of the Delawares, the work of the great Manito is (partially) spoilt by the activities of 'an evil Manito" who 'made evil beings only, monsters.' And in the Walam Olum [sic] there are also references to an evil being, a mighty magician,' who brought countless evils (badness, quarreling, unhappiness, bad weather, sickness, death) with him when he came to earth" (25). Johansen cites his source as American Indian Literature, edited and introduced by Alan Velie (University of Oklahoma Press, 1979), pp. 99, 101. While Grimus' idealism may preclude his identification with an evil magician, he does use the Stone Rose selfishly "for his own private purposes" (25). 28 clear, never entirely spiritual in a Sufi sense" (134). Yet Flapping Eagle's identification with Shiva allows him to enter a realm in which mystical truth, which need not be "clear," can be explored in an elastic infinity of potential dimensions. Indeed, the notion of "clarity" itself clashes with the ideals of mysticism, ideals according to which the seeker is to transcend fixed epistemological frameworks and fixed concepts of the soul and God. Johansen also claims that because Flapping Eagle does not implement Grimus' Sufi scheme, Rushdie's use of Attar constitutes "a degraded or down-graded or ironic version of the myth of the Simurg and the mountain of K a f (27). Yet Rushdie's lack of insistence on the Sufi name or characteristics of his transcendent otherworldly mountain works for rather than against his narrative design: if he were to fix the mountain into one pattern he would be doing what Virgil and Flapping Eagle accuse Grimus of doing; that is, he would be denying the divine mountain its status as infinite, transcendent and "Impossible." Instead of parodying and down-grading the otherworldly constructions of Dante and Attar, Rushdie conflates them with a recurrent cycle of death and rebirth, of eschatology and cosmogony, suggested by non-insistent allusions to Shiva's cosmic dance and lovemaking. Uma Parameswaran and Mujeebuddin Syed are the only critics so far to appreciate the way the theme of multidimensionality allows for an open-ended play of otherworldly constructions in Grimus. In The Perforated Sheet Parameswaran observes that the "action combines imaginative flights of science fiction, extravagance of fantasy, and clever twists of sexual humour" and she argues that the various levels of the novel "are ingeniously interconnected through what the Gorfs in the novel call 'Ordering.'" She points out that "the narrative is reinforced at every step with a network of allusions" and that the plot suggests 29 "there could be a space-time continuum parallel to our own, concurrent and conspatial but separated by the limitation of our senses" (55-56). I would expand on this and say that the plot to destroy Grimus' esoteric tyranny centres on the notion that there are an infinite number of parallel space-time continua, all of which might exist conspatially just as Sufi, Dantean, Shaivite and Germanic cosmographies are conflated to form the mountainous topography along which Flapping Eagle journeys. Parameswaran also appreciates the import of Rushdie's references to Shiva, that is, to the "Hindu myths which are relevant to two main references in the novel—Dance and Dissolution—that come together in the final scene." Referring to the creation of Calf, to Flapping Eagle's destruction of Calf, and to Flapping Eagle's subsequent construction of a pristine otherworldly mountain, she explains that "the universe came into being" when Shiva bangs his drum, after which "he dissolves the universe back into formless energy. Then another cycle begins" (64-65). At the same time that Rushdie alludes to Shiva's destructive and creative cosmic dance, he alludes to Shiva's intercourse with Parvati on Mount Kailasa. Just as Shiva's union with Parvati "is so intense that it shakes the cosmos, and the gods become frightened" (Kinsley 43), so Flapping Eagle's "Weakdance" with Media shakes the foundations of Calf and ends the coercion of Grimus, the self-styled god. Grimus invites all sorts of cosmological speculations Referring to Calf s dissolution and re-creation, Parameswaran suggests that the opposition between Grimus and Flapping Eagle might be seen in terms of the battle "between the Prince of Darkness and the Prince of Light in Zoroastrian mythology" or in terms of "the Greek cycle of Cronos-Saturn-Zeus or any of its equivalents in other mythologies" (65). Because of Rushdie's allusions to Loki, 30 Odin, Yggdrasil, Ragnarok and the primordial couple who survives the cataclysm of Ragnarok, I find Germanic myth most relevant to Rushdie's conflation of Sufi, Dantean and Shaivite constructions. Syed's article, "Warped Mythologies: Salman Rushdie's Grimus'" covers in less detail several of the main points I make in this chapter, although he (along with Brennan and Cundy) sees the novel as failing to satisfy what he sees as the demands of postcoloniality.7 His following statement on Grimus' intertextuality is especially consonant with my own argument: Strange and esoteric at times, Grimus has a referential sweep that assumes easy acquaintance with such diverse texts as Farid Ud 'Din Attar's The Conference of the Birds and Dante's Divina Commedia as well as an unaffected familiarity with mythologies as different as Hindu and Norse. (135) Also, his contention that the "book's basic sources" are Attar and Dante, that "some of the book's important motifs" come from Norse and Hindu mythologies and that "Sufi and Vedantic thoughts are at the core of the novel's theme" (144-145) resemble my argument that 7 His article appeared in Ariel October 1994, after I had finished my research on Grimus and after I had presented papers on syncretic narrative in Rushdie's fiction (CACLALS, Victoria, May 1990), on "The Divine Comedy in Salman Rushdie's Grimus" (Philological Association of the Pacific Coast, San Jose, November 1990) and on "Eclectic and Syncretic Narrative in the Otherworldly Fiction of Salman Rushdie" (International Conference on Narrative Literature, Vancouver, April-May 1994). A quote from the latter paper demonstrates both the overlap and the different directions of our arguments: "In Grimus, Rushdies attack on the coercive use of esoteric knowledge involves the following four constructions: one) Attar's mystical journey to the mountain of Qaf; two) Dante's journey to the peak of Purgatory; three) the cosmos-shaking union of Shiva and Parvati on Kailasa (in the novel Flapping Eagle becomes a Shiva figure and Media becomes a Parvati figure); and four) the struggle leading to the fall of Yggdrasil and the rise of a green island containing the paradise of Gimle (in the novel Grimus is an Odinic figure and Deggle plays the role of Loki). The superimposition or syncretism of these four mountain and island settings makes it impossible to insist on any one version of the mountain island. Syncretism thus reinforces Rushdies argument against the tyranny of Grimus, who uses his esoteric power to impose a fixed, definitive order on the mountain island of Calf." Whereas I argue that Flapping Eagle's defeat of Grimus" coercive, fixed dimension champions the notion of an infinite number of dimensions and that this is in itself a valuable goal, Syed emphasizes the manner in which Grimus suggests mystic possibilities, distorts myth, and fails to offer "a well-defined identity," that is, fails to anchor itself meaningfully in the postcolonial world (148). 31 Grimus is structured largely on the schemas of Attar and Dante, that Hindu and Germanic mythological motifs are consistently integrated into the novel's structure and that the Sufi notion of union and annihilation is central to the theme. While Syed's analysis differs from mine in a number of ways, he makes several points which are helpful in the larger contexts of my study.8 In particular, he emphasizes the link between Hindu and Sufi mysticism and he suggests a link between Calf, Qaf, Kailasa and Alleluia Cone's "mystical Himalayas" (139-140). MYSTICAL JOURNEYS Rushdie's most recurrent otherworldly construction—the flight of thirty birds to the Mountain of Qaf—forms the structural backbone of Grimus. Rushdie himself states that at the core of Grimus lies a transposition of Attar's "eastern philosophy and mythology." He outlines Attar's poem about Qaf and the Simurg in the following manner: In [The Conference of the Birds] twenty-nine birds are persuaded by a hoopoe, a messenger of a bird god, to make a pilgrimage to the god. They set off and go through allegorical valleys and eventually climb [Qaf] mountain to meet the god at the top, but at the top they find that there is no god there. The god is called Simurg, and they accuse the hoopoe of bringing them on — oh dear — a wild goose chase. The whole poem rests on a Persian pun: if you break Simurg into parts — 'Si ' and 'murg' — it can be translated to mean 'thirty birds', so that, having gone through the process of 8 Syed sees Flapping Eagle's journey in terms of Muhammad's famous night flight, the miraj, at the peak of which Muhammad sees God (137); he observes the similarity between the town of K and the land of Gog and Magog, where people are imprisoned and "bide their time until just before the end of the world, when they shall be unleashed on the world" (139); he associates the union of Shiva and Parvati with Calf s lingam and yoni (140) but not with the "dance" of Flapping Eagle and Media; he notes that Rushdie echoes the Quran when he has Grimus tell Flapping Eagle that he created him from clay (146); he emphasizes Rushdie's warping of myth whereas I emphasize Rushdie's use and conflation of myth; he concludes that "Grimus falters in its failure to countenance postcolonial concerns" (148) whereas I do not expect Rushdie to countenance concerns that are specifically postcolonial. 32 purification and reached the top of the mountain, the birds have become the god. (Rushdie with Haffenden 245) When Rushdie says that the birds "become the god" he is referring to the climactic moment in Attar's Conference when the birds reach the state of mystical union, that is, when they realize that God does not exist as an alien Force, but as their very souls (219). The birds then experience a dissolution or "annihilation," at which point the infinity of God destroys all their previous conceptions of God and the soul (220-221). In Grimus Rushdie echoes this union and this annihilation when Flapping Eagle unites with Media and when their lovemaking dissolves their selves as well as the mountain which constitutes the novel's main setting. Grimus' Calf Mountain is an iconic, "golden calf version of Attar's Qaf or Kaf, the mountain which is at once very far from, and very close to, the human heart. In Attar's Conference the Hoopoe tells his gathering of birds that "beyond Kaf s mountain peak / The Simorgh lives, the sovereign whom you seek, / And He is always near to us" (33). Likewise, God is very far (He is nowhere to be seen) and very near (in the Qur'an God is said to be closer than one's jugular vein). In Mystical Dimensions of Islam Annemarie Schimmel points out two related uses of the "Q" in "Qaf : The q is mainly connected with the concept of qurb, "proximity," and the qaf-i qurb, the "first letter," or "Mount Qaf," of proximity, becomes a rather common expression--especially since this mountain is regarded as the station at the end of the created world, the place where man can find true proximity, qurb, on his way toward God (who, since Attar, has sometimes been symbolized by the Simurgh). Another combination is that of q with qana'at, "contentment": the perfect Sufi lives, like the mythological bird, in the Mount Qaf of qana 'at. (421) At the end of Grimus Flapping Eagle realizes the "qurb of proximity" by journeying beyond the peak and by uniting with the infinite spirit which is at once within him and beyond any conception he might have about the soul. This type of mystical experience differs from the 33 experience of Grimus, for whom mysticism consists in predicting and prescribing rather than letting go and allowing the infinity of God to overwhelm the self. Grimus understands Qaf to be a "model for the structure and workings of the human mind" (G 232), yet he forgets that "the inaccessible mountain of K a f (G 133) is primarily an auto-destructive symbol which urges the spiritual pilgrim to explore the formlessness of the heart and soul.9 The other crucial component of Attar's mystical scheme is the figure of the Simurg, which Schimmel calls the "mystical bird that, according to Islamic tradition, lives on the world-encircling mountain Qaf and that became the symbol of the divine" in Attar's poetry (260). At times the Simurg of Persian myth takes on a fairly concrete shape: Anthony Mercantante defines it as "a gigantic bird whose wings were as large as clouds" and adds that it "sat on the magical tree, Gaokerena, which produced the seeds of all plant life. When he moved, a thousand branches and twigs of the tree fell in all directions." Rushdie by and large employs Attar's less figurative Simurg, which Mercantante calls "a symbol of the godhead" (590-591). The only time Rushdie's Simurg takes on a concrete form is when Koax foresees "the imminent clash of the Eagle, prince of earthly birds, and the Simurg, bird of paradise, 9 Rushdie uses "Qaf in his other novels, although only in Grimus and Shame does he refer to it explicitly. Despite the numerous references to conferences, convocations, thirty birds and annihilations in Midnight s Children, Saleem does not mention Qaf or Kaf in his account. In Shame Omar finds a "screen on which was portrayed the mythical circular mountain of Qaf, complete with the thirty birds playing God thereupon" (S 33) and the narrator refers to the peripheral city of Quetta as the city of Q. In Grimus the isolated town on Calf Island is similarly called K. The peripherality of Q, K, and Calf is appropriate since Mount Qaf is "regarded as the station at the end of the created world" (Schimmel 421). Also, in Shame Omar leams as a child that Hell "lay in the west of the country in the vicinity of Q" (S 194), and he is raised by demonic mothers who eventually fly "off into the Impossible Mountains in the west" (S 285). Rushdie may be drawing here on the popular tradition that "the chief abode of the Jinn is in the mountains of Qaf, which are supposed to encompass the whole of our earth" (Thomas Hughes 136). In The Satanic Verses Rushdie depicts a Qaf-like Everest (which Alleluia yearns to ascend) and in Haroun and the Sea of Stories he refers to the Hoopoe (who flies Haroun and Rashid to the moon) and to "fabulous multicoloured birds" on the road to the "Valley of K" (H 33-34). 34 wielder of the Stone Rose" (G 197). Grimus sees himself as the Simurg~"Grimus" is an anagram of "Simurg"~yet this is precisely the type of egomania which Rushdie attacks in the novel. Flapping Eagle is not only on a quest to destroy the definitions and boundaries Grimus imposes on the otherworldly mountain and those who live on it; he is also on a quest to defeat the very desire to play God. * Flapping Eagle's mystical, iconoclastic journey begins on a mesa near the revivified city of "Phoenix"~a name which fits with the American Southwest locale, with Rushdie's many ornithological references, and with the novel's cyclical cosmology—represented initially by the Phoenix and eventually by Shiva's drum, his cosmic dance and his intercourse with Parvati. When Rushdie writes that Phoenix "had risen from the ashes of a great fire which had completely destroyed the earlier and much larger city also called Phoenix" (G 24), he subtly foreshadows the destruction and re-creation of Calf Mountain. Flapping Eagle's initial name, Born-from-Dead, could describe the Phoenix as well as Shiva, who gives rise to new universes once he has destroyed old ones It seems appropriate that a novel which ends with Flapping Eagle's revolt against a cosmic status quo would begin with an act of rebellion: Flapping Eagle's sister Bird-Dog rejects the strict, dogmatic rules of her Axona culture by daring to leave the confines of Axona In her rebellions, in her being the object of incestuous desire, and in her eventual submission to male authority, Bird-Dog anticipates the Brass Monkey in Midnight's Children. Both sisters urge rebellion, yet their rebellions are superseded by those of their brothers. The sexual politics this might entail are in both cases superseded by the politics of esoteric and 35 religious coercion: Bird-Dog becomes a pawn in Grimus' game of controlling Calf, and the Brass Monkey allows her voice to become "a weapon with which [Ayub Khan's dictatorship will] cleanse men's souls" (MC 315). For more sustained rebellion on the part of female characters one must look to such figures as Aunt Alia in Midnight's Children, Rani in Shame, and Mishal Sufyan, Alleluia Cone and Zeenat Vakil in The Satanic Verses. In terms of female revolt against a patriarchal hierarchy which augments its power by appropriating religious language, Liv's bitter opposition to Grimus and the Rose—which she calls his "infernal machine" (G 215)—prefigures the three sisters' hatred of Raza and his God in Shame as well as Hind and Al-Lat's opposition to Mahound and his Allah in The Satanic Verses. Whereas the three sisters, Hind and Al-Lat are formidable opponents of patriarchal otherworldly power, Liv remains ineffectual. She functions most as the keeper of Virgil's diaries, an even more passive role than that of Shame's shawl-knitting Rani. Bird-Dog's most rebellious act is to descend from Axona, to defy the taboo of the Whirling Demons. These imaginary spirits are reputed to surround the plateau and they appear designed to keep Axonans in their isolation and on their moral high ground. The Demons represent alien, demonized cultures and as such they anticipate "the evil thing," "the alien nation" so despised by the Imam in The Satanic Verses (SV 206). Direct experience of the Demons proves they are merely fabrications of a xenophobic culture—or, as Bird-Dog puts it, "They're nothing at all but air" (G 19). The Whirling Demons crop up later in Grimus when Virgil "dissolves" Khallit and Mallit, whose transient existences derive from Flapping Eagle's childhood memories of mesas and of Axona's ethnocentric division between us and them, pure and impure. Just as Bird-Dog finds that the Demons which represent the Other 36 are "nothing at all but air," so Flapping Eagle finds that the dangers posed by Khallit and Mallit do not exist once they are confronted (and replaced) by a more unified way of thinking, represented by Virgil and his Sufi dance of unity. Flapping Eagle escalates the revolt against hierarchy begun by his sister. Yet before he can destroy Grimus' fixed, hierarchical, coercive structure of Calf, he must first learn to destroy fixed ideas and structures in himself. He starts to do this by descending from the Plateau and by travelling until the age of 777, at which time he has played so many parts in life that his self becomes "nameless as glass": He was Chameleon, changeling, all things to all men and nothing to any man. He had become his enemies and eaten his friends. He was all of them and none of them. [...] Contentment without contents, achievement without goal, these were the paradoxes that swallowed him. (G 31-32) In becoming "all things" and "nothing," Flapping Eagle embodies Keats' ideal of "Negative Capability, " a fluid, open psychological state in which one can remain in "uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason" (587).10 In embodying this ideal, Flapping Eagle differs from the unnamed man on the cliff who, when asked what he is doing, "called back—and each word was the word of a different being:—I am looking for a suitable voice to speak in" (G 32). The man's anxious mental searching is also seen metaphorically as a physical reaching, and both result in his downfall: "As he called, he leaned forward, lost his balance and fell." In contrast, Flapping Eagle's willingness to accept the ' Given that Rushdie uses the poetry of Attar, Dante, Eliot and Hughes to express the notion of a changeable identity, Keats" comment on the "poetical Character" is also apropos: "As to the poetical Character ... it has no self ~ it is every thing and nothing — It has no character — it enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated — It has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the chameleon Poet. It does no harm from its relish of the dark side of things any more than from its taste for the bright one: because they both end in speculation" (608). 37 changes in himself and in everything around him allows him to experience the bizarre, dislocating dimensions of Calf Mountain without completely losing his psychological balance. Flapping Eagle's emptiness makes him reminiscent of both the bird-soul in Attar's Conference and the central character in Ted Hughes' book of poems, Crow. Attar's bird-soul enters an ontological void when he states, "I neither own nor lack all qualities" (194) and this void corresponds to an epistemological void in which "All claims, all lust for meaning disappear" (184). Flapping Eagle also resembles Hughes' Crow, who appears in the third epigraph of Rushdie's novel as "his own leftover." In another poem from Hughes' book, Crow's "footprints assail infinity" and he makes a conscious choice to be used "for some everything" (41). Here Crow resembles Flapping Eagle, who at the end of the novel enters a vague and infinite realm of "some everything" represented by the peak of Attar's Impossible Qaf and by Shiva's cosmic dance. Flapping Eagle learns to see his self as infinitely changeable, which is perhaps what signals his readiness for his journey to an otherworldly dimension, to an island mountain which is as different from this world as is Dante's Purgatory. The Dantean elements of Flapping Eagle's quest are not immediately apparent, for it is the sinister Deggle and not the benevolent Virgil who guides him to this otherworldly realm. One could argue, however, that since Dante's Satan is conversant with death and with the corresponding depths of the Earth, the devilish Deggle is the character best suited to show Flapping Eagle the hole in the ocean which leads to death and the afterlife. Deggle has taken centuries to find his escape route from this world (G 36), and with his advice Flapping Eagle drowns and subsequently surfaces in "that other sea, that not-quite-Mediterranean" (G 37). It is in this otherworldly sea that 38 Flapping Eagle finds the mountain island of Calf and it is on the shores of this island that Flapping Eagle meets Virgil Chanakya Jones, who is an Anglicized and Indianized version of Dante's guide Virgil 11 In helping Flapping Eagle to understand the multidimensionality possible on Calf, Virgil refers to the ontological and epistemological explorations of T.S. Eliot. Rushdie cites Four Quartets in the first epigraph and Virgil reiterates this citation when he mutters to Flapping Eagle, "Go, go, go, said the bird." Virgil calls his citation a "literary reference [... a] piece of self-indulgence" (G 52), yet it draws attention to an important moment in the text. So far, the narrator has not explained how readers ought to understand the otherworldly mountain of Calf—a world which does not operate so much under the laws of physics as of metaphysics. Virgil apologizes for his literary indulgence after telling Flapping Eagle that he must have realized, because of his "acceptance of immortality, for instance," that the world is "no simple, matter-of-fact place": the world is both "what it appears to be and not what it appears to be" (G 51). Echoing Eliot's notion that knowledge based on any one mode of perception "imposes a pattern, and falsifies" (199), Virgil claims that "the limitations we place upon the world are imposed by ourselves rather than the world" (G 52). Eliot also posits a " Virgil" s middle name refers to Chandragupta Mauryas "very able and unscrupulous brahman adviser, called variously Kautilya, Canakya and Visnugupta" (Basham 51). In Grimus Rushdie sees Chanakya as a great ascetic (G 133), and in The Satanic Verses he sees him as a man whose detachment was so great that he "could live in the world and also not live in it" (SV 42). Virgil's surname, Jones, may emphasize his poetic mediocrity (he may be a commonplace version of the great classical poet) or may emphasize his Britishness, in which case he is, like Rushdie, something of a hybrid of Indian and English backgrounds. Margery Fee suggested to me that "Jones" may refer to Sir William Jones (1746-1794). the Orientalist scholar who discovered the link between Sanskrit, Latin and Greek. This makes sense given Virgil's interest in language and in both English and Indian culture—Virgil cites Eliot's Four Quartets and sees Calf Island as "a giant lingam weltering in the yow that is the Sea" (G 55-56). 39 "still point of the turning world," a spiritual point which is antithetical to "fixity" and which allows the soul to feel free, to "dance" amid life's multiple ontological possibilities (191). Likewise, Virgil promotes the notion of a "consciousness" which stays constant "in the shifts between the dimensions" (G 72). Just as Eliot's dance at the still point of the turning world leads to a release "from action and suffering" and "from the inner / And the outer compulsion" (191), so Flapping Eagle's cultivation of "consciousness" and his dance with Media leads to what Virgil calls "the way out" (G 72), which could mean both an escape from his own inner compulsions (symbolized by Khallit, Mallit and Axona) and from the outer compulsions of Grimus' tyrannical dimension. From beginning to end, both Eliot's poem and Rushdie's novel focus on the attempt to break free of old patterns—or, as Eliot puts is, "To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern" (219). The multidimensional nature of Calf may also owe something to the short fiction of Borges. In "The Library of Babel" Borges notes that "Cavalieri said that all solid bodies are the superimposition of an infinite number of planes" (58). Likewise, Virgil comments that an "infinity of dimensions might exist, as palimpsests, upon and within and around our own, without our being in any wise able to perceive them" (G 52-53). Grimus employs the idea of overlapping dimensions or multidimensionality for his own ends: using the Crystal of Potentialities to isolate individual lives—or "lines"~from their many potential "linefs] of flux" (G 235), he chooses the "lines" that will fulfill his esoteric and egomaniacal Plan. The culminating aspects of his Plan involve his martyrdom and the perpetuation of Calf by his look-alike, Flapping Eagle. Yet Flapping Eagle rebels against the "line" chosen for him. 40 Refusing to follow in Grimus' footsteps, Flapping Eagle destroys Grimus' esoteric machinery and thus makes it possible for the individuals on the mountain to choose their own paths. The next stage in Flapping Eagle's mystical journey involves his entry into the multidimensionality theorized by Virgil. Seized by "dimension fever," Flapping Eagle plunges into a psychological version of Dante's Inferno12: As the unknowable swept over me, I went all but mad. Hallucinations ... I thought they were hallucinations at first, but gradually they gained the certitude of absolute reality and it was the voice of Virgil Jones that came drifting to me like a dream. The world had turned upside down; I was climbing a mountain into the depths of an inferno, plunging deep into myself. (G 69-70) This first internal dimension consists of two "extrapolations" which the extraterrestrial named Koax "sets" in Flapping Eagle's mind. These "extrapolations" take the form of Khallit and Mallit, two cantankerous automatons who engage in endless arguments about morality and mortality.1"' They pretend to resolve these arguments—but instead merely revolve them—by flipping a coin With each flip, the canyon walls which Koax has "set" in Flapping Eagle's mind move toward him like two sides of a vice. Left alone, Flapping Eagle would die in this polar mindscape, yet fortunately Virgil performs his dervish-like dance of unity, his "Weakdance," which makes the two "extrapolations" return "to the shreds of energy they had 1 2 Flapping Eagles internalized Inferno derives from The Divine Comedy, which can be seen as both a journey across a cosmic topography and as an exploration into the hell, purgatory and heaven of the spirit. Throughout their journey Flapping Eagle and Virgil Jones feel uncertain, as do Dante and Virgil when they are in front of the city of Dis and immediately after their encounter with the Malebranche (Inferno IX 1-15, XXIII 1-57). The situation of Flapping Eagle and Virgil is even more precarious, however, for while Dante's Virgil knows he has the support of the omnipotent and benevolent Being above Purgatory, Virgil Jones does not trust Grimus, who skillfully manipulates the people below him. 1 3 In The Perforated Sheet Parameswaran comments that the "town called K and the two spectres, Khallit and Mallit, conjured up by Gorf Koax, bring to mind Kafka and there are Kafkaesque nightmare elements elsewhere; Khallit and Mallit tossing coins over seemingly meaningless banter recall Tom Stoppards Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; the Whirling Demons conjure up the fantasy of Arabian Nights" (59). 41 once been" (G 79). Flapping Eagle calls his liberator "the Whirling Demon!" (G 79) because Virgil acts as a "whirling dervish" by helping Flapping Eagle break through a confining and dichotomous way of thinking, one which was represented earlier by the Whirling Demons. This leg of Flapping Eagle's journey resembles Cantos V to VII of Dante's Inferno14 as well as the fifth and sixth "Valleys" in Attar's Conference. After Virgil saves his charge from Koax's trap, they find themselves on a raft moving "from anywhere to nowhere across the infinite sea [...] Towards infinity [...] where all paradoxes are resolved" (G 82). Their isolated yet unified state resembles that of the pilgrim soul in Attar's Valley of Unity, a "place of lonely, long austerity" where the "many [...] are merged in one" (191). After Flapping Eagle drifts in this fifth "Valley," becoming one with the sea "where all paradoxes are resolved," he returns to a state of confusion, which corresponds to the sixth Valley, that of Bewilderment. After describing the Valley of Unity, Attar implores the pilgrim to wake and scourge the evils inside him, to "encourage them, and they will swell / Into a hundred monsters loosed from hell" (192). Likewise, Virgil tells Flapping Eagle that he must "leap" the obstacles that lie within him, for "Lurking in the Inner Dimensions of every victim of the fever is his own particular set of monsters. His own devils burning in his own inner fires" (G 84). Questioning one's place in the universe figures prominently in the mystical quests of both Attar's bird-soul and Rushdie's Flapping Eagle. In the Valley of Bewilderment, Attar's 1 4 Cundy spells out this parallel with Inferno in considerable detail, noting that the cantos correspond to Chapters 24 and 25, in which Virgil and Flapping Eagle enter a tunnel, Flapping Eagle defeats Axona, and both characters return from their journey within a journey (131). She also establishes a link between the point at which Flapping Eagle and Virgil reach "the edge of the Forest of Calf," entering "alternative states," and the point at which Bakhtiar's Sufi "passes the tree-line and enters the world with-out [sic] forms" (133). 42 pilgrim feels he has lost "both key and door" (201). He awakes from a dream and cries out, "Was it a dream, or was it true?" (200). He also asks, "Who am I?" (197) and admits to himself, "I have no certain knowledge any more" (196). Likewise, once Flapping Eagle returns from "the infinite sea," that is, once he realizes he is still on the mountain slope, he not only questions where he is but also what it means to be in one place and not another: Flapping Eagle awoke with a splitting headache. The words where am I? formed on his lips for a second time on Calf Island; he dismissed them with a wry twist of his mouth. Where is anywhere? he asked himself. (G 90) The first time Flapping Eagle asks "Where am I? " he has just landed on Calf Island (G 40) and he has not yet been lectured by Virgil on the perplexing subject of infinite dimensionality. Now that he has listened to Virgil and has experienced one of these strange dimensions within him, he is able to consider the wider question, What does it mean to be anywhere? This is an important step which anticipates his role in the greater cosmological drama, a role in which he dismantles Grimus' dimension of Calf. For the time being he is still in the process of conquering the fixed ideas and dimensions in his own mind. In attacking the devotee of Axona and in raping the iconic goddess, Flapping Eagle works himself free from iconic structures that have fixed themselves deep in his subconscious. He derives the instrument of his attack, "the bone of K," from a surreal dream, a taboo-breaking trip into a hallucinatory dimension. In this dream Bird-Dog tosses Flapping Eagle a bone, lifts her skirt, and challenges him to bury the bone. (That the bone falls "unerringly" into Flapping Eagle's hand reinforces the notion that Flapping Eagle falls into his iconoclastic role; that a "rose grew from a crack in it" anticipates his assault on the Cracked Rose.) When Flapping Eagle enters her surrealistically enlarged womb, she runs away, and he then chases 43 her down the womb's cave-like mouth (G 71). Flapping Eagle uses this same "bone" to defeat the weapon-wielding devotee of Axorta, who might be seen as both Axona's "altar-ego," in that he protects Axona's altar, and Flapping Eagle's "alter-ego," in that he stands for that part of Flapping Eagle which fears and defends an object of worship. Here the "object" is a goddess; later it will be the Stone Rose. These objects resemble icons which must be smashed before the spiritual pilgrim can reach the formlessness of God. After Flapping Eagle throws the bone at the devotee, the devotee's weapons disappear and nothing remains to defend the "sanctity" of the goddess. While the bone or "os" of K (K-os, Chaos) garners some of its destructive power from Flapping Eagle's revolt against Axonan "purity," and while Flapping Eagle's use of it cleanses "the guilt and shame that possessed some hidden part of [his] mind" (G 89), it also derives its power from the Hindu god of destruction, Shiva. It is appropriate that Flapping Eagle hides this "bone" in his pocket, for Shiva is the ithyphallic god, that is, the god whose penis is always erect, symbolizing at once his ascetic control and his cosmogonic potency. When Flapping Eagle attacks the devotee with the bone, the result is "Chaos," "a hole," a "turbulent disarrangement in the structure of the dimension" (G 89). In Midnight's Children Aadam Aziz also rebels against (and in this sense attacks) religious tradition. The result is similar: in becoming "unable to worship a God in whose existence he could not wholly disbelieve," Aadam experiences a "[p]ermanent alteration" and enters "a hole" (MC 12). Aadam's refusal to follow orthodox practices does not, however, correspond to a stage in any mystical progression. Rather, it is the beginning of his fall into a divided existence, one which ends ambiguously when he carries a lock of Muhammad's hair into a shrine dedicated 44 to the Hindu god Shiva (MC 277-278). Flapping Eagle's attack on the devotee and the goddess, on the other hand, is a necessary and quite literal iconoclastic or "icon-breaking" stage on a journey which ends with an implosion of Grimus' dimension, an identification with Shiva, and an upward journey into various possible heavens. Flapping Eagle's quest involves rejecting the notion of a fixed self and a fixed place (or home) where this self belongs. His momentary "urge to fit in, to be accepted" in the town of K and to abandon his "long-time search" (G 122) derives from "the natural condition of the exile" who yearns to go beyond a state in which he can only put "down roots in memories" (G 107). The theme of a fluid self resulting from the exile's (or immigrant's) dislocation crops up in many of Rushdie's essays, "Imaginary Homelands" providing the most notable example. The comments of the narrator in Shame are equally appropriate to Flapping Eagle's condition. This narrator says that roots and gravity are conservative myths "designed to keep us in our places" (S 86). Shame's narrator replaces these myths with "flight," which is applicable to Flapping Eagle's name, and "freedom," which is applicable to Flapping Eagle's final state—for he leaves behind him the confines of Grimus' Calf and he journeys on the drumbeat of Shiva into a new and as-of-yet undefined cosmos. Flapping Eagle eventually realizes that his desire to strike roots in K is also "a coming home [...] to a town where he had never lived" (G 106); it is a desire founded on the "persuasive" voice in his head which tells him that he knows himself and that because he has a fixed self he can fit in somewhere (G 122). Yet the concepts of self-knowledge and of a fixed self are notions Rushdie challenges throughout the novel. Eventually, Flapping Eagle sees that his desire to have a fixed abode is a by-product of his falling into "the Way of K" (G 164), that is, into a false philosophy of permanence. 45 Flapping Eagle is lured by the notion of "belonging" in the town of K, the citizens of which are under the dual influence of the Grimus Effect15 and the Doctrine of Obsessionalism. These two influences complement each other, for the more desperately Grimus tries to control the town, the more desperately its citizens hold on to their fixed conceptions of the way things are (these conceptions become obsessions). When Grimus' hold on the island weakens, the townsfolk start to see that the obsessive interests on which they based their lives are meaningless once their minds are opened to other ways of looking at reality. Ignatius Gribb is the originator of the Doctrine of Obsessionalism and is thus hardest hit: when "the Inner Dimensions [are] unleashed upon him," they scald "his nerve-centres, burning out the synapses of a brain which could not accommodate the new realities invading it" (G 180). Flapping Eagle on the other hand can accommodate "new realities" because he has already confronted his inner demons and has already learned to accommodate what Virgil calls "the shifts between the dimensions" (G 72). Also, Flapping Eagle does not become totally dependent on Irina or Elfrida, whereas Gribb uses Elfrida's love to verify or solidify his existence (G 177). Flapping Eagle's infatuations with Elfrida and Irina do, however, make him momentarily like Attar's princess in the Valley of Bewilderment, who thinks highly of divine love but feels entangled in the snares of earthly love. She has "read a hundred books on chastity" yet she remains frustrated: "And still I burn—what good are they to me?" (198). In 1 5 Johansen notes that in Angela Carter's The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffmann, the title-figure resembles Grimus in that he "possesses a diabolical power over the minds of others." Johansen elaborates: "Grimus misuses the Stone Rose and Doctor Hoffmann is capable of creating powerful illusions, of disrupting the very sense of reality: 'I lived in the city when our adversary, the diabolical Dr Hoffmann, filled it with mirages in order to drive us all mad...' In Rushdie's novel there are several references to "the Grimus effect,' and in Angela Carter's novel there is correspondingly a 'Hoffmann effect'" (28). 46 Sufi terms, the princess is not wrong to pursue earthly love, since this love partakes of divinity and frees the soul from pre-occupation with the self. Flapping Eagle's passionate love for Elfrida and Irina forces him to focus his attention on something besides himself, which is necessary after having climbed "a mountain into the depths of an inferno, plunging deep into [him] self' and after having confronted his "own devils burning in his own inner fires" (G 70, 84). Eventually, however, Flapping Eagle sees Elfrida and Irina as Circe-like impediments, as "witches weaving their spell, binding him in silken cords" (G 147). Because they keep him in Calf and because they are possessive, Elfrida and Irina remain antithetical to the free-spirited Media, whose uninhibited and unconditional love helps Flapping Eagle set himself and the Island free. Cundy observes that Media resembles Dante's Beatrice,16 which makes sense in that she is the woman who takes the spiritual pilgrim to the higher realms which are inaccessible to Virgil. Media also resembles Parvati, who is the Mountain Goddess, who is Shiva's mate on Kailasa, and who incarnates primal energy or shakti. Rushdie subtly suggests Media's benign, Parvati-like influence when their ascent of Calf is accompanied by "the tangible mystery of the mountain" and by a "hum of insects." Her 1 6 Cundy does not, however, seem to approve of Rushdie's Media, whose description she limits to "the far-from-beatific Media, a whore from Madame Jocasta"s brothel in K" (131). Cundy later claims that the novel "seems disturbingly simplistic" in its "division of virgins and whores" (136). Although I do think there is much that feminists might criticize in Rushdie's depiction of females, I think Cundy is too eager here, for she does not allow Media the status of a free-spirit or of the Beatrice or Parvati figures Media evokes. Cundy is perhaps closer to a legitimate point in her criticism of the stereotypical way Irina is portrayed as "sexually rapacious and worldly" while Elfrida appears "innocent and naive." In "Eschatology and Cosmogony" I suggest that these two women, like Media, represent a prakriti/shakti (nature/energy) combinationWhich complements Shiva's purusha (spirit). Yet even if one cannot ascribe such an elevated association to them, one ought to take into account that Flapping Eagle's mystical quest involves transcending all attachments-including not only women but also his own self. Such an interpretation fits with the notion of Menippean satire, in which personality is subjugated to philosophical ideals—in this case, to the infinite dimensionality of the mystical self. 47 presence is also reflected in "the esoteric messages of birds in flight" (G 201-202), a subtle reference to the mystical flight of Attar's thirty birds. While Deggle and Virgil are trapped on the lower levels of the otherworldly mountain by Dantean convention (Deggle's demonic associations and Virgil's pagan associations preclude their ascent), Flapping Eagle and Media pass through Grimus' "gate" and journey up to Grimushome, a labyrinthine mansion situated near the top of the mountain. Reaching Grimus' elitist realm, they enter a sterile "Heaven" presided over by an egomaniacal "God." The proof of Grimus' selfish, coercive vision lies in his domestication and enslavement of Flapping Eagle's erstwhile free-spirited sister, Bird-Dog. Flapping Eagle decides that he must destroy this tyranny that can reduce the spirit (a bird) to a slave (a dog). He accomplishes this by transforming Calf into Qaf, that is, by reconstructing the island without the Stone Rose (G 252), the instrument which can be used to expand consciousness yet which Grimus uses to maintain his control over Calf and its inhabitants. The death of Grimus and the continued existence of Flapping Eagle and Media parallel the Germanic scenarios in which Odin falls from power and the primordial couple survives inside a revivified Yggdrasil. Grimus resembles Odin, who is "the master of arcane ('runic') wisdom, poetry, and magic" (Puhvel 193) and who communes with Yggdrasil.1 7 Grimus' last-ditch efforts to save Calf from dissolution resemble Odin's efforts to forestall the cataclysm of Ragnarok, which Odin "foresees and tries to stave off by increasingly desperate and deviant 1 7 Yggdrasil is Odin's "'strange source of arcane wisdom," and in the crisis before Ragnarok Odin communes "necromantically with his preserved head" (Puhvel 218). Grimus" death beneath his giant tree echoes Odin*s ritual eye-poking under Yggdrasil, which derives its name from "one of Odinn's names.'" Grimus" discovery of the elixir of immortality also parallels Odin's discovery of the mead of wisdom, which "is hidden in the other world, in a place difficult to get to, but Odinn manages to obtain it, and from then on it is accessible to all the gods" (Eliade Vol. 2:160-161). 48 expedients" (Puhvel 198). While Grimus attempts to garner some Odinic brand of immortality or wisdom by sacrificing himself under his giant ash-tree, his "martyrdom" remains an egomaniacal and ugly spectacle which is not accorded nearly as much importance as the fate of Flapping Eagle and Media, who in this Germanic context become the primordial couple who weather Ragnarok inside the trunk of Yggdrasil.18 In both Germanic myth and in Grimus, a magician figure dies without ever attaining control over the destiny of his world, yet a human couple finds new life in the next world. Destiny "is hidden in the subterranean well into which Yggdrasill's roots plunge" (Eliade Vol. 2:158), yet neither Odin nor Grimus plumbs this depth successfully. While Grimus foresees what Koax calls "the imminent clash of the Eagle, prince of earthly birds, and the Simurg, bird of paradise, wielder of the Stone Rose" (G 197), he is powerless to determine the outcome of this clash. He wants the Rose to captivate Flapping Eagle's imagination, yet Flapping Eagle destroys it instead. Flapping Eagle and Media are free not merely because they destroy Grimus' tyranny but also because Flapping Eagle refuses to inherit the esoteric machinery which makes such tyranny possible. The bed on which Flapping Eagle and Media make love is at once the place where Attar's birds reach union and annihilation on the Impossible Mountain of Qaf, where Dante's pilgrim flies with Beatrice from the mountain of Purgatory to the spheres of Heaven, where Shiva makes love with Parvati on Kailasa, and where the primordial couple of Germanic mythology survive inside the trunk of Yggdrasil. Their fate remains neatly outside the text, although some kind of continuity seems likely given that Islamic, Christian, Germanic and l s The cosmic tree of Germanic myth has an ambiguous fate: it falls yet it also brings humanity from the cataclysmic present to the post-Ragnarok future by harbouring the primordial couple (Eliade Vol. 2:157, 169). 49 Shaivite cosmologies all contain post-cataclysmic realms. This ending which augurs new beginnings indicates that Flapping Eagle's journey is successful. It does not indicate, as Cundy contends, that his "voyage of discovery buckles under the weight of the different elements it seeks to assimilate" (131). T H E DEV IL AND T H E DERVISH The success of Flapping Eagle's quest to destroy Grimus' tyranny depends on assistance given him by Deggle, who is vain, sarcastic and occult, and Virgil, who is self-deprecating, ironic and mystical. Deggle's character is extremely elusive, deriving as it does from the slippery mythical personalities of Loki and the Devil. Virgil Jones is a less elusive character, yet he too has various antecedents: he is a blend of Dantean guide, Sufi mystic and tantric guru Despite their differences Deggle speaks for them both when he expresses his hope that Flapping Eagle will succeed in destroying the Rose: One thing is certain, he told himself, if Flapping Eagle doesn't get to Bird-Dog and [destroy the Rose], I'm stuck here for life. With [Dolores O'Toole] who loves me because she thinks I'm Virgil Jones. He wondered if Virgil Jones would see the joke. (G 99) More important than sharing a wry sense of humour, Deggle and Virgil share a determination to help Flapping Eagle reach and destroy the Rose: Deggle points Flapping Eagle to the "gate" or "hole" in the ocean which leads to the other world of Calf, and Virgil points him to the "gate" which leads to Grimus and his Rose. While Deggle partially resembles the Mephistopheles figure in The Satanic Verses, who "always wills the Bad, and always works the Good" (SV 417), and while Virgil wills and works the good, both bad and good are to a large extent subsumed in the larger cosmic drama that the two characters help bring to an 50 implosive climax Just as Virgil, Flapping Eagle and Liv form a front of "weakness, ignorance and hate, united against their will" (G 205), so Deggle and Virgil become unwilling partners in an alliance against Grimus' tyranny. In general terms Deggle is a "Trickster,"19 although in specific terms he is a blend of Loki and the Devil. Rushdie makes the parallel between Deggle and the Germanic god Loki explicit when Deggle renames himself "Lokki," referring vaguely to "the old Norse and so forth" (G 34-35) Deggle is less overt about his scheming than is the crude Loki of the Lokasetma,20 yet Deggle steers Flapping Eagle to the gate in the ocean so that Flapping Eagle can destroy Grimus' realm, an action which mirrors events in the Voluspd, in which Loki steers a ship over the ocean in order to further the scenario in which "Trembles the towering tree Yggdrasil" and "screams the eagle" (10). While the tree in front of Grimus' mansion may call to mind the mythical Persian tree Gaokerena,21 it is explicitly referred to as "the Ash Yggdrasil" (G 230) Eliade writes that from "the time of its emergence (that is, from the time Deggles playful and demonic character suggests affinities with "the Trickster" which Jeffrey Russell describes in his study The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity: "The curious figure of the Trickster, the spirit of disorder, the enemy of boundaries, is also related to the divine, but his functions are too ill defined to make it possible to equate him with the principle of evil. He is sensual, childish, foolish, sometimes ugly and cruel, but he is also lightheaded and funny. Sometimes his opposition to the gods entails a creative attempt to help man, as when Prometheus steals the gods" fire. The fundamental characteristic of the Trickster is the upsetting of order; as in the myth of chaos, order upset can release creative energies as well as destroy established values" (75). "° The Flyting of Loki or the Lokasenna is the eighth poem in The Poetic Edda. Lee Hollander calls the Lokasenna "the product of a witty and clever skald who conceived the idea of showing the solemn and glorious gods from their seamy side. As interlocutor he uses Mephistophelian Loki, who engages the various gods and goddesses in a senna (a flyting, or running dialogue of vituperation) of at times very spicy quality in which each and every one gets his or her share of defamation, until the disturber of the peace is finally put to flight by Trior's threat of violence" (Poetic Edda 90). 2 ] The eagle eating the leaves of Yggdrasil (Eliade Vol. 2:157) also recalls the Simurg felling the branches of Gaokerena (Mercantante 590-591), although it remains unclear whether or not Rushdie intends am reference to Gaokerena. 51 that the world was organized by the gods), Yggdrasill was threatened with ruin: an eagle set out to destroy its foliage, its trunk began to rot, and the snake Nithhogg began gnawing at its roots" (Vol. 2:157). In rough terms one can equate the gods (especially Odin) with Grimus, the eagle with Flapping Eagle and the snake with Deggle. Also, the indirect struggle between Grimus and Deggle parallels that between Odin and Loki . 2 2 Finally, the dramas which pit Deggle against Grimus, and Loki against Odin, end in cataclysm. Much of what these opposing pairs stand for is superseded by the creation of a new island, one which Flapping Eagle reconstructs in Grimus, and one which rises "from out of the sea" in the Voluspd (12). Deggle is a mix of the Loki who propels the world toward Ragnarok, and the Devil or Antichrist who drives the world toward the Day of Judgement. As attested by Virgil's diary, Deggle's life parallels that of the Devil cast from Heaven. The diary's mini-cosmology starts when Grimus brings a dead bird of paradise (the Phoenix? the Simurg?) to the graveyard in which Virgil (working as a gravedigger) discovers the Stone Rose. Given that Grimus' coercion and egomania destroy the beauty of the Rose, the Simurg and Qaf—all of which can be used to symbolize God—it is appropriate that a bird symbolizing the spirit and Heaven lies dead in Grimus' hands. When Virgil shows Grimus the Rose, Grimus demonstrates an immediate proficiency in using it Virgil and Deggle, however, lose consciousness when they first try to use it (G 208)—which makes sense in that a mystic (Virgil) excels in exploring the soul rather than controlling external things, and a devil remains fundamentally alienated from 2 2 While Loki does not directly kill Odin, he mates with the giantess Grief Boding, who then gives birth to the wolf Fenrir. the snake Mithgarthsomr and the guardian of the underworld, Hel. These three "children" oppose Odin and the gods (Eliade Vol. 2:168-169), and eventually Fenrir kills Odin (Poetic EddaU). 52 any God-like power which can connect and shape an infinity of dimensions. Deggle's belief "that the power in Grimus' possession should be destroyed" (G 158) may result from an envy of Grimus' ability to control the Rose, and this envy perhaps prompts his subsequent philosophical objection to the Rose's power. After Deggle breaks the stem from the Rose (G 26), Grimus and Virgil cast him from their company and condemn him to wander over the face of the earth—much like the Satan in the epigraph of The Satanic Verses. The narrator further suggests Deggle's satanic nature by describing him as a "wickedly-smiling conjurer" (G 36)2' and by using the name Deggle, which resembles "Devil." After Deggle lets "drop some dark conversational flower" (probably some fleur de mail) from his "saturnine lips," the decadent Livia Cramm cries out in admiration: "Ain 7 that the Deggle himself talkin' to you " (G 27). "Deggle" also bears a strong resemblance to ad-Dajjal or Deggial, which literally means "the deceiver" or "the impostor" (Glasse 91). Ronald Hatch drew my attention to the Penguin edition of William Beckford's Vathek, in which Peter Fairclough defines "Deggial" as the Mohammedan version of Antichrist; he has one eye and on his forehead is written the word, 'Infidel.' Traditionally he will destroy the whole world except Mecca but will himself be slain by Jesus at the gate of the church at Lydda in Palestine. (501) According to Cyril Glasse, ad-Dajjal is the Antichrist who appears "shortly before Jesus returns to earth at the end of time," and who seeks "to lead people into disbelief, or to the practice of a false religion" (91). Deggle shares Livia Cramm's interest in "the tarot, the scriptures, the cabbala, palmistry, anything and everything which held that the world was more 2 3 Deggle also has a sorcerer's "malin talent" ( G 26) and dresses in "dark svelte finery, ring-laden and perfumed, with a rose in his buttonhole" ( G 26). The rose may be a symbol of his defiance, of his belief that the Stone Rose ought to belong to him. Other details suggest a satanic nature—as when "he was feeling very angry with himself, and, therefore, with the universe" ( G 97). 53 than it seemed" (G 26). This shared interest in a spiritual world does not, however, produce a communion of souls. Rather, Deggle appears to be the one who murders Livia (G 31). Also, Deggle's potential status as "a kind of saviour" or "popular messiah" in K (G 215) may echo the Muslim notion that the Jewish people "will mistake [ad-Dajjal] for the true Messiah" (Thomas Hughes 328). Deggle's role in Grimus' cosmic drama deserves attention in its own right, yet Deggle also anticipates the most problematic of all of Rushdie's constructions, the satanic narrator of The Satanic Verses. In light of Deggle-cw/w-Lokki's assertion that he has become the descendent of his "illustrious ancestor Nicholas Deggle" (G 35), one might see "their" descendent in turn as the tricksterish, sinister, elusive satanic narrator of The Satanic Verses. Both bring to the fore the motives behind satanic evil: the satanic narrator refers to Iago's refusal to furnish a motive for destroying the happiness of Othello and Desdemona and he then suggests that jealousy of Gabriel is his motive (SV 424-425); Flapping Eagle tells Deggle that he would "love to know what motivates" him, to which the "wickedly-smiling conjurer" responds, "perhaps I don't like your friend Sispy [Grimus] very much either. But then, perhaps I do" (G 36). As a Satan-figure, Deggle is attracted to Grimus' power and he understands Grimus' desire to maintain an esoteric control which borders on the occult. The difference between Deggle and Virgil in this regard is treated symbolically when, after Grimus' gate is destroyed, they choose opposite directions: Deggle wants to climb toward the peak while Virgil wants to walk down to the beach (G 250). Their choices suggest that while Deggle is still lured by the power which resides at the top of the mountain, Virgil refuses to 54 give Grimus and his hierarchical view of the universe any more importance than Grimus has already given it. Unlike Deggle, Virgil evokes no particular Germanic associations,24 although his actions suggest those of a Sufi sheikh, and thus he presents a benevolent contrast to the devilish Deggle.25 Virgil's role as sheikh surfaces clearly in Flapping Eagle's encounter with Khallit and Mallit, who carry on an absurd debate which applies insidiously to Flapping Eagle's deathless existence. Khallit and Mallit argue in an absurd manner, both in the sense that their arguments are arbitrarily resolved by flipping a coin and in the sense that their arguments aggravate the anguish Flapping Eagle feels at not knowing his place or fate in the universe. What Flapping Eagle needs is not a resolution to the irreconcilable dichotomies they represent and inflict (such a resolution is impossible), but a dis-solution, a response which will dissolve or dis-solve the sadistic puzzle by refusing to admit, and be pulled in two by, its very axiom of polarity. Luckily for Flapping Eagle, Virgil has previously used the Stone Rose to reach "the planet of the Spiral Dancers," where he learned a dance which transcends dichotomy. Virgil explains that the "scientist-poets" of that planet "elevated a branch of physics until it became a high symbolist religion," in which they found "a harmony of the infinitesimal, where energy and matter moved like fluids" (G 75). Although Virgil learns his Weakdance and his religion of Spiral Unity from the scientist-poets on the planet of the Spiral 2 4 Virgil's whoring is less a comment on the pre-Ragnarok days, when there is much woe and wantonness in the world (Poetic Edda 9), than a prefiguration of Flapping Eagle's sexual union, one which in the light of Hindu myth represents both the destruction and creation of the universe. 2 5 Cundy notes that Dante's Virgil "was often regarded as a white magician," an association which works well in the novel, since Deggle is both a Satan-figure and a magician. She takes this information from Dorothy Saver's introduction to her translation of The Divine Comedy, adding that as a white magician Virgil "is able to master many of the supernatural obstacles on the path to Grimus" (131). 55 Dancers, Rushdie is clearly borrowing from the theory and practice of the Sufi brotherhoods, commonly referred to as "the whirling dervishes." In their ecstatic sama dances the dervishes imitate the whirling of atoms and celestial spheres. Energy becomes a unifying plane on which worldly and otherworldly spaces converge.26 Rushdie employs such a notion when he has Virgil dance his way into primal matter and dissolve the dichotomous construction in which Koax binds—or "fixes"—Flapping Eagle. Schimmel begins her discussion of the sama by noting that Nwyia calls the ecstatic bliss of union with God "'instasy' instead of'ecstasy' since the mystic is not carried out of himself but rather into the depths of himself, into 'the ocean of the soul,' as the poets might say" (178). This notion of an interior ocean associated with the ecstasy of union is relevant to Grimus in that after Virgil dances the Weakdance he and Flapping Eagle float on a raft "from anywhere to nowhere across the infinite sea" (G 82). This "sea" is clearly inside them (in a shared dimension) rather than around them on the mountain slope. One might also note that Rushdie's use of a "Strongdance" which corresponds to the moment of unity, and of a "Weakdance" which corresponds to the moment of falling "back into the Primal" (G 75), could allude to Attar's union and annihilation as well as to the second and third "turns" of the sama dance. The Turkish poet Mehmed Tchelebi explains that the Sufi mystics, called "lovers," "turn a second time until they disappear " At this point God declares, "You have known My Unity through your own experience." The third turn corresponds to Attar's 2 6 In her introduction to the sama, Eva de Vitray-Meyerovitch quotes from Jalal al-Din Rumi: "Oh daylight, rise! atoms are dancing / The souls, lost in ecstasy, are dancing / To your ear, I will tell you where the dance will take you. / All the atoms in the air and in the desert, / Let it be known, are like madmen. / Each atom, happy or miserable, / Is in love with the Sun of which we can say nothing" (43). 56 annihilation and to Rushdie's "falling back into the Primal": Tchelebi's lovers attain "absolute Truth, " "complete annihilation and death, " "complete disappearance and death, " at which point God exclaims, "Peace be on you, oh lovers! / In dying you have liberated yourselves from death. By the annihilation you have found [...] the path toward Me" (de Vitray-Meyerovitch 49-51). As I will stress below, Virgil's "Weakdance" finds its ultimate expression when Flapping Eagle and Media perform it at the top of the mountain, thus "annihilating" and "liberating" Calf and everyone on it. In his battle with Koax, Virgil takes the form of a whirling dervish, of a mystical whirlwind which counteracts the spinning action of the coin Khallit and Mallit use to inflict the anguish of uncertainty and arbitrary resolutions on Flapping Eagle. Both the whirlwind and the coin spin, yet the unifying power of the whirlwind neutralizes the dichotomizing power of the coin. Ensconced in the polar rotation of their logic, Khallit and Mallit fear the force of Virgil's unifying whirlwind: Mallit looked up. —It can't be, he said. —But it is, it is, cried Khallit. The whirlwind came closer and closer. —Fascinating paradox, said Mallit. —Fascinating, said Khallit doubtfully. (G 79) In his soma dance of unity, Virgil comes as close as possible to the unifying presence of God and hence to the dissolution of dichotomy into unity. From this position, he is able to make Khallit and Mallit return "to the shreds of energy they had once been. On the planet of the Spiral Dancers, people would have said: —they danced the Weakdance to the end" (G 79). In addition to teaching Flapping Eagle the Weakdance, Virgil leads the way to a tantric sexuality which adds a mystical and cosmogonic potency to Flapping Eagle's final union with 57 Media In his role as whorehouse poet Virgil anticipates the irreverent Baal of The Satanic Verses,21 yet the immediate importance of Virgil's whoring is that it brings Flapping Eagle to the brothel where he meets Media, the prostitute who helps him enter into the role of the ithyphallic Shiva. In suggesting such a Hindu context, Rushdie has a prostitute named Kamala Sutra contort herself into a sexual position described in the Kama Sutra. Given that Flapping Eagle is climbing Calf Mountain it is appropriate that she demonstrates the "climbing-up-the-mountain position" (G 156). Rushdie also alludes to the sacred and symbolic genitalia of Shaivism when Virgil observes that Calf Mountain "is rather like a giant lingam weltering in the yoni that is the Sea" (G 55-56). Rushdie then shifts into a more subtle mode of allusion when Flapping Eagle takes on Shiva's "erotic-ascetic" aspect, that is, Shiva's ability to remain aroused without climaxing: Flapping Eagle remains balanced "between denial and consummation, standing at the peak, from which the only direction was down" (G 172). Flapping Eagle and Media also take on the aspects of Shiva and Parvati, whose intercourse threatens the very structure of the cosmos. In Shiva; The Erotic Ascetic Wendy O'Flaherty observes that Shiva's raised phallus "is the plastic expression of the belief that love and death, ecstasy and asceticism, are basically related" (1981:10). Flapping Eagle's final union with Media clearly links love and death, for in making love they terminate their existence in Grimus' dimension. Rushdie thus manages to conflate Sufi and Shaivite motifs, for, as noted above, Tchelebi's "lovers" also attain mystical annihilation or "complete disappearance and death. " 2 7 While Baal plays a blasphemous role by insulting Mahound with doggerel verses and by mocking his sexual appetite, Virgil does not mock Grimus. Virgil's sexuality is exemplary rather than parodic. Nevertheless in both cases Rushdie suggests that sexuality plays a part in resisting or destabilizing a monolithic power structure. 58 Although Deggle and Virgil are opposite in many ways, both help Flapping Eagle to destroy Grimus' dystopic Calf. Perhaps it makes sense for the devilish Deggle to help Flapping Eagle journey through the lower regions of the cosmos and for the mystical Virgil (as well as the Beatrice-like Media) to aid him in his ascent to the higher realms. Rushdie may also be suggesting that while good and evil are major factors in the soul's journey, they are less important than the transcendental, liberating union which lies, at least in theory, beyond moral dichotomy. This appears appropriate to the Sufism in the text, given that Sufi poets suggest that "purity" and "impurity" are not as important as mystical experience. Attar claims that "Islam and blasphemy have both been passed / By those who set out on love's path at last" (57), and Sana'i declares, "If you were really a lover / you'd see that faith and infidelity / are one" (Pourjavady and Wilson 73). The Hindu tantric element in the text—by which I mean the use of sexuality to attain mystical experience—also suggests that traditional morality is not as important as spiritual liberation (moksha or nirvana). Another way of looking at Rushdie's subordination of orthodox morality is by situating it in a Romantic context, one in which fixed values are often casualties in the war against whoever imposes a hierarchy on the landscape of the human imagination. While Rushdie does not champion Prometheus or Satan in the same way Shelley, Blake and Byron do in Prometheus Unbound, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and The Vision of Judgement, he does take a step in that direction by making his devilish Deggle work in concert with his altruistic Virgil. One might even say that Virgil, Flapping Eagle and Deggle all gain in nobility the more they oppose Grimus and his coercive use of the Stone Rose. 59 Deggle's role in Grimus' cosmological drama anticipates the dynamic in Shame, where the Beast is instrumental in defeating the tyrannical Raza. There is a crucial distinction, however: in Shame the Beast itself becomes tyrannical and dominating; in Grimus Deggle is neither an overwhelmingly coercive and violent figure nor a dominating presence. Unlike the roles of the Beast in Shame or the satanic narrator in The Satanic Verses, Deggle's role in Grimus' cosmic drama is marginalized. His actions and the things he represents are clearly superseded by those of Virgil and Flapping Eagle. DESTROYING T H E G O D - O B J E C T Flapping Eagle, Virgil and Deggle all aim to liberate Calf from Grimus and his use of the God-Object, the Stone Rose. Grimus' manipulation of the Rose allows him to maintain control over Calf, yet this does not mean that the Rose is in itself a coercive machine. Indeed, it starts off as a wonderful Object that not only has strong associations with the mystic's God, but also is capable of linking dimensions and of hence opening people's minds to new realities. In this sense the Rose resembles Grimus' "Crystal of Potentialities," which allows him to see into "many potential presents and futures" (G 235). The Rose also suggests Flapping Eagle's status as Shiva at the end of the novel, as well as the parallel universes referred to in Shame and The Satanic Verses (S 64, SV 523). The Rose especially resembles the infinite Sea of Stories in Haroun, a Sea which churns out new stories or versions of reality, much as the Rose allows its user to penetrate new realities or "dimensions." Yet Grimus' megalomania makes of the Rose a dangerous God-Object, one which enables the finite self to manipulate dimensions as if it were God. In creating a plot in which a God-Object must be destroyed, 60 Rushdie is not proposing that God must be destroyed. Rather, he is suggesting that God as an Object or definable Entity must be destroyed because it is subject to being used for an individual's gratification. The notion of an unattainable or mystical God, one which cannot be manipulated to further personal agendas, remains entirely valid. Indeed, such a notion is consistent with Virgil's poetic, mystical, liberating use of the Rose. In explaining the nature of the Rose to Flapping Eagle, Virgil begins by noting that Koax, the rebellious extraterrestrial Gorf, used "Conceptualism" to open the door to an infinite and not merely theoretical arena of dimensions. Taking Dota's (or Magister Anagrammari's)28 ultra-Cartesian notion, "/ think therefore it is," Koax postulated "that anything of which such an intellect could conceive must therefore exist" (G 66). Koax's "conceptualization" of endless dimensions eventually nonplussed the Gorfs because it destroyed the possibility of reaching a final "Ordering" of reality, a goal highly prized by the intersteller race of rational stone frogs. Because Koax's infinite dimensionality threatened the Gorfian "Divine Game" of Ordering, Koax "conceptualized an Object" which structured interdimensional knowledge. This Object brought together or "ordered" otherwise disparate, runaway dimensions (G 66). Following Koax, the Gorfs then "created the Objects which linked the infinity of Conceived and Inconceivable Dimensions." The Gorfs continue to hope : 8 Magister Anagrammari calls to mind Magister Ludi in Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game. In his Introduction to that novel, Theodore Ziolkowski comments that Hesse "depicts a future society in which the realm of Culture is set apart to pursue its goals in splendid isolation, unsullied by the 'reality' that Hesse had grown to distrust." The rise of Nazism and other events disillusioned Hesse about the value of "any spiritual realm divorced wholly from contemporary social reality" and of "a life consecrated exclusively to the mind" (xii-xiii). Rushdie's distrust of any isolated, esoteric, intellectually-controlled realm is expressed mostly in terms of an attack on Grimus and his vision of Calf, although it also applies to Dota and his race of rational frogs. Grimus' re-arrangement of the planes of the Rose and Dota's Divine Game of Ordering may both owe something to the Game which gives rise to Hesse's title. 61 that such Objects, with their "elements" beaming "directly to the planet Thera," will help them order, or account for, the universe (G 244-245).2 9 Koax's rebellion may constitute a revolt against those who use rationality and then restrict or control the arenas within which this rationality might operate. While the Gorfs might be faulted for controlling rationality, they must be credited for not interfering with other dimensions (or "endimions") and for refusing to use the Objects to coerce others into accepting their rational point of view As a result of Koax's meddling (his "gross Bad order"), he is "banned from Thera" and he "stands or falls" with Grimus' dimension (G 245). The Gorfs also strongly object to Grimus' use of the Rose to "conceptualize" his sub-dimension of Grimushome. Dota argues that a place "is either part of an Endimions or it is not" and that "To conceptualize a place which is both a part of an Endimions and yet secret from it could stretch the Object to disintegration-point" (G 244-246). Grimus goes to great lengths to protect his elitist realm: he controls access to it by constructing a gate above K and by hiding the Rose in a "small room" in a house of "labyrinthine excesses" (G 241). Grimus' elitist, hierarchical scheme of things makes him a dangerous "God," one who treats humans as pawns or servants—the most concrete proof of this being the way he treats Bird-Dog. The infinite dimensionality established by Koax calls to mind the library in Borges' "The Library of Babel." Borges' library contains books with every possible permutation of " Given that the Gorfs from Thera are. anagrammatically, Frogs from Earth, Rushdie may be suggesting a human propensity for unfeeling, hyper-logical thinking. In light of the allusion to Descartes, one might be forced to conclude that Rushdie means his "Frogs" to suggest "the French" in particular, although any such allusion is clearly meant to be playful rather than insulting. 62 letters, and Borges' narrator hopes that if "an eternal traveler" (such as Flapping Eagle) were to cross the library in any direction, "after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder (which, thus repeated, would be an order: the Order)" (58). Borges' narrator bases this principle of Order on the repetition of the given disorder of the library. Yet what if he were given other libraries or disorders? And what if he were given an infinite number of other libraries, including libraries in which books floated from one shelf to the next and letters resembled black fish that swam in oceans of white paper? Borges' narrator and Koax are both fascinated by the notion of permutations, yet Koax derives an anarchic pleasure30 from the notion of an infinity of dimensions, that is, from the notion that there are always more dimensions beyond any given number of dimensions in which permutations occur. Koax does not seem bothered by the implication that an infinity of dimensions makes one increasingly unimportant in the ever-expanding schemelessness of things. Borges' narrator on the other hand is unnerved by what might exist beyond the library. Also, one might compare the Stone Rose to Borges' "perfect compendium" and Grimus to Borges' elusive librarian who has read the compendium and is "analogous to a god" (56). Grimus would no doubt applaud such a deification, yet he would also gloss over the notion that it highlights hubris and the egomania of dictatorship rather than wisdom and the selflessness of the Sufi mysticism he exploits. Unfortunately for him, he believes that to "be wise and powerful is to be complete" and he believes that he has retained "the faculties Koaxs name may be a skewed version of "Kaox" or "Chaos." His name also contains the K of the Simurgs A"af and Shiva's /vailasa-appropriate given the dissolution implicit in Attar's mystical annihilation and the entropy implicit in Shiva's cosmic destructions. 63 which add potency to wisdom" (G 232). In exercising this "potency" for his own ends, he destroys this "wisdom." Infinite dimensionality also crops up in a modified form in Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The hero of the story, Haroun, sees in the currents of the moon Kahani (Hindi for "Story") "a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity." In this Ocean Haroun sees "all the stories that had ever been told" as well as those "that were still in the process of being invented." The Ocean of the Streams of Story "was in fact the biggest library in the universe" (H 72). Both Grimus and Haroun posit infinite dimensions or permutations and both depict a scenario in which the protagonist defeats a megalomaniac who tries to impose a specific pattern on what is otherwise a metamorphic, multidimensional "setting." Flapping Eagle takes this victory furthest, for while Haroun and company restore the flow of story-streams into the Ocean, Flapping Eagle (as Shiva) becomes the Ocean that contains an infinity of potential settings. In political terms, the order Grimus imposes on Calf and the rationalization for this order are undermined when Flapping Eagle refuses to use the Rose in Grimus' coercive and self-aggrandizing manner. In theological terms, Flapping Eagle's destruction of the Rose suggests that an interdimensional God-like power either should not exist or should not be accessible to finite beings. Rushdie may also be speculating about a universe without a personal God. Couching his thoughts in highly metaphoric terms, Rushdie has Flapping Eagle ask an assembly of Gorfs if it is possible to conceptualize a dimension which does not contain an Object. He receives the following response: A long pause, in which I felt complex arguments flashing between the assembled Gorfs. 64 —We cannot be sure, said Dota. For us, the answer would be No, since the very existence of the Endimions relative to us is a function of the Object. But for a dweller in the Endimions ... a mental shrug-form followed. (G 246) Because the Gorfs think structurally, they cannot imagine a dimension without an ordering or contextualizing mechanism such as the Rose. Dota, however, concedes "that he could conceive of a Dimension-dweller devising such a Concept" (G 251). Having no Object or having a hidden, unattainable, transcendent Object (a Supradimension or transcendent God) both suggest the possibility of living in dimensions that are not constantly manipulated as if from above or outside. In Grimus Rushdie suggests that if dimensions must have Objects, then such Objects ought to remain hidden or they will be subject to harmful manipulation. As intimated in Virgil's diary, the Rose initially appears to be hidden, inactive or dead—a status symbolized by the dead bird of paradise and by the Rose's location in the forest next to the cemetery (G 208). Virgil brings the Rose from the cemetery into the world and he uses it to fly to the far-off (but mystically near) planet of the Spiral Dancers. Virgil employs the Rose to attain a mystical experience which turns out to be helpful to others: he flies to a mystical planet and he uses the esoteric knowledge he finds on that planet to free Flapping Eagle from Koax's "extrapolations " Grimus, on the other hand, makes the Rose the instrument of his ego. In so doing, he reduces reality to a game and he reduces the lives of others to fictions, to entities which have no free will. He is "so far removed from the pains and torments of the world" that he sees death as "an academic exercise" (G 236). Grimus' detachment might thus be seen as a 65 degradation of Attar's notion that the universe—and everything within it—is irrelevant once one reaches mystical union with God."'1 The Rose in Grimus suggests Dante's Blessed Rose, which is a meeting-place of souls (or human dimensions), as well as the rose of Persian and Turkish poetry, which attracts the souls of those who would fly into spiritual realms: Since [the rose] reveals divine beauty and glory most perfectly, the nightingale, symbol of the longing soul, is once and forever bound to love it—and the numberless roses and nightingales in Persian and Turkish poetry take on, wittingly or unwittingly, this metaphysical connotation of soul-bird and divine rose. (Schimmel 299) Given Rushdie's use of Eliot, the Stone Rose might also be seen in light of the rose in Four Quartets. Eliot concludes his long poem by affirming that "All manner of thing shall be well / When the tongues of flames are in-folded / Into the crowned knot of fire / And the fire and the rose are one" (223). In Grimus Flapping Eagle's passionate union with Media accompanies the destruction of the dysfunctional God-Object (the Cracked Rose) and replaces it with the fire of their deified union. One might say that just as Eliot's "spectre of a Rose" becomes a "symbol perfected in death" at the end of his poem (220), so the mystical potential of Rushdie's Rose becomes possible once its imperfect form has been destroyed at the end of the novel. In the same manner, the mystical potential of Attar's Impossible Qaf surfaces once Flapping Eagle destroys Grimus' dystopic Calf. The beauty of this symbol lies in its "Impossibility," that is, in the notion that it surfaces only in the space which no longer exists. 3 1 Attar expresses himself in the following hyperbolic manner: "If you should see the world consumed in flame, / It is a dream compared to [mystical union], a game; / If thousands were to die here, they would be / One drop of dew absorbed within the sea; [...] If all the worlds were swept away to hell, / They'd be a crawling ant trapped in a well; / If earth and heaven were to pass away, / One grain of gravel would have gone astray; [...] And if the nine revolving heavens stop, / Think that the sea has lost a single drop" (185-186). 66 In The Perforated Sheet, Parameswaran enumerates the similarities between Rushdie's Rose and Borges' Zahir. She notes that the Aleph is "the object or abstraction through which one can control the Dimensions" and that the Zahir, "though literally a rose, is also 'the shadow of the rose and the rending of the veil'": Rushdie uses the Dance of the Veils in the final denouement; he combines the qualities of Aleph and Zahir in his rose: the Aleph gives a miraculous vision of the universe and the Zahir eclipses everything. (61). Apart from noting several minor similarities between Borges' Aleph and Rushdie's Rose,3 2 Parameswaran also notes that Borges uses Arabic and Persian allusions—in particular, he alludes to a Persian who "speaks of a bird which is somehow all birds" (61). Rushdie's use of the Rose, the Simurg and Qaf demonstrate interest in a mystical God, one which is not definable or manipulable. A deep and recurrent strain of his thinking is summed up in Virgil's following aphorism: "If there were no god, we should have to invent one [and] since there is a Grimus, he must be destroyed" (G 101). Rushdie is not denying a mystical God who is forever beyond human conception; rather, he is suggesting that humans generally fail to conceive of such a God. People create an anthropomorphic, finite or otherwise manipulable God, they realize the limitations either of this God or of those who take advantage of "Him," and they eventually feel they must destroy their creation. Virgil's aphorism reflects Rushdie's wit as well as his doubt about his doubt. The conditional phrase, "If there were no god," also anticipates his more developed explorations of doubt in j 2 "The Aleph is in the basement of a house, and the Rose is in a secret room; the narrator arranges various objects in the room as instructed and gets a vision. The Rose in Grimus is a set of stone slabs that can be arranged and aligned in different ways. Among the many things that the narrator sees in the Aleph are "all the ants in the world" and a 'beach along the Caspian Sea'; Eagle, during his 700-year travel sees 'A beach on which a maiden had been staked naked, as giant ants moved up her thighs,' (G. p. 32)" (61). 67 Midnight '.v Children, where Aadam cannot wholly disbelieve in God, and in The Satanic Verses, where doubt results from a human reluctance to choose between belief and disbelief. ESCHATOLOGY AND COSMOGONY The death of Grimus and the continuing journey of Flapping Eagle and Media open wide the doors of cosmological and narratological speculation. The intercourse of Flapping Eagle and Media is crucial to the ending of the novel, for it confirms a series of Shaivite associations and it suggests that Flapping Eagle takes on Shiva's role as cosmic destroyer and creator. Because of the novel's disparate cosmological traditions, readers cannot be sure of Flapping Eagle's fate. Rushdie ends the novel in a clever manner by at once annihilating the setting and suggesting an infinite number of potential settings Prior to his confrontation with Grimus, Flapping Eagle states, "I must know that a way back exists: a way back to the place, world, dimension, whatever, that I came from" (G 192). Eventually, he abandons this goal of returning to his native setting, dimension or world. His "home" becomes the mountain of K, which is both the Mountain of Kaf and Mount Kailasa, the "home" of Shiva."" In his novel The Serpent and the Rope, Raja Rao suggests that Shiva exists in the mystical conjunction of personal and cosmic space: The Himalaya was like Lord Shiva himself, distant, inscrutable, and yet very intimate there where you do not exist. He was like space made articulate, not before you but behind you, behind what is behind that which is behind one; it led you back through abrupt silences to the recesses of your own familiar but unrecognized self. (42) Shiva has no real home as such, although his consort Parvati urges him to stay in one place. David Kinsley observes that on one occasion Shiva describes his house as the universe "and argues that an ascetic understands the whole world to be his dwelling place." Kinsley adds that philosophical arguments such as this '"never satisfy Parvati, but she rarely, if ever, wins this argument and gains a house" (48). 68 Rushdie also links his mystical mountain to an "unrecognized" part of the self: "Calf Mountain: as alien to [Flapping Eagle] as it was to the world he had known; and yet there was a similarity: a likeness of self and mountain" (G 45). As has been noted above, Qaf and God are at once impossibly far away and yet closer than the jugular vein. There are numerous reasons for associating Calf Mountain with Kailasa and Flapping Eagle with Shiva. Apart from previously discussed references to Calf as lingam (G 55-56), to the "bone of K" (G 89), to "erotic asceticism" (G 172) and to Media as Parvati, Flapping Eagle's status as "the Destroyer" links him to Shiva. Flapping Eagle derives his name from the Eagle, the Amerindian symbol of "the Destroyer" (G 46), and Grimus tells Flapping Eagle, "Your Ionic Pattern [...] is the strongest destructive pattern I have ever seen" (G 234). Shiva is likewise identified with destruction. In The Myths and Gods of India, Alain Danielou calls Shiva "the embodiment of lamas, the centrifugal inertia, the tendency toward dispersion, toward disintegration and annihilation" (190). Flapping Eagle's mountain of K is both the Sufi mountain of Kaf, which "brings an end to all rhyme" (G 133) and the mountain of Kailasa, where Shiva's intercourse with Parvati is so intense that it shakes the universe. Finally, Flapping Eagle makes love with various women—especially Media—just as Shiva makes love with various women, who are "media" in that they are the matter and energy Shiva uses in his cosmic constructions. Shiva is the principle of spirit or purusha and his consorts embody the principle of nature (prakriti) and the related principle of energy (shakti) (Kinsley 49). Rushdie suggests the notion of femininity representing the combination of these principles when Elfrida and Irina "become one, joined by the intercession of his love" and when their names become fused into "Elfrina, Irida" (G 171 -172). 69 Media is the perfect match for Flapping Eagle because she can lend herself to many forms and because his union with such an archetypal "woman" emphasizes the creative power of the Hindu god. Media tells Flapping Eagle she is "a woman who can cope with [him]" (G 187), meaning, I believe, that she is like primal energy and matter which can transform itself in order to create innumerable forms of existence Before re-creation occurs, however, Flapping Eagle and Media enter into a destructive mode—one which constitutes the novel's sexual, eschatological and textual climax: Deprived of its connection with all relative Dimensions, the world of Calf Mountain was slowly unmaking itself, its molecules and atoms breaking, dissolving, quietly vanishing into primal, unmade energy The raw material of being was claiming its own. So that, as Flapping Eagle and Media writhed upon their bed, the Mountain of Grimus danced the Weakdance to the end. (G 253) While Shiva is often seen as the god of death and destruction, he is also "the reproductive power, perpetually creating again that which he destroys" (Danielou 206) Because Shiva exists at the juncture of being and non-being, and because he is "the link between the impersonal-substratum (brahman) and the causal-divinity (ishvara)" (Danielou 190), he can reproduce himself and other forms of existence from his own death. He is, in this sense, Born-from-Dead, which is the name given to Flapping Eagle at birth.3 4 Conflating Attar's union and annihilation with Shiva's destructions and creations creates a slight problem, given that Islam and Hinduism are not generally seen as compatible. Islam does not envisage a universe which is continually destroyed and created: Flapping Eagle's other name, Joe-Sue, might also be seen as an allusion to Shiva-Shakti or the Ardhanarisvara form, which is "half male, half female," also symbolized by the union of the lingam and yoni (Danielou 203). 70 The idea of continuous emanation [evident in Platonic and Hindu cosmology] in contrast to the unique divine act of creation was considered, by both Muslim and Christian mystics, to be incompatible with the Biblico-Koranic idea of a creatio ex ttihi/o. (Schimmel 5) I would argue, however, that Grimus is a novel very much concerned with incompatibilities— especially with the paradoxes of mysticism and with the conundrums of multidimensionality. Throughout his fiction and his essays Rushdie demonstrates a deep interest in fusions and hybridity. He argues fervently against the idea that traditions or people can—or even ought to—remain "pure." He believes in "change-by-fusion, change-by-conjoining," and he argues against "the apostles of purity, those who have claimed to possess a total explanation" (IH 394) Rushdie's cosmological conflation also serves a narrative purpose: he follows Attar's schema throughout most of Grimus, yet he emphasizes Shiva toward the end in order to suggest that Flapping Eagle's journey has a multitude of cosmogonic directions. The emphasis on Shiva also reintroduces the struggle between fixed meaning and chaos which came up in Koax's establishment of infinite dimensionality. By associating Flapping Eagle with Shiva, Rushdie aligns his protagonist with what O'Flaherty sees as dominating Hindu myth: "the tension between variety and pattern" and "the resolution of chaos into order, and its dissolution back into chaos." Against the Apollonian structure of transforming chaos into order, "there flows another, Dionysian, current in Indian thought, which views the act of creation as the transformation of order into chaos" (1975:12-13). Like Koax, Rushdie is interested in extending the arenas in which the ordering game can be played. Shiva's infinite destructions and creations raise the possibility that there will be no final ordering and that there will be an eternal struggle between the forces of chaos and order. 71 By destroying the Rose and by having sex with Media, Flapping Eagle enters a nebulous sea of dimensions. The structures and paradigms which partially defined him are no longer definitive and even the paradigm of Shiva must be left behind. While the circularity of Hindu cosmology seems appropriate to Flapping Eagle's fate, it too has an aspect of closure: it may be seen as "a closed system, a 'world-egg' with a rigid shell, so that nothing is ever 'created' ex nihilo, rather, things are constantly re-arranged" (O'Flaherty 1975:13). If universes are eternally re-arranged, if they are continually created and destroyed, where is the possibility of cessation? Such a possibility must be admitted if one is to entertain all possibilities. To insist on the eternity of Flapping Eagle's quest would be to fix him in an ever-changing pattern, an eternal series of scenarios which themselves become a fixed pattern —albeit a very fluid one. Perhaps this is why Rushdie keeps Flapping Eagle's future vague. Rushdie suggests Shiva because Shaivite cosmology appears to open more possibilities than the relatively linear cosmologies of Christianity and Islam. Yet to insist on this Hindu element would be to go against the main thrust of the novel, which is to contextualize individual transformation within a stream of otherworldly constructions and to suggest that the soul can sail forward, beyond that stream. Rushdie ends Grimus with a conflation of Sufi, Dantean, Germanic and Shaivite constructions and this conflation helps to suggest—by its very looseness and variety—an open-ended future for his characters. Among his other novels, only Haroun and the Sea of Stories depicts a cosmos in which otherworldly constructions syncretize in such optimistic harmony. In both novels, conflation encourages readers to think associatively and imaginatively and the notion of open-endedness is emphasized by appropriate otherworldly constructions: in 72 Haroun the fusion of Attar's flight and Somadeva's Ocean highlights notions of eternal flow and transformation; in Grimus the inconclusive conclusion remains even more of a speculator's fantasy, given that Attar's poetry is intentionally allusive and evocative, Dante's Paradiso stresses the inability to find metaphors for heavenly experience, the Voluspd vaguely suggests a new realm, and Shiva suggests an infinite and indefinite variety of cosmic constructions. Although the "climax" of Grimus suggests heaven and bliss, the narrator also suggests very early in the novel that Flapping Eagle (as narrator) is not a liberated or happy man: "Bird-Dog had always been a free spirit. I say this with some envy, for I never was, nor am" (G 17). Various interpretations present themselves, none of which is conclusive, and all of which may be based on according too much importance to this early comment Nevertheless, one might say that Flapping Eagle attains a moment of perfection with Media, a moment which can hardly be matched by subsequent experience. More than with Elfrida and Irina, Flapping Eagle is, at the end of the novel, at the point of both "denial and consummation, standing at the peak, from which the only direction was down" (G 172). Thinking in terms of the Divine Comedy, one might see Flapping Eagle's fate as a return from the light-filled realms of Heaven to the obscure forest of this world. Keeping in mind Attar's Qaf, one might note that Attar's pilgrim returns to the mundane world after his union and annihilation. In The Satanic Verses the sherpa Pemba warns Allie that "it is not permitted to mortals to look more than once upon the face of the divine" (SV 303). Given the Hindu references in the text, one might conclude that Flapping Eagle remains on the wheel of death and rebirth, and that after his heavenly experience with Media he will proceed to a less exalted state of being. This fits 73 with the references to Germanic myth, for the afterlife in Gimle is not nearly as exciting as the heroic battles and the eschatological chaos which precede it. Referring to existence after Ragnarok, Puhvel notes that as "with the postconflict Mahabharata, life has gone out of the story, for paradises, posthumous or postcataclysmic, are almost by definition dull places of marginal mythic interest. [...] Norse cosmology begins with fire and ice [...and] culminates with a bang in fire and water and ends as divine epigones whimper about the days that are no more" (220). One might also see the conclusion of Grimus as the initial, heavenly point in a cosmic cycle which starts with a heavenly unity in Grimus, progresses into fallen, divided, demonic states in Midnight \s Children, Shame and The Satanic Verses, and returns to cosmic unity in Haroun. It is thus appropriate that after the heavenward, unifying climax of Grimus we arrive in the first chapter of Midnight's Children at the beginning of a new cosmological cycle, one starting with the annihilation of a great-grandfather amid thirty species of birds, and with the fall of a man called Aadam. 74 CHAPTER 3 MIDNIGHTS CHILDREN: THE ROAD FROM KASHMIR In terms of otherworldly constructions, Midnight's Children differs from Grimus m several fundamental ways: the otherworldly elements are largely rooted in history and "real-life" detail, the protagonist's journey toward meaning and mystical unity is not a triumphant success, and otherworldly constructions are not conflated to underscore the achievement of any tolerant or multidimensional state of the world or cosmos. Rushdie's use of otherworldly constructions in Midnight's Children is at once provocative and challenging, not so much in the high modernist or Eliotic sense of offering readers a chance to decipher the way in which they form an integrated structural pattern, but in the sense of disorienting readers and making them examine the reasons behind the lack of conflation, unity and coherence. Given the instability and unpredictability of otherworldly constructions in the novel, it is impossible to delineate or uncover a consistent otherworldly structure, although I will argue that Saleem's search for unity and meaning is expressed in terms of the following otherworldly constructions and dynamics: a fall from, and a potential return to, the "Eden" of Kashmir; a mystical union represented by the ornithological figures of the Hummingbird, the Hoopoe and the paramahamsct, a Magic Jungle which resembles a Hell and a Purgatory; and an incessant clash between figures such as the Hummingbird and Ravana (the mystical bird and the demonic monster), Padma and Schaapsteker (the lotus goddess and the snake man), Aadam Sinai and General Shiva (the new Aadam and the priapic god of destruction), and Durga and the Widow 75 (the life-nourishing goddess and the tyrant who appropriates O M and Bharat Mata). Rushdie's use of cosmology, mythology and mysticism in Midnight's Children thus suggests both the destruction of hopes and ideals and the possibility of social and spiritual regeneration. Whereas in Grimus Rushdie fulfills the otherworldly expectations hinted at throughout the novel, in Midnight's Children he sets up otherworldly expectations and then proceeds to ignore, change and only sometimes fulfill them. In a 1984 interview with Scripsi Rushdie says that Midnight's Children "sets up the expectation of a family saga and then puts a bomb under it" by revealing that the family in question is not Saleem's family." Rushdie also literally puts a bomb underneath the family by blowing it up "with a quarter of the book still to go" (119). Likewise, Rushdie plays with expectations set up by otherworldly constructions. For instance, Saleem initially suggests that his Midnight's Children's Conference (modelled on Attar's mystical Conference) will "give meaning to it all" (MC 127). When he writes, "I am the bomb in Bombay ... watch me explode!" (MC 174), readers are led to believe that this explosion will be an eclat de joie, an exclamation of vive la difference! Yet at the end of the book, Saleem repeats the phrase, "watch me explode," in a much darker context: Shiva and the Angel are closing closing, I hear lies being spoken in the night, anything you want to be you kin be, the greatest lie of all, cracking now, fission of Saleem,T am the bomb in Bombay, watch me explode, bones splitting breaking beneath the awful pressure of the crowd. (MC 463) Saleem's "bomb" comes from many sources and may represent many things, yet ultimately it is the English meaning (bomb) which supersedes meanings based on similarities to bom bahia (Portuguese for "good bay"), Mumbadevi (a Koli goddess), and Bhimadeva or Bimba (a fourteenth-century king) (Moraes 12). Contrasting the harmony he tries to bring to India with the havoc Shiva wreaks, Saleem asks, "Was Shiva's explosion into my life truly synchronous 76 with India's arrival, without prior warning, at the nuclear age?" (MC 406-407). Beginning as a symbol of Saleem's desire to join in the construction of the new nation, and ending as a symbol of General Shiva's destructive power, Saleem's "bomb" dramatically advances the notion that India has not lived up to Nehru's midnight ideal of building "the noble mansion of free India" (MC 118) This failure is not overwhelming, however, for it is in some measure undermined (pun intended) by hints of a tragic mystical meaning, one based not on defeating violent and coercive forces, but in retaining lofty ideals in the face of defeat. Rushdie's decision not to supply Midnight's Children with a clear or optimistic conclusion and his decision not to conflate otherworldly constructions makes sense given the proximity of the times about which he writes, and given the divisive role religion has played, and continues to play, in the subcontinent. Because Saleem's story ends in the late 1970s--more or less synchronous with the novel's completion in June 1979 (Hamilton 102)~Rushdie could not possibly have made any final statement about the political or spiritual health of his amazingly diverse subcontinent. Much less could he have predicted what historical direction the subcontinent might take in years to come. Even now we are too close to the subcontinent evoked in Midnight \s Children to evaluate Rushdie's depiction of it. Or, as Rushdie puts it: "In fifty years time, when what Mrs Gandhi did has become a historical event, the book will either get worse or better; fortunately I don't know and I don't have to, but it won't stay the same" (Rushdie with Scripsi 112). The lack of unity or conflation in the novel is also a function of its subject matter, for Rushdie bases the story of Saleem's life on a history characterized by increasing political and religious divisions. The diverse elements in the subcontinent, especially those pertaining to Islam and Hinduism, could not be neatly 77 reconciled or conflated without ignoring Partition, the separation of East from West Pakistan, the continuing ethnic and religious clashes, and the possibility of future conflict and division.1 In contrast to Flapping Eagle's mystical, iconoclastic journey into a unifying multidimensionality, Saleem's journey into the diversity of subcontinental geography and history could not become the basis of a conflated narrative structure without entering the realm of fantasy—something that after Grimus Rushdie was very reluctant to do. Rushdie's decision to root Midnight's Children in the "real world" was a conscious one. He calls Grimus "a kind of fantasy novel set in an imaginary island, out of space and time." He suggests, "one reason Midnight's Children is so obsessively rooted in a particular place and with dates and times all the way through is because I felt that I wanted to really anchor myself in that way to something and to write from closer to myself (Rushdie with Phillips 18). In his interview with Scripsi, he says that Grimus is "a fantasy in the sense [he] now disapprove^] of, a fantasy without any roots in the discernible world" (125). In this interview Rushdie also acknowledges his debt to Dickens, who grounds the unreal in the real: Dickens puts his "Circumlocution Office down in an absolutely credible London street [....] [T]he circumstantial detail is so well-observed that it's impossible not to believe that the place existed, because it is kind of described into existence." Rushdie likewise grounds Midnight's Children in "circumstantial information" so that he can then "implant the insanity and it would 1 In his February 1995 interview with Phillips, Rushdie notes that The Moor s Last Sigh is a leave-taking from the ideals of a secular India, "where religion is so important that if you allowed it to enter the fabric of the state then the partition riots would happen all the time." He makes an explicit link between his latest novel and Midnight's Children when he claims that what "impelled" The Moor's Last Sigh is that "the thing whose beginning Midnight s Children described, is coming to an end." He adds that, in addition to religious divisions, "you have this odd growth of nationalisms, sometimes linked to Hinduism, sometimes purely regionalist—which is an echo of something happening across Central Europe" (21). 78 seem to fit because the other stuff would give it ballast and weight" (116). In particular, Rushdie grounds the unreal or mystical aspirations of Saleem in a realistic or "discernible" Bombay. The main exceptions to this geographic realism are the Rann of Kutch and the Sundarbans. As I argue in "The Forces of Death and Regeneration," the Rann's phantasmagoric atmosphere is a product of propaganda while the Magic Jungle of the Sundarbans is a hellish and purgatorial realm, an otherworldly dimension which has a geographical correlate yet which remains an other world of the afterlife. The grounding of Rushdie's second novel in history and geography, in real time and space, was probably enhanced by his personal experience of the subcontinent. In particular, the disparity between the way he depicts a lively, eclectic India and the way he depicts a depressing, repressive Pakistan may have been enhanced by the trip he took with Clarissa Luard after he completed Grimus. Hamilton comments on this five-month vacation, highlighting the sentiments of Rushdie's girlfriend and future wife: The proofs of "Grimus" reached him in Karachi. He also, on this trip, saw Bombay again, and Delhi and Kashmir, the places of his childhood. "I loved India!" Clarissa exclaims. "The people , the smells, the colors, the history, the architecture!" She was less thrilled with Pakistan, where on at least one occasion she and Rushdie had stones thrown at them. "I wasn't dressed badly," Clarissa says. "I knew about the country and I was wearing long skirts. But I wasn't wearing the dupatta" In one town, a driver tried to run them down. (Hamilton 101). After his marriage in 1976, Rushdie wrote Madame Rama, whose "main character bears some resemblance to Indira Gandhi, whose state-of-emergency repressions had left Rushdie disillusioned and indignant" (Hamilton 102).2 This perhaps partly explains why Rushdie is not 2 Madame Rama was never published. Rushdie offered it to Gollancz, "but, to his surprise, Liz Calder turned it down. Tt had some great stuff in it,' she concedes, and points out that 'he plundered it'" in writing Midnight s Children (Hamilton 102). 79 entirely black and white in his depiction of a stultifying Pakistan and a progressive India. One should also note that Rushdie's 1965 summer visit to Karachi coincided with the fighting between India and Pakistan, and that he had personal experience of Pakistani censorship when he stayed briefly in Karachi after finishing at Cambridge in 1968.3 Midnight's Children is also grounded in the "real world" in another way: Saleem and his family bear some resemblance to Rushdie and his family. In his interviews with Haffenden and Scripsi Rushdie delineates several of the similarities and the differences. In the latter interview he says: "Saleem doesn't feel like me to me at all. We have things in common, things that have happened to me happen to him." He adds that he introduces a character named "Rushdie" into the novel (in the episode at Saleem's school dance) for a specific reason: "I thought I'd make a Hitchcock-like appearance in order to prove [Saleem] wasn't me" (117). Rushdie's transformation of his parents and grandparents into fictional characters who became more interesting the more they differed from the originals was also illuminating: Rushdie comments on his reactions to the 1965 hostilities: "I didn't particularly feel India was my enemy, because wed only very recently come to Pakistan. And yet if somebody's dropping bombs on you, there is really only one reaction that you can have toward them, which is not friendly" (Hamilton 96). Rushdie sums up his position vis-a-vis the way people from these two nations might view his writing: "In Pakistan there is suspicion because I'm Indian and in India because I'm Pakistani. Both sides wish to claim me. Both sides find it hard that I don't reject the other side" (Hamilton 105). Rushdie also had difficulties with Pakistani censorship when he arrived there after travelling overland (via Iran) in 1968: "Before production could begin [on a televised version of Edward Albee's Zoo Story.) there had to be a series of 'censorship conferences.' An Albee remark about the disgustingness of pork hamburgers was seized on by the censors. "Pork,' they said, is a 'four-letter word.' Rushdie argued that Albee's hamburger remark was 'superb anti-pork propaganda' and should stay. '"You don't see," the executive told me.... "The word 'pork' may not be spoken on Pakistan television." And that was that.' He also had to cut a line about God being a colored queen who wears a kimono and plucks his eyebrows" (Hamilton 97) While Rushdie's experiences with censorship appear to have left him feeling bitter, he nevertheless supplies a lively account of him being required (as an actor in the above play) to use a knife which was not retractable, and of the background noise, provided by chants of an Urdu-language crowd which had marched on the TV station (Rushdie with Phillips 17). 80 "It was like discovering that you have to make things up" (118). His comments suggest that the fascination of Midnight's Children lies not only in the way it is grounded in realistic detail, but also in the way it takes off from the real world, much as Dickens' Circumlocution Office takes off from the "circumstantial information" in which it first appears to be rooted. The most important ways in which Rushdie deviates from the real world in Midnight's Children is in his depiction of the Magic Jungle (which I return to in the last section) and in his subtle, extensive use of a mythic cycle which starts in the "Eden" of Kashmir. This cycle gives the novel a vague otherworldly shape, thus complementing the more worldly or linear shape given it by the chronologies of history and autobiography, and the more literary shape given it by the use of leitmotif4 While this mythic shaping is less obvious than the chronological and leitmotif shaping, it can also be found throughout the novel, and it, unlike the others, leaves traces of optimism even after one has finished reading the final scene, which is at once hypothetical and pessimistic. 4 In his use o f leitmotif, Rushdie does what he praises N u r r u d i n Farah for doing in the novel Maps: "Farah weaves a web o f leitmotifs drawn from folk-tales and from dreams" and his remaking o f history "meshes with nightmare and myth to form the basis o f a new description o f the world, and offers us new maps for o l d " ( I H 202). Referring to his own use o f the silver spittoon in Midnight s Children, Rushdie comments on the way leitmotif or a "non-rational network o f connections" supplies a loose sort o f unit\ to Midnight's Children: "The meaning o f the leitmotif is the sum total o f the incidents in which it occurs. So it accumulates meaning the more it is used. A n d what one is able to do by using the leitmotif is to orchestrate what is otherwise a huge mass o f material, which doesn't always have rational connections, but the leitmotif can provide this other network o f connections and so provide a shape" (Rushdie in Kunapipi 3-4). In her chapter, "The Perforated Sheet: Metaphor as Method and Meaning," Parameswaran demonstrates how leitmotifs such as the perforated sheet, holes, leakages, blows, p i c k l i n g and chutnification help give shape to the novel. Because my focus is on otherworldly constructions, I w i l l not dwell on Rushdie's use o f such motifs, or on his extensive pairing o f personal and national chronologies. Parameswaran examines the latter in "Handcuffed to History. Salman Rushdie's A r t " and "Autobiography as History: Saleem Sina i and India i n Midnight s Children" A r u n a S r i v a s t a v a s "'The Empire Writes Back': Language and History i n Shame and Midnight's Children" is also helpful in contextualizing Rushdie's two novels about South A s i a within subcontinental historical frameworks. 81 Rushdie makes extensive use of a "fall" from mythical unity to historical division as well as a potential "return" to an original state of unity. Aadam's refusal to bow to God in Kashmir separates him from both the "certainties" of his Muslim heritage and the mystical possibilities suggested by old Aziz sahib's "annihilation" amid his "thirty species of birds." Saleem inherits the uncertainty of Aadam Aziz's Fallen World, and it is thus appropriate that Rushdie leaves his readers asking the question, Will Saleem complete the mythic cycle by marrying Padma and by honeymooning in Kashmir? A host of worldly and otherworldly factors come into play, many of them as ambiguous and inconclusive as the mythic cycle itself. In attempting to evaluate the fate of Saleem and his nation, one might weigh the positive influence of figures such as the Hummingbird and Padma against the negative influence of figures such as Ravana and Schaapsteker. While Saleem's ideals of mystical "conference" and of return to "the paradise of Kashmir" appear defeated by figures such as General Shiva and the Widow, his suggestion that the future will be as rich and perplexing as the past, and his references to Scheherazade's fate and to Attar's annihilation, supply some cause for optimism. I do not, however, want to give the impression that the otherworldly shape provided by the above mythic cycle is not problematic, not in a sense contradicted by other notions of mythic circularity. Aadam Aziz's fall fits into the Islamic and Judeo-Christian scheme of "the Fall from Eden," yet Saleem also tumbles pell-mell into the Dark Age or Kali Yuga of Hindu cosmology, an Age which Saleem sums up as "the worst of everything" (MC 194). Saleem claims that it is due to Kali Yuga that the Midnight's Children are "always confused about being good" (MC 200). If readers focus on the notion of Kali Yuga, which Saleem tells us began in 3102 B.C. and lasts 432,000 years (MC 194), then there appears to be no relief in 82 sight from the divisive violence which has characterized recent history.5 As Saleem and his nation proceed further into the darkness of Kali Yuga, Saleem 's physical and spiritual demise appears increasingly imminent. If, on the other hand, readers focus on the notion of a Fall from Eden, they can read optimism or a return to Paradise into Saleem's fate, especially since Rushdie evokes a "thirty-first chapter," as well as a possible return to Kashmir with Padma and "the new Aadam." Rushdie employs the above Hindu and Muslim schemes yet he refuses to clarify either the relation between them or their application to Saleem's precarious existence in Mary's pickle factory. These ambiguities do not, however, weaken the novel. Rather, they complement Saleem's confused and equivocal (one might even say multivocal) state of mind, as well as his mixed heritage and his vague aspirations to "encompass" the hectic diversity of his nation. Among critics of Midnight's Children, Chelva Kanaganayakam provides one of the most helpful examinations of the relation between Midnight's Children's narrative structure and Rushdie's use of Hindu cosmology and mythology. In "Myth and Fabulosity in Midnight's Children," he argues that Rushdie sets twentieth-century India "against a backdrop of the timelessness of myth," and that myth has "the function of unifying and structuring all the fragments which constitute the novel" (88).6 Kanaganayakam argues that the consistent presence of Hindu myth gives consistency or "unity" to the novel and that 5 While the darkest Age thus lasts 432,000 years, a minute degree of comfort might be found in the notion that the happier Ages (which will come again and again) last for 1,728,000, 1,296,000 and 834,000 years (Danielou 249). 6 Srivastava makes a related point in regard to Mohandas Gandhi's view of history, which includes a mythic element subsuming "synchronic and diachronic historical axes": "Both the synchronic and diachronic, archaeology and chronology, are placed on the vertical axis, while a transcendent concept of history must also encompass, along the horizontal axis, what Gandhi calls myths and mythologies, or fictions" (71). 83 Saleem's mythic inversions and distortions are themselves consistent with life in Kali Yuga. Because Saleem lives in this Dark Age, his distortions, inversions and inconsistencies are themselves consistent with the debased times in which he lives. Kanaganayakam also argues that Rushdie restores or "rights" certain mythic inversions by the end of the novel. For instance, Parvati initially remains at odds with Shiva, yet she eventually follows the pattern of Hindu myth and gives birth to a Ganesh-eared child by Shiva.7 This instance of "righting" is not without ambiguity, however, since Parvati leaves Shiva to live with Saleem, and since she converts to Islam before their marriage. Midnight \s Children also contains a number of instances where no "righting" occurs: "Hanuman" remains unheroic (he exacerbates rather than foils the designs of the evil Ravana) and Saleem's "Buddha" remains unenlightened even after sitting under his bodhi tree. In arguing that myth gives unity to Midnight's Children, Kanaganayakam emphasizes the distortion and inversion of mythological constructions and he allows for the return of constructions to their original forms. I think Kanaganayakam's reading is insightful and I am not disagreeing with him when I argue that otherworldly constructions in Midnight's Children are chaotic and intentionally ambiguous. I simply mean that they neither follow a consistent pattern of inversion (or of inversion and "righting") nor do they come together into the type of coherent, focused plot or narrative structure one finds in Grimus, Shame, The Satanic Verses and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The notion that we live in a dark, fallen, chaotic world where traditional otherworldly constructions are 7 Kanaganayakam sees numerous important uses of Hindu myth in Midnight s Children, whereas Brennan contends that the novel's "use of classical Indian myth relies above all on a single episode—the union of Parvati and Shiva." While Brennan claims that other mythic figures "are usually mentioned only in passing" (1989:109). he leaves out many of the mythological references in the novel. For example, in his analysis of Padma, he does not comment on her mythological associations with Padma/Shri/Lakshmi. 84 inverted, distorted and used inconsistently remains, within my terms of reference, indicative of chaos rather than coherence. Rushdie's inconclusive use of otherworldly constructions in Midnight's Children is particularly evident when one compares the ending of the novel with the ending of Grimus. Flapping Eagle's quest leads him to a single, focused location—the transcendent "peak" of Attar's Qaf. In contrast, Saleem's crisscrossing of the subcontinent resembles the flight of a confused and increasingly tired bird around a mountain that hosts a bewildering mix of good and evil beings. Because Midnight's Children contains abundant references to Hinduism, and because Saleem sees himself as the parctmahamsa, a Hindu yogi named after a famous swan,8 Saleem's "flight" might be seen to take place on Mount Meru, which Danielou calls the "meeting place and pleasure ground of the gods," a divine mountain which "overshadows the worlds above and below and across" and on whose slopes hosts of "gods, celestial musicians (gandhan'a), genii (asura), and demons (rakshasa) play with heavenly nymphs (apsaras)" (144-145). Rushdie himself compares the "architectural notion" of Midnight's Children to "the spire of the Hindu temple," which is "a representation of the world mountain" and which is "crowded [and] swarms with life, all forms of life" (Rushdie in Kunapipi 19). One might also compare the two novels in terms of Mount Kailasa, to which Rushdie alludes in both Grimus and Midnight's Children. Rushdie supplies Grimus with a sense of completion and closure when Flapping Eagle unites with Media in a cosmic dance strongly reminiscent of Shiva's union with Parvati on Mount Kailasa. In Midnight's Children no such sense of completion can be found: Saleem remains unable to make love with his wife Parvati and he is For Saleem's identification with this "yogic swan," see "Mystical Personas" below. 85 left a widower after she is killed in the slum-clearings which accompany the Emergency. Rushdie does, however, return to the possibility of a Muslim-Hindu alliance on the personal level when Saleem contemplates marriage with Padma, his Hindu lover. While Saleem forges strong ties with Parvati and Padma, he seems to think primarily in Muslim terms, often expressing his alienation and confusion by referring to Hinduism. Saleem tells his readers that he is born and raised in "the Muslim tradition" and that he finds himself "overwhelmed all of a sudden by an older learning," one strand of which posits reality to be a "dream-web of Maya" (MC 194). He uses the notion of Maya or Illusion to his advantage when he argues with those who think he is crazy: "If I say that certain things took place which you, lost in Brahma's dream, find hard to believe, then which of us is right?" (MC 211). He also uses Hindu epics to express his dismay at the confusing currents of history which are whirling around him. Saleem measures his account against the tales of Mary Pereira (MC 79), his ayah and patron, who repeats ancient stories about the "supernatural invasion" of ghosts and rak.sha.sas, and who finds "the old-time war of the Kurus and Pandavas happening right outside." Saleem calls these stories "rumours and tittle-tattle," yet he adds, "I remain, today, half-convinced that in that time of accelerated events and diseased hours the past of India rose up to confound her present" (MC 245). Mary's notion of a Hindu "invasion" and Saleem's notion that the Hindu past "rose up" suggest that, being Christian and Muslim, they do not feel entirely at home or comfortable with Hindu figures and scenarios. Given that I focus on the Hindu and Muslim constructions which dominate the novel, I should note that the distortion, ambiguity and unpredictability which characterize allusions to Islamic and Hindu constructions also characterize references to other religions and 86 mythologies Rushdie parodies the ideal of Buddhist detachment when Saleem enters an empty-headed "buddhahood," one of the few non-Hindu and non-Muslim references which I will later examine in some detail.9 Christianity often suggests a rather worldly or non-committed faith: Saleem refers to Tai's "bald gluttonous Christ" (MC 16), to "the Christians' considerately optional God" (MC 230), and to the Brass Monkey's "flirtation with Christianity" (MC 253). These references to Christianity fit with the general stereotypical polarity Rushdie sets up in Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses between the mysticism and magic of India on one hand and the positivism and realism of Europe on the other.10 Yet Christianity also suggests other things—from the refuge of "the hidden order of Santa Ignacia" (MC 316) and Mary's reassuring presence in the pickle factory to "the dreadful 9 In "Mystical Personas" I return to Saleem as "Buddha" and I examine Rushdie's use of the Sumerian moon god Sin. Also, in "Mythic Cycles" I take into account Saleem's references to the Gnostic god Abraxas. 1 0 After returning from Germany, Aadam Aziz rejects "the hegemony of superstition, mumbo-jumbo, and all things magical [that] would never be broken in India" (MC 67); Dr. Narlikar feels that Shiva-lingam worshippers represent "all the old dark priapic forces of ancient, procreative India" (MC 176); Saleem says that Schaapstekers brains are pickled by the "ancient insanities of India" (MC 257). This stereotypical polarity is continued in The Satanic Verses, where Mirza's Western-influenced ideas resemble those of Aadam Aziz: Mirza expresses an "imported European atheism" (SV 238); his Mercedes Benz is seen as a symbol of his impure Western materialism (as is Aadam Aziz's pig-skin medical bag); he makes statements such as "Trust in Western technology" (SV 485) and he argues against the "mumbo-jumbo" (SV 232) of "God-bothered type[s]" (SV 238). 87 logic of Alpha and Omega" (MC 123).11 In general, Rushdie's non-Muslim and non-Hindu constructions12 are integrated neither with each other nor with allusions to Islam or Hinduism. Rushdie's use of magic and the supernatural resembles his use of otherworldly constructions deriving from cosmology, mythology and mysticism in that they all underscore Saleem's confusion and equivocation. On some occasions, Saleem insists on the truth of events that defy the laws of physics: he insists that Parvati makes him disappear and that he subsequently learns "how ghosts see the world" (MC 381). On other occasions he undermines supernatural events: Amina realizes that, instead of levitating, Ramram Seth is sitting on a protruding shelf. Yet this debunking of magic is then followed by a further incursion into otherworldly logic: Ramram makes an accurate (though at first confusing) prediction outlining the decisive events in Saleem's life. When Saleem asks if Ramram is a "huckster, a two-chip palmist, a giver of cute forecasts to silly women—or the genuine article, 11 This latter reference is to both Saleem's blood-type (which confirms that he is not genetically part of the Sinai family) and to Saleem's fear of death, to his fear of dissolution at the hands of the Black Angel (and at the knees of Shiva). Other references to Christianity include those to Mary's "good Christian folk," who ought to remain apart from communalist fighting because the communalists are "Hindu and Muslim people only" (MC 105), to a Jesus who takes on the blue colouring of Krishna so that he will be more comprehensible in the land of the blue god Krishna (MC 103, 136), to Saleem's questioning of Christ's resurrection (MC 211), and to Mary's fear of the notion (accepted by Ahmadiyya Muslims) that "the tomb of Lord Jesus" lies in Kashmir (MC 245). 1 2 Among the non-Hindu and non-Muslim references which I do not examine elsewhere are the ones made to Khusrovand's cult, which employs Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and anti-Jewish propaganda (MC 267-269). This cult results from the early illumination of Saleem's friend Cyrus or "Fair Khusrovand," and it parodies cults, hyperbolic religious language and the use of science to promote religion Khusrovand's cult may also parody the Iranian Sohrawardi's mysticism of Light. Quoting Corbin's Histoire de la philosophie islamique, Mircea Eliade observes that Sohrawardi's vast oeuvre "arises from a personal experience, a "conversion which came upon him in his youth.' In an ecstatic vision, he discovered a multitude of the "beings of light whom Hermes and Plato contemplated, and the heavenly radiation, sources of the Light of Glory and the Kingdom of Light (Ray wa Khorreh) which Zarathustra proclaimed, toward which a spiritual rapture lifted the most faithful king, the blessed Kay Khosraw" (Vol. 111:142). 88 the holder of the keys9" (MC 86), he is asking a difficult question, one which can be applied to Saleem and to his wavering claim to hold the key or meaning to his own story. Saleem not only supplies contradictory claims about supernatural events, but he also questions his own reliability.1. This metafictionalizing complements the multi-valent, problematic exploration of otherworldly constructions in the novel. For instance, Rushdie employs a debunking strategy when his Saleem writes that Aadam saw God (MC 38, 67, 275-276) and that Mary saw the "full-fledged ghost" of Joseph (MC 205) yet later reveals that what they saw was in fact the leprosy-ridden body of Musa (MC 280). Notwithstanding his contradictory claims and his metafictionalizing, Saleem exhibits a fairly consistent belief in palmistry, astrology, telepathy, Parvati's invisibility and Soumitra's ability to foretell events by travelling in the "spidery labyrinths of Time" (MC 229, 254, 435). Given that the otherworldly constructions in Midnight's Children do not supply the novel with a clear sense of direction, meaning or structure, it is not surprising that Rushdie builds into the novel elements which help it to cohere, to hold together as a work of literature. Apart from using history, autobiography, leitmotif and a mythic cycle starting in the "Eden" of Kashmir, Rushdie supplies his narrative with a sense of coherence by employing a literary style deriving in part from the Hindu oral tradition, which is replete with references to magic, cosmology, mythology and mysticism. Rushdie acknowledges his debt to this oral tradition, the elements which he stresses being those of oral narrative, Ganesh as a "patron deity of 1 3 He tells readers that he distorts events so that he can take a starring role in his nation's history. He admits to a "lust-for-centrality" (MC 356) and confesses that he "persists in seeing himself as protagonist" (MC 237). He also refers to his own "inflated macrocosmic activity" (MC 435) and admits that he "entered into the illusion of the artist and thought of the multitudinous realities of the land as the raw unshaped material of [his] gift" (MC 174). 89 literature" and "the spire of the Hindu temple" (Rushdie in Kunapipi 6-10). Saleem's claim to model his writing on Mary's oral tales (MC 79) suggests that his fluid, rambling, myth-laden story has much in common with that of the widow who narrates Raja Rao's Kanthapura (1938), a village-eye view of Indian history in the days of Gandhi's Satyagraha. K.R. Iyengar's comments on the narration of Rao's "elderly widow" could in many ways apply to both Mary and Saleem: the manner of her telling too is characteristically Indian, feminine with a spontaneity that is coupled with swiftness, vivid with a raciness suffused with native vigour, and exciting with a rich sense of drama shot through and through with humour and lyricism. The villager in India is an inveterate myth-maker, and he has not lost his links with the gods of tradition: the heroes and heroines of epics jostle with historic personalities, and time past and time present are both projected into time future. (390) Saleem's spontaneity, raciness, humour and mix of time frames, as well as his jostling of gods, heroes and historic personalities, certainly puts him in league with the myth-makers of Hindu oral tradition. The idea of a myth-maker is particularly appropriate since Saleem not only borrows myths but constantly integrates mythic elements into the histories of his family and nation. Midnight's Children also owes some of what narrative unity it possesses to The Arabian Nights, the tenth-century Indian and Arabian collection of stories alternatively titled The Thousand and One Nights. Following Scheherazade, Saleem fights his demise (which he sees as a physical and metaphorical "cracking up") by telling a very long story in which there are many interconnected smaller stories. This reflects the narrative design of The Thousand and One Nights, which has a fixed frame story (Scheherazade tells the despot Shahriyar stories for 1001 nights and is then released from her narrative bondage) yet no fixed internal organization. Given this similarity, one might infer that the exact relationship between 90 Saleem's jumbled stories is not as important as the beginning and ending of his story. This raises further complications since Saleem's attempt to arrive at his origins merely points to his muddled ancestry, consisting of Kashmiri, Indian, English, French, Muslim and Hindu origins. One might wonder, for instance, how much of Saleem's nature derives from Methwold and Vanita, the British father and Hindu mother who are his biological parents? Saleem's "ending" is equally confusing: his imagined dissolution (MC 462-463) remains at odds with the equally convincing (or equally unconvincing) fiction in which he lives in Mary's pickle factory and in which he may return to the Kashmir of old Aziz sahib and Aadam Aziz. While Rushdie himself imagines Saleem dying at the end of the novel,14 he writes the ending in an ambiguous manner. One can make a strong argument that with the help of Padma, who ignores "the implacable finalities of inner fissures" (MC 384), Saleem may become whole again. Saleem's imagined demise is also debatable from another angle: he realizes that it is an illusion to think that "it is possible to create past events simply by saying they occurred" (MC 443), yet he feels compelled "to write the future as [he has] written the past, to set it down with the absolute certainty of a prophet" (MC 462). Saleem's "certainty" about his demise remains as hypothetical as any other thirty-first chapter scenario, one which could begin with, "No, that won't do. In fact, I never saw Shiva... " In depicting Saleem's open-ended fate, Rushdie creates a variant of the "lines of flux" in Grimus (G 235) and he anticipates "the 1 4 The story "is on Saleems part a sort of heroic attempt to reconstruct his picture of the world. He's writing when he knows the end, and he's trying to say 'this is how I thought it was' and at the end of the book he again has to say "it wasn't like that' and then he dies. I mean, it's not overt in the book in any way but that's how I thought about it" (Scripsi 119). I think Rushdie is missing a chance here to explore the ambiguity he has built into his ending, to explore the reasons behind thinking about the final scene (which Saleem imagines) in another way. 91 parallel universe of history" and "the parallel universes of quantum theory" in Shame and The Satanic Verses (S 64, SV 523). Rushdie further complicates Saleem's fate—and the outcome of his narrative—by combining hints of Scheherazade's release with hints of Attar's mystical annihilation. Saleem's speculation that "the purpose of Midnight's Children might be annihilation" (MC 229) gains mystical significance when one remembers that Saleem at the end of the novel is thirty years old, that he writes thirty chapters or "pickle jars," and that he leaves readers with the image of an empty or "annihilated" thirty-first pickle jar. Just as Scheherazade is set free by the magical logic of her 1001 nights, so Saleem may be set free by the magical logic of his "thirtyjars and ajar" (MC 461). A MYTHIC C Y C L E In order to appreciate the potential for regeneration in the novel—suggested by Saleem's empty thirty-first pickle jar, by his partnership with Padma, and by the forceful personality of the "new Aadam"—one must take a close look at Rushdie's subtle references to Attar's conference, unity and annihilation. These references are situated within a mythic cycle, one which starts with old Aziz sahib and which ends (or does not end) with Aadam Sinai. Rushdie begins the cycle in Kashmir, yet he leaves it open as to whether or not it will come full circle in Kashmir. On the worldly level, Rushdie suggests Saleem's disintegration, yet on a symbolic otherworldly level he suggests that Saleem may survive his "annihilation." Rushdie also hints that Saleem's enterprise of invigorating and unifying the nation will be carried on by his son, whose regenerative power derives from the fact that he is the son of 92 Shiva, from his status as "the new Aadam," and from his identification with the god Abraxas. Moreover, Rushdie suggests a link between Aadam Sinai's powerful, god-like personality and Saleem's potential union with Padma. The first word the new Aadam utters is not "abba" (father), but "cadabba," which reminds Saleem of the "cabbalistic formula derived from the name of the supreme god of the Basilidan gnostics, containing the number 365, the number of the days of the year, and of the heavens, and of the spirits emanating from the god Abraxas" (MC 459). Clearly Aadam shares Saleem's urge to control the shirting tides of history, to encapsulate the world around him. The continuation of Saleem's ideals are thus subtly hinted at when, after Padma proposes marriage, the "moths of excitement" stir in Saleem's stomach, and her words take on a magical power, "as if she had spoken some cabbalistic formula, some awesome abracadabra, and released [him] from [his] fate" (MC 444). The starting point of the mythic cycle in Midnight's Children is the primal, paradisiacal unity represented by both Kashmir15 and Saleem's great-grandfather, old Aziz sahib. The "mystical unity" of Saleem's great-grandfather is treated ambiguously, for he sits "hidden behind the veil which [his] stroke had dropped over his brain" (MC 12). Rushdie may be implying that the veiling of his rationality allows him to enter a mystical state and that he The association of paradise with Kashmir is by no means unambiguous, for the boatman Tai is also associated with a mythical yet not a paradisiacal Kashmir. Tai claims to have met Christ (MC 16) as well as a soldier in Alexander's army (MC 18), and he resembles Charon when he ferries Use to her death (MC 30). While Tai remains somewhat peripheral to Saleem's family history and to the Sufi constructions which are associated with Saleem's genealogy, his loud personality provides an effective contrast to the anonymity of old Aziz sahib. Tai's less than tolerant view expresses itself in his antipathy to anything foreign, an antipathy which anticipates the stubborn ethnocentrism of Aadam's wife Naseem. Tai's view that Aadam's pig-skin medical bag "represents Abroad [,] the alien thing, the invader, progress" (MC 21) also anticipates the xenophobia of the Satanic Verses' exiled Imam, who fears that "the evil thing might creep into [his heavily curtained] apartment: foreignness, Abroad, the alien nation" (SV 206). 93 has thus begun his final journey toward God. Or, Rushdie may be playing good-humouredly, associating senility with the beginning of a mystical journey and making the dropped veil accomplish what the lifting of the veil usually accomplishes—a vision of God. 1 6 In any case, the dropping of the veil puts old Aziz sahib into a "mystical senility," a spiritual state comically modeled on Attar's conference of thirty birds: in a wooden chair, in a darkened room, he sat and made bird-noises. Thirty different species of birds visited him and sat on the sill outside his shuttered window conversing about this and that. He seemed happy enough. (MC 12) Saleem later evokes a humorous combination of senility and Sufi "annihilation" when the old man sits "lost in bird tweets" (MC 14), is "deprived of his birds," and dies "in his sleep" (MC 28). Saleem also refers to old Aziz sahib's birds when he tells us that his great-grandfather's "gift of conversing with birds" descended "through meandering bloodlines into the veins" of his sister (MC 107). Jamila "talked to birds (just as, long ago in a mountain valley, her great-grandfather used to do)" (MC 293). When Jamila sings for Major Alauddin Latif, other birds stop "chattering," people stand awed in the streets, and the Major starts crying (MC 313). On another occasion Saleem points to the poetic and mystical associations of her singing: I listened to her faultless voice [...] filled with the purity of wings and the pain of exile and the flying of eagles and the lovelessness of life and the melody of bulbuls and the glorious omnipresence of God. (MC 293-294) This "flying of eagles" recalls the flight of Flapping Eagle in Grimus and anticipates the birds in the upper reaches of the Sundarbans, who are so high in the Jungle that they "must have been able to sing to God" (MC 361). 1 6 Eva de Vitray-Meyerovitch comments that "Allah has 700 (or 70 or 70,000) veils of light and darkness. If he [sic] was to take them away, the splendour of His face would certainly consume the one who would see Him." She also notes that the mystical imagery of Attar's seven valleys leading to Qaf Mountain "can be compared to the one of the 70,000 veils which separate man from the Creator" (94). 94 Attar's "conference" of thirty birds is transmitted from generation to generation, from happy old Aziz sahib to feisty Aadam Aziz, whose return to Kashmir is more a leave-taking than a homecoming. As his name suggests, "Aadam" is the first man in this family history to confront the divisions which characterize the fallen world (Aadam Aziz's name also alludes to the Muslim doctor who retires to Kashmir at the end of E M . Forster's/l Passage to India)11 Aadam's desire to bring Hindus and Muslims together into a tolerant conference is evident in his support for the Hummingbird's Free Islam Convocation,18 a forerunner to Saleem's Midnight's Children's Conference. Both congregations fail as a result of violence: the Hummingbird is murdered by the "six new moons" and "six crescent knives" of the Muslim League (MC 47) and the Midnight's Children are silenced, confined and sterilized by the Widow with her muzzles, shackles and scalpels (MC 435-440). Aadam reacts against the divisive zeal which is the nemesis of the Hummingbird's Convocation when he ejects the tutor who teaches his children "to hate Hindus and Jains and Sikhs and who knows what other vegetarians" (MC 42). His antagonism to religion, which separates Indians, reaches an extreme of its own when in "the iconoclasm of his dotage" he lashes out "at any worshipper or holy man within range" (MC 277). His final act is to steal 1 7 Rushdie's re-introduction of a Muslim doctor named "Aziz" suggests that while England forced Indians to the margins of their own history, Indians reclaim centre-stage, and Indian writers set the scene. 1 8 In The Perforated Sheet Parameswaran identifies the historical figure behind Rushdie's fictional Hummingbird: "While the Muslim League was firmly established and intent upon the creation of Pakistan, Sheikh Abdullah, a Kashmir Muslim, founded the Muslim National Conference, which leaned towards Gandhi's undivided India and against the Muslim League. Sheikh Abdullah lived long after Independence, but Rushdie's Mian Abdullah, founder of Free Islam Convocation, is killed by six assassins, 'six crescent knives held by men dressed all in black,' but before he dies there is a supernatural aura given to him" (23). In Shame Mahmoud's death is also accompanied by the supernatural—"a sound like the beating wings of an angel" (S 62). The Hummingbird and Mahmoud both fight against the communalism which eventually rips the subcontinent in two. 95 the sacred lock of Muhammad's hair from the Hazratbal Mosque and bring it into the Hindu temple of Shankara Acharya (MC 277-278). This act can be seen as a desperate, symbolic attempt to bring Hinduism and Islam together under one roof, especially when one recalls that the temple of Shankara Acharya has both Muslim and Hindu history associated with it. According to Saleem, the temple is built on "the hill which Muslims erroneously called the Takht-e-Sulaiman, Solomon's seat" (MC 278). One might note in passing that Attar's conference of birds derives from "the Koranic figure of Solomon, representative of the mystical leader who was able to converse with the soul birds in a secret tongue" (Schimmel 306). Rushdie may or may not be suggesting a link between "Solomon's seat" and Attar's conference, yet Aadam's act may be seen as an attempt to make Hinduism and Islam come together or "converse." Also, Aadam's desperate act takes place on what one might call "a mountain of K," given that in Grimus and Haroun "K" refers to Attar's Kaf and that in Haroun "K" also refers to Kashmir. The same temple which has Muslim associations is also the site of a Hindu temple which contains "the shrine of the black stone god" (MC 11), at which Aadam finds women performing "the rite of puja at the Shiva-lingam" (MC 278). While one can link the temple further with Shiva—"Shankara" or "the Giver of Joy" is one of Shiva's names (Danielou 202)—the temple is named after the eighth century Shankara, the major exponent of non-dual Vedanta (Advaita Vedanta). This link to Shankara is appropriate given Aadam's abhorrence of communalism, for in his Advaita philosophy Shankara envisages a transcendental unity in all things. Aadam's fall from religious certainty and his subsequent battles with God initiate the downward arc of the mythic cycle in the novel. Aadam Aziz's "failure to believe or disbelieve 96 in God" (MC 275) derives largely from his education in the West, where his friends mock "his prayer with their anti-ideologies" (MC 11).19 His fall from religious certainty is expressed in general religious terms as well as in specifically Islamic terms: his refusal to continue performing his morning prayers echoes in general what John Milton in Paradise Lost calls "Man's First Disobedience" (PL 1. I),20 while his refusal to touch his head to the soil (or clay) more particularly echoes Iblis' unwillingness to bow before Aadam, God's first human creation (Iblis feels that since he is made of fire he is superior to man, who is made of clay). Aadam Aziz's resolve never to "kiss earth for any god or man" is laden with ambiguity, for, in rejecting the miraculous or otherworldly, rubies and diamonds drop miraculously from his nose and eyes (MC 10). Most important, Aadam's rebellion has the same tragic consequences as those suffered by Iblis: both rebellions begin a protracted, losing battle against God. The mythic cycle in Midnight's Children is depicted mostly in terms of patrilineage, yet Saleem's mother Amina also inherits Aadam's fallen world, one in which Hindus and Muslims remain divided and antagonistic. Just as Aadam fights Muslim separatism by supporting the Free Islam Convocation in Agra, so Amina stands up to fellow Muslims by defending Lifafa Das' right to ply his trade in a Muslim part of town. Rushdie makes the link 1 9 Aadam does not. however, capitulate to an Orientalism in which India "had been discovered by the Europeans." Saleem comments that "what finally separated Aadam Aziz from his friends" was their belief "that he was somehow the invention of their ancestors" (MC 11). In Midnight s Children Rushdie's strategy seems to lie in marginalizing Europe from Saleem's account of Indian history. Apart from the raging Zagallo, whose Peruvian ancestry is dubious (MC 230), Methwold is the only representative of European imperialism we see in any detail, although what we see of him is ambiguous. What, for instance, is the meaning of his final, toupee-lifting wave? Schaapsteker plays an ambiguous yet largely occult role, and he too is a peripheral figure, one who is assigned to an attic and who remains instrumental in, rather than the focus of, Saleem's "diabolic" plans. 2 0 Milton's version is close to the Islamic one, in which the responsibility for eating the forbidden fruit "lies not with man but with Iblis, the Devil, who tempted Adam" (Glasse 23). 97 between father and daughter explicit: at the moment she turns against her neighbours in order to protect the harmless Hindu itinerant, "something hardened inside her, some realization that she was her father's daughter" (MC 77).21 Amina's refusal to demonize those who are culturally and religiously alien to her surfaces when, following Lifafa into the old city, she confronts her fear of the Others (Hindus, magicians, the poor) who live on "the wrong side of the General Post Office." These Others initially seem to comprise "some terrible monster, a creature with heads and heads and heads" (MC 81), yet Amina does not succumb to her fearful, demonizing imagination. Instead, she realizes that it is her fear that makes her see these people as monsters: "T'm frightened,' my mother finds herself thinking" (MC 81). She learns very quickly to discard the "city eyes" which are blind to poverty (MC 81) and to see that the powerless masses have little to do with the type of evil communalist monster that terrorizes her husband and threatens to kill Lifafa Das. Amina's defense of Lifafa Das is important to Saleem's larger mystical concerns, for Lifafa's peepshow represents the vision of a unified subcontinent, the vision which old Aziz sahib could take for granted, which Aadam and his Hummingbird failed to maintain, and which Saleem attempts to retrieve. The ideals of interreligious unity encouraged by Amina and Lifafa remain antithetical to the social evil—symbolized by the Hindu demon Ravana— which divides Hindus from Muslims. Lifafa's peepshow thus serves as a prototype for the 21 The modem, secular sensibilities of Saleem's mother and maternal grandfather may have been suggested to Rushdie by his own family: "Rushdie always speaks with warmth of his maternal grandfather, and Dr. Butt does seem to have been unusually enlightened for the time. A medical doctor, he had seen to it that his daughters got an education, and he never required them to observe purdah. When Zohra divorced in order to many Anis (who was himself a divorce), the arrangements were handled by her father. It was his idea that her new marriage contract should give her the right to divorce: a practice normally enjoyed only by the husband" (Hamilton 92). 98 All-India Radio and the Lok Sabha (Lower Parliament) in Saleem's brain. The peepshow anticipates the Conference in Saleem's brain, and his cry, "See the whole world, come see everything!" (MC 75) anticipates Saleem's cry, "I am the bomb in Bombay ... watch me explode!" (MC 174). Lifafa shows his fellow citizens a microcosm and Saleem's brain becomes a microcosm, yet both Lifafa and Saleem are almost destroyed or "blown away" by the very diversity they attempt to embrace. Shame contains a similar scenario: communalists kill Mahmoud by blowing up the theatre in which he attempts to "show" both sides of India by playing Hindu and Muslim movies back to back—a screening which becomes "the double bill of his destruction" (S 62) One of the more ominous and mythicized indications that Aadam Aziz and his children exist in a Fallen World is the presence of a fiery communalist demon, the result of whose evil actions is pointed to in Lifafa's newspaper photo of "a fire at the industrial estate" (MC 76). This fire is the work of the extortionist gang, Ravana, named after the most infamous of the Hindu demons or rakshasas22 Lifafa's picture of the fire and Saleem's fabulous cloud in the shape of a pointing finger both serve to link the Ravana gang that sets fire to Ahmed's warehouse to the Muslim mob that threatens Lifafa in Amina's muhalla or neighborhood.23 2 2 Danielou notes that the "ten-headed Ravana, who ruled over Lanka and was the enemy of Rama, is the most celebrated king of the rakshasas" who "take any form they like," who "are children of darkness who wander at night" and whose ""rule is unchallenged until midnight" (309-310). Saleem's Midnight's Children are bom after midnight and most of them seem to have little in common with the rakshasa demons. The darkness associated with the pre-midnight reign of the rakshasas seems concentrated in Shiva, who is bom closest to midnight. 2 3 A cloud shaped like a pointing finger forms as a result of the Ravana gang's burning of a Muslim industrial estate, and this cloud then hovers over Ahmed in the Red Fort. Literally "hanging around in the background of [his] own story" (MC 74), Saleem follows this same cloud to the old city, where "the insanity of the cloud like a pointing finger and the whole disjointed unreality of the times seizes the muhalla" (MC 76). 99 Given that Saleem titles his chapter "Many-headed Monsters," and given that this chapter deals with the Hindu Ravana and the Muslim lynchmob, Rushdie seems to be suggesting that the Muslim mob is merely a less organized version of the Ravana gang. Rushdie may also be suggesting that by extorting money from Muslims, Hindus create a twisted, nightmarish version of Hindu mythology, one in which the heroic monkey king Hanuman exacerbates the harm caused by the demonic Ravana. Balancing his attack, Rushdie also suggests.that by persecuting the defenseless Lifafa Das, Muslims prove themselves to be anything but valiant soldiers for Allah. Amina shames her neighbours by crying out, "What heroes! Heroes, I swear, absolutely! Only fifty of you against this terrible monster of a fellow! Allah, you make my eyes shine with pride!" (MC 77). Instead of living up to their ideals of tolerance and heroism, Rushdie's Hindus and Muslims create a demon which, like Frankenstein's monster, turns upon those who are responsible for its creation. Rushdie is fond of this type of dynamic in which worldly intolerance and coercion create a violent and scourging otherworldly force. He employs such worldly-otherworldly poetic justice effectively in Saleem's episode in the Sundarbans, where the four Pakistanis are punished by houris-cum-apsaras for their part in persecuting East Bengalis, and in Shame, where Raza is hounded by the Beast created by his own tyranny and repression. Amina marks a continued struggle with the violent forces of a fallen world, while her husband marks a low-point and also a turning-point in the cycle which begins with old Aziz sahib's annihilation and Aadam Aziz's fall. Initially, Ahmed compounds Aadam's alienation 100 from Islamic tradition by drinking alcohol—the fiery spirits or "djinns" in his gin bottles24—and by making sexual advances to his secretaries. His lasciviousness prefigures Saleem's search for impurity in Karachi—a search which leads Saleem to the ancient crone Tai Bibi and to the realization that he desires his sister. Ahmed's possession by a fiery, djinn-like anger also has a devastating effect on the mystical Conference in Saleem's head: when Saleem tells his father about the voices in his head, Ahmed exhibits "wild anger" and strikes a "mighty blow" that sends Saleem into "a green, glass-cloudy world filled with cutting edges," a "swirling universe in which [he] was doomed, until it was far too late, to be plagued by constant doubts about what [he] was for" (MC 165). Ahmed's violence exacerbates Saleem's fear of meaninglessness, and it has the immediately debilitating effect of turning Saleem's potentially coherent Conference into a confusing babble. Ahmed's initially debased or fallen nature can also be seen in his "dream" of re-arranging the Qur'an (MC 82, 133). This dream is not shared by Muslims in general, many of whom "believe that the ordering of the chapters and verses was itself divinely inspired" (Esposito 25). Ahmed's dream sets a precedent for 2 4 Djinns are not always fiery or lustful, although they tend to be so. In his study of The Arabian Nights. Irwin notes that "the evil djinn are descendants of Iblis, while the good djinn are the offspring of the six angels who did not fall" (204). Like Awn (whose study on Iblis crops up repeatedly in my chapter on The Satanic Verses), Irwin notes that Iblis is often considered to be "the Father of the Jinn" (205). In Midnight s Children djinns reflect the ugly anger of Ahmed, in The Satanic Verses they take on a more powerful association with Iblis, and in Haroun Iff the genie is a helpful and likable sprite. Although conjectural, one might see a rather bizarre transformation of the dark or disgusting side of djinns in Haroun. In legend, djinns "haunted lavatories," and in one of the tales in The Arabian Nights a character is conducted by Iblis "to the land of the jinn, via a magic exit concealed in one of the lavatories of the caliph's palace" (204-205). In Haroun Iff is first sighted by Haroun in the bathroom, where he is reluctantly disconnecting the link between this world of stories and the fabulous Sea of Stories on the moon Kahani (H 540). 101 Saleem, who flouts the dietary—and "literary"—laws of halal, and who advances the notion that other prophets at the time of Muhammad should not be considered "false simply because they are overtaken, and swallowed up, by history" (MC 305). Rushdie is treading on sacred ground here—ground he treads with heavy boots in The Satanic Verses--although he writes with playful hyperbole when Saleem claims that "future exegetes" will "inevitably come to this present work, this source-book, this Hadith or Purana or Grundrisse, for guidance and inspiration" (MC 295). By juxtaposing Karl Marx's materialist Grundrisse (his early ground-plan of Marxism)26 with the sanctified religious accounts of Muhammad's life (Hadith) and the post-Vedic stories of the gods (the Puranas), Rushdie may be humorously suggesting Saleem's confused mix of materialist and spiritual viewpoints. In addition to occupying a debased, fallen place in family history, Ahmed signals a turning-point in the mythic cycle which start with old Aziz sahib's "annihilation." Redirecting her love from Nadir Khan (who represents a low-point or nadir in the prospects of Muslims in India)27 to Ahmed, Amina replaces the anger of Ahmed's djinns with the laughter of her love: under Amina's care, he returned not to the self which had practiced curses and wrestled djinns, but to the self he might always have been, filled with contrition and forgiveness and laughter and generosity and the finest miracle of all, which was love. (MC 297) 2' Saleem claims to be "the first and only member of [his] family to flout the laws of halal" (MC 59). By "the laws of halal" Saleem means not so much the type of laws Gibreel breaks in The Satanic Verses when he gorges himself on pig meat (SV 30) as the treatment or "digestion" of forbidden topics. 2 0 In his Introduction to Marx's Grundrisse David McLellan observes that the "thousand-page manuscript" of Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Okonomie is "the most fundamental of all Marx's writings" (Marx 14). It is thus a canonical or fundamental text, as are the various texts of the Hadith and the Puranas. 2 7 Like Nadir, who hides in the depths of Aadam's Agra basement, Ahmed suffers as a result of the Hummingbird's failure to keep Muslims firmly within the fabric of India: Ahmed is persecuted not only by the criminal Ravana gang, but also by the legitimate Indian government, which seizes his assets after the State Secretariat "got the whiff of a Muslim who was throwing his rupees around like water" (MC 134). 102 Ahmed's redemption through love suggests the Sufi paradigm in which even the frightening djinn Iblis can be redeemed by the power of love.28 Saleem's fate vaguely parallels Ahmed's redemption in that he starts with grand ideas of mystical unity, he falls into demonic and depraved states (he is possessed by his own two-headed demon and he falls in love with his sister) and he eventually receives a redeeming measure of love from Parvati, Padma and Mary. In terms of the overall mythic cycle in Midnight's Children, one might say that old Aziz sahib enjoys bliss and unity in Eden (Kashmir), Aadam disobeys God and consequently falls into a violent and divided world, Ahmed and Saleem live degenerate lives yet are redeemed by love, and Aadam Sinai (the new Aadam) heralds a return to the Kashmiri Paradise of old Aziz sahib and Aadam Aziz. Rushdie goes out of his way to associate the new Aadam with the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Convinced of his own "approaching demise" (MC 446), a worn-out Saleem sees post-Emergency India (symbolized by the new MCC, the Midnight Confidential Club) as a dark "nightmare pit in which light was kept in shackles and bar-fetters." Yet in this darkness Aadam Sinai's ears burn "with fascination; his eyes shone in the darkness as he listened, and memorized, and learned ... and then there was light" (MC 454). In emphasizing this cosmogonic reference I do not mean to ignore Aadam Sinai's potential selfishness (he is after all the son of Shiva) or his potential to fall (he is named after Aadam Aziz). My point is that Rushdie suggests a movement from the darkness of non-existence (Saleem's death) to the " As Al-Jann, Iblis is the father or originator of the djinns (Awn 31). Schimmel comments that in "some mystical circles something like a rehabilitation of Satan was attempted." She then outlines the way Iblis is depicted as a great monotheist and lover (of God) by al-Hallaj, Sana'i, Ahmed Ghazali, Attar, Sarmad, and Shah Abdul-Latif (194-195). Peter Awn takes an in-depth look at this rehabilitation or redemption in his study, Satan s Tragedy and Redemption: Iblis in Sufi Psychology (1983). 103 light of existence (his son's life), and that this light is associated with a state of exalted grace (like that of old Aziz sahib) which also carries with it the possibility of falling from grace (as does Aadam Aziz). If or when the new Aadam trips, his fall will be a hard one, for in identifying himself with the powerful Gnostic god Abraxas he expresses an exaggerated form of Saleem's "inflated macrocosmic activity" (MC 435). Aadam Sinai can also be situated within a Hindu context, given that his natural father is Shiva. Kanaganayakam contends that Aadam's birth, modelled as it is on the birth of Ganesh (the son of Shiva and Parvati), "brings in a ray of hope " He adds that there is "the suggestion that good is born out of evil and that the present collapse might lead to a future unity" (92). Yet there is also the suggestion that the new cycle started by Saleem's son will run its course and that this cycle will repeat itself ad infinitum. For "until the thousand and first generation, until a thousand and one midnights have bestowed their terrible gifts and a thousand and one children have died," Indians will continue to be "sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes and to be unable to live or die in peace" (MC 463). Rushdie thus intimates that Saleem, his ancestors and future generations may be on a giant wheel, one which may turn towards an optimistic future or towards "the worst of everything." In this sense Midnight's Children mirrors both the optimistic future of Flapping Eagle in Grimus and the pessimistic "new cycle of shamelessness and shame" in Shame (S 276-277). THE SNAKE MAN AND THE LOTUS GODDESS Another major otherworldly dynamic in Midnight's Children is the opposition between "the snake man" (Dr. Schaapsteker), who threatens Saleem's existence in Mary's 104 pickle factory, and the "lotus goddess" (Padma), who encourages this existence. The dynamic between the snake man and the goddess can be related to the above mythic cycle in that the snake man characterizes the Fallen World and the goddess augurs a return to the Paradise of Kashmir. This dynamic also anticipates the otherworldly dynamics which I will explore in the last two sections, for the coercion, division and violence associated with the snake man can be seen in Shiva, the Widow and the Pakistani generals, while the life-supporting qualities of the goddess can be associated with figures such as Durga and with the regenerative tidal wave in the Sundarbans Jungle. A "sibilant old man" who thinks of himself as "another father" to Saleem (MC 257-258), Dr. Schaapsteker believes the "superstitions of the Institute orderlies, according to whom he was the last of a line which began when a king cobra mated with a woman." Saleem calls him "a mad old man" and says that "the ancient insanities of India had pickled his brains," yet he also suggests that Schaapsteker's knowledge is not that of a deluded old man: Saleem insists that the professor's occult medicine saved him from typhoid and he finds that the two-headed demon Schaapsteker conjures within him is very effective in exacting revenge on Lila Sabarmati. As with the account of old Aziz sahib's "mystical annihilation," it is difficult to say exactly what status to ascribe to the account of Schaapsteker's demonic powers. An old man who talks to birds and then is deprived of their discourse is not senile if one sees Attar's paradigm as a mystical truth and not as a figment of the imagination. Likewise, an old man who can conjure a demon inside a willing victim is not senile if one sees demonic possession as more than a mere metaphor for an immoral state of mind. This may seem an idle distinction to many Westerners, for whom much in theology has been reduced to the status of 105 superstition, yet possession remains a viable concept to many Indians, especially to unskeptical Indians such as Padma, Saleem's ostensible audience. Saleem's use of Schaapsteker's snaky logic leads him to think and act in a diabolic manner, a manner which eventually threatens his very existence in Mary's pickle factory. Seduced by the logic of the snake man, Saleem adopts a reasoning reminiscent of the snake in the Garden of Eden: he challenges "the unchanging twoness of things, the duality of up against down, good against evil." He argues that the game of snakes and ladders lacks "one crucial dimension," that of the ambiguity which makes it "possible to slither down a ladder and climb to triumph on the venom of a snake" (MC 141). Saleem changes the rules of snakes and ladders to a point where he can no longer distinguish between good and evil, and this has disastrous consequences when he acts on the belief that he can use evil means for good ends. Lashing out at the adulteress Lila Sabarmati (and indirectly at his mother, who is having a rather chaste affair with Nadir Khan), he aligns puritanical rationalization with violence. In so doing, he becomes more vicious than the woman who is the object of his vituperative frenzy: 'Loose woman,' the demon within me whispered silently, 'Perpetrator of the worst of maternal perfidies! We shall turn you into an awful example; through you we shall demonstrate the fate which awaits the lascivious.' (MC 258) In a similar manner, Dawood in Shame and the Imam in The Satanic Verses align extreme religious zeal with diabolical violence. Yet unlike Dawood or the Imam, Saleem eventually sees that his puritanical violence hurts himself as well as those he loves. Saleem's falling in with the demonic snake leads indirectly to the death of his uncle Hanif,2 9 whose struggle to create a realistic "pickle epic" mirrors Saleem's own struggle to " Schaapsteker encourages Saleem to strike from cover (MC 258), which Saleem does by sending an anonymous letter (composed of newspaper clippings) to Commander Sabarmati, informing him of his 106 find meaning in Mary's pickle factory. Remembering he is Aadam Aziz's son, Hanif fights "against everything which smacked of the unreal" (MC 243) and he rails "against princes and demons, against gods and heroes, against, in fact, the entire iconography of the Bombay film" (MC 244). It is not coincidental that the realist "pickle epic" (MC 243) Hanif writes for the Bombay screen is the story of a pickle factory similar to that owned later by Mary. By indirectly destroying "the high priest of reality" who "espouse[s] the cause of truth and put[s] illusion to flight" (MC 244, 271), Saleem unwittingly aligns himself with Homi Catrack, who does not take Hanif s "pickle epic" seriously (Catrack realizes that such an epic would not be a box-office success). The snaky thread which connects Schaapsteker to Hanif is significant because it suggests that Saleem's involvement with evil leads to the death of the man who constructs-and to the death of constructing~a pickle factory scenario. Rushdie plays a convoluted metafictional game here, for Saleem almost destroys the theoretical ground on which he might stand, walk, marry and lead a normal life. Saleem's involvement with the snake man thus eventually reinforces the traditional morality—the "twoness of things," the distinction between good and evil—that during his possession he attempts to subvert. Schaapsteker and Padma are antithetical both in their mythological associations and in the effect they have on Saleem's "existence" in the Bombay pickle factory. In The Perforated Sheet Parameswaran calls Padma "the archetypal Earth-Mother put through the Rushdie anti-romance wringer" (11). According to Saleem, Padma is named after the "Lotus Goddess" who "Possesses Dung" and who "grew out of Vishnu's navel." She is "the Source, the wife's affair with Homi Catrack (MC 260). Sabarmati's consequent murder of Catrack deprives Hanif (whose wife was previously having an affair with Catrack) of his income. Hanif then kills himself by walking off his roof (MC 271). 107 mother of Time" (MC 194-195). Parameswaran takes exception to Rushdie's association of dung with the goddess of Fortune: she says that dung has only "one meaning and that very definitely has nothing to do with the lotus or the goddess Lakshmi, one of whose names is Padma" (54). Parameswaran also notes that Saleem calls Padma a dung lotus "after a colloquial interpolation of a word that has beautiful connotations in Sanskrit," adding that "Rushdie is iconoclastic of both Hindu and Muslim beliefs" (40). While Rushdie distorts the attributes of the goddess, Padma's personality does not distort that of her namesake in the same way that General Shiva's brutish and lascivious personality distorts the attributes of his namesake. Rather, Saleem's momentary loss of Padma, resulting from his failure to perform as a lover and "to consider her feelings" (MC 121), echoes an episode in which Lakshmi disappears "from the three worlds" after Indra insults her: In the absence of the goddess the worlds become dull and lustreless and begin to wither away. When she returns, the worlds again regain their vitality, and the society of humans and the order of the gods regain their sense of purpose and duty. (Kinsley 27) In the novel, Padma's absence makes Saleem confused and "afraid of being disbelieved" (MC 166-167). Without her, Saleem is reduced to statements such as, "if it hadn't happened it wouldn't have been credible," or, "Padma would believe it; Padma would know what I mean!" (MC 140, 158). As in Hindu myth, Padma's return reinstates order, re-establishing the base from which Saleem can launch into his literary and philosophical flights: once again Padma sits at my feet, urging me on. I am balanced once more—the base of my isosceles triangle is secure. I hover at the apex, above present and past, and feel fluency returning to my pen. (MC 194) While Padma does not succeed in restoring Saleem's sexual potency, she restores his penis substitute, his pen. Kanaganayakam notes that Padma is "on the level of myth, the source of 108 life and the goddess of wealth," yet in the novel Padma is poor "and her main grudge is that Saleem is impotent and that she cannot bear his child" (91). This inversion might be seen as one of the reasons Padma is essential to Saleem's narrative: Saleem's attempt to respond to her fecundity results in the lively, profuse, rich stories which flow from his surrogate pen. Padma's association with the life-supporting goddess of Hindu myth can also be seen when, in her attempt to cure Saleem's impotence, she throws his "innards into that state of 'churning' from which, as all students of Hindu cosmology will know, Indra created matter, by stirring the primal soup in his own great milk-churn" (MC 193-194). Saleem may be referring here to myths in which "creation proceeds from an infinite body of primordial water" and in which "the milk ocean when churned yields valuable essences, among them, in most later versions of the myth, the goddess Shri-Lakshmi" (Kinsley 26-27). Despite the fact that Saleem sometimes mocks Padma's elevated mythic associations, Padma remains a "valuable essence" to Saleem Without her, he would topple into the mire of his own incredulity or lose himself in his own tangents, circles and baseless lines. In general, Padma supplies Saleem with a centripetal, gravitational force which counteracts the centrifugal nature of his thinking. Commenting on oral narrative, Rushdie asserts that "it frequently digresses off into something that the story-teller appears just to have thought of, then it comes back to the main thrust of the narrative" (Rushdie in Kimapipi 7). With her "ineluctable Padma-pressures of what-happened-nextism" (MC 39), Padma forces Saleem back to the main thrust of his story. This is ironically evident when Saleem reads to Padma his rambling list of the many aspects of the feminine Divine, a list which could include Padma's namesake. After reading the list, Saleem 109 receives the following response from his "lotus goddess": '"I don't know about that,' Padma brings me down to earth, 'They are just women, that's all'" (MC 406). While Brennan sees Padma "as an image of the Indian masses' gullibility" (1989:105), such a view depreciates the "Indian masses" as well as Padma, who is a lively, provocative character, one who at once brings Saleem down to earth and urges skeptical readers to ponder otherworldly meanings which may shake up their epistemological frameworks. One could argue that Rushdie makes fun of Padma and that therefore she cannot constitute a serious audience, let alone a challenge to skepticism. Yet one would have to ask, What character-including Saleem himself—remains unscathed or unparodied in the novel? I would argue that Rushdie does his best to make Padma, as much as anyone, seem a real presence. By not dismissing Padma, readers may more readily contemplate the ramifications of seeing the world with Padma's eyes. They may entertain the significance of feelings and thoughts which allow scope for such things as astrology, magic and myth. Such is the case when, after claiming that Naseem could dream her daughters' dreams, Saleem watches Padma for her response: (Padma accepts this without blinking; but what others will swallow as effortlessly as a laddoo, Padma may just as easily reject. No audience is without its idiosyncrasies of belief.) (MC 55) While Saleem admits his own fabrications, he also challenges his readers, for all of us have our "idiosyncrasies of belief " In addition, one ought to note that Padma's beliefs are not far-fetched in the light of Hindu myths in which people can dream other people's dreams and in which a god can be "the place where we all meet in our dreams, the infinity where our parallel lives converge" (O'Flaherty 1984:214). Padma reminds readers that the borders between reality and unreality, between truth and fantasy, are relative to cultural and personal 110 interpretation. When the betel-chewers of Agra say that omens "matter," Saleem implies that this is not merely an exotic fiction, for to someone like Padma they do matter. "Padma is nodding her head in agreement" (MC 47). And after Saleem claims that Parvati has "the true gifts of sorcery" (MC 378) and that he disappeared in her magic basket, Padma is surprised, yet asks, "So, [...] she really-truly was a witch?" (MC 381). It is because of—rather than in spite of—Padma's extremely flexible beliefs that Rushdie provokes his otherwise skeptical readers into considering the possibility of such things as omens, dreaming other people's dreams, invisibility and sorcery. One should expand this list to include Saleem's magical or mystical telepathy, which is the premise of the Midnight's Children Conference—that is, of Saleem's attempt to become the convener of a conference which will reflect and unify the disparate elements of his nation. From a positivist point of view, such telepathy and such a mirror are nonsense, yet when they are seen in terms of mysticism or in terms of Padma's open belief structure, they remain within the indeterminate realm of possibility. In this sense Padma resembles Grimus' Virgil, who keeps an open mind to the infinite possibilities of seen and unseen dimensions. While one could argue that Schaapsteker's occult perspective also opens the door to unseen dimensions, it is more important to observe that his snaky vision leads to the death of Hanif and thus tends to close the door which leads Saleem to a viable future. Padma, on the other hand, opens this door. MYSTICAL PERSONAS The struggle for meaning and unity is represented obliquely by the potential marriage of Saleem and Padma, and is represented more directly by Saleem's attempt to convene his I l l Midnight Children's Conference and by his identification with theparamahamsa and the moon god Sin. In the subcontinental context, where Muslims and Hindus are seriously divided, Saleem's attempt to don the personas of the Muslim Hoopoe (the convener of Attar's Conference) and the Hindu paramahamsa (also an ornithological mystical figure) is itself a statement, similar to the one Aadam Aziz makes by bringing a Muslim relic into a Hindu temple, and similar to the one Mahmoud makes in Shame when he screens a Muslim-Hindu double-bill. Like Mahmoud's fateful double-bill, Saleem's identification with the Hoopoe and the paramahamsa ends in failure. Yet it remains potent because it represents resistance to the forces of division. Rushdie also attacks Hindu-Muslim divisions indirectly and parodically by having Saleem identify with the moon god Sin and with the Buddha. These two figures represent detachment—in the case of Sin a positive detachment from communal conflicts, and in the case of the Buddha a negative detachment from (and a mindless compliance with) the anti-Hindu and anti-Bengali militarism of West Pakistan. Modelled on the Conference which Attar's Hoopoe convenes, Saleem's Midnight's Children's Conference aims at bringing a large and diverse number of souls together and directing them towards a common goal of freedom. Rushdie's use of Attar's bird-guide is subtle, as is his use of old Aziz sahib's conversation with thirty species of birds and Jamila's bird-like voice. In this sense Midnight's Children differs from Grimus, in which Rushdie makes his use of Attar explicit. While Grimus' egomania prompts him to proclaim his affinity with the Simurg (G 232), Saleem's disastrous announcement that he hears archangelic voices (MC 164-165) teaches him that speaking like a prophet can be dangerous. He learns that to keep secrets is "not always a bad thing" (MC 169). 112 Saleem also learns that the Midnight's Children are not destined for the type of unity and annihilation envisioned by Attar. Echoing his own fear of disintegrating into "six hundred and thirty million particles of anonymous, and necessarily oblivious dust" (MC 37), Saleem realizes that the Midnight's Children are "as profane, and as multitudinous, as dust" (MC 168). Saleem's Conference is composed of imperfect individuals, most of whom will never reach the goal of which Attar's Hoopoe speaks.30 Commenting on the imminent demise of the Midnight's Children's Conference, Saleem gives a nihilistic twist to Attar's annihilation: with the optimism of youth—which is a more virulent form of the same disease that once infected my grandfather Aadam Aziz—we refused to look on the dark side, and not a single one of us suggested that the purpose of Midnight's Children might be annihilation; that we would have no meaning until we were destroyed. (MC 229) Saleem entertains Attar's mystical paradox (that meaning can be found only once the self no longer exists) and gives it a tragic slant. This becomes clear when one compares the events in Saleem's chapter "Midnight" with the events at the end of Grimus: the Midnight's Children are separated, tortured and sterilized in the Widow's dark Hostel whereas Flapping Eagle and Media unite, find bliss and create a new cosmos on the top of a newly-liberated Qaf Mountain. This more tragic use of Attar is something Rushdie continues in Shame and The Satanic Verses, after which he returns in Haroun and the Sea of Stories to a more paradigmatic or optimistic use of Attar's mystical scheme. ' In Attar's Conference, "few perceive the throne" of God and "Among a hundred thousand there is one" who makes it to this throne (77). Saleem is among the many birds who struggle to find unity and who encounter pain and bewilderment along the way. Attar describes the plight of the struggling birds in the following manner: "How many search for Him whose heads are sent / Like polo-balls in some great tournament / From side to giddy side—how many cries, / How many countless groans assail the skies!" (34). 113 Saleem's identification with the Muslim Hoopoe is complemented by his identification with the Hindu paramahamsa,"1 which is also an ornithological mystical figure of unity and which also contains a mystical pun in its name: The goose or swan (hamsa) is the vahana or mount of Brahma. It swims on the surface of the water but is not bound by it. It is a homeless, free wanderer. It has a secret, for those who understand it, concealed in its name which in its inverted form, sa-ham, 'this-I' (i.e. 'this am F), epitomizes the whole philosophy of the Upanishads. In pranayama or breath control, the inhalation is said to make the sound of ham, the exhalation, sa. Hamsa is thus the sound of the living prana. Hence the emancipated saint is given the title of paramahamsa, 'highest swan.' (Walker 155) In having Saleem identify with both the paramahamsa and the Hoopoe, Rushdie may be entering into the spirit of the type of Hindu syncretism which allowed the image of the Simurg to be "assimilated" to the image of Vishnu's mount, Garuda.32 In identifying with the paramahamsa Saleem is not saying that he is God in the same way a Hindu mystic might say that his soul and God are one Yet since the Hindu mystic identifies with a God who encompasses and exists in everything,33 and since Saleem wants to encompass India, it is natural for him to try on the garments of such a mystic. Saleem's identification with the paramahamsa also makes sense in light of his sinus condition, for the paramahamsa adept 3 1 Saleem sees himself as the mystical swan, as "the hamsa or parahamsa, symbol of the ability to live in two worlds, the physical and the spiritual" (MC 223). He says he "shall take wing (like the parahamsa gander who can soar out of one element into another) and return, briefly to the affairs of my inner world" (MC 226). He does not mention the paramahamsa again until 78 pages later, when, after his sinuses are drained, he writes that his "connection" to the Midnight's Children has been "broken (for ever)" (MC 304). 3 2 "By an interesting transference the old Persian Simurgh, a great mythical bird used as a Sufi symbol of the highest divinely spiritual element in man, became known in India with the coming of Islam. Sometime after 1600 it was assimilated to an older image of a great vulture-bird called Garuda, whose chief earlier role had been to symbolize the celestial air and light upon which the high god Vishnu was borne" (Rawson 185-186). While Rushdie may or may not be aware of this use of the Simurg, he creates a Muslim-Hindu "transference" of his own when Saleem identifies with both the Hoopoe and the paramahamsa. 3 3 In the above context of the Upanishads this God would be Brahman. 114 uses pratiayama (control of the breath and the nasal cavities) to achieve personal liberation and mystical powers (Walker 155). Rushdie makes use (and makes fun) of the practice of pranayama when "[s]not rockets through a breached dam into dark new channels" and when "within the darkened auditorium of [Saleem's] skull, [his] nose began to sing" (MC 162). Finally, Saleem's depraved state in Karachi may be a degenerative twist of the paramahamsa as "anti-Brahmanic ascetic tradition," one which foreshadows "certain 'extremist' yogico-tantric schools" and one which makes "no distinction between differing mundane values" or "opposing moral standards" (Stutley and Stutley 219). After his sinuses are drained Saleem becomes a "grounded parahamsa" (MC 304), that is, his high-flying search for unity takes on a lower, left-handed direction. He becomes "convinced of an ugly truth—namely that the sacred, or good, held little interest" for him. Instead, "the pungency of the gutter seemed to possess a fatally irresistible attraction" (MC 318). Rushdie's use of the Hoopoe and the paramahamsa implicitly links Hinduism and Islam, while his use of the Sumerian moon god Sin represents an attempt to rise above communal conflicts. Saleem sees himself as Sin both when he is gripped by "the spirit of self-aggrandizement" (MC 175) and when he is in the grip of his own two-headed demon, his own "sin" (MC 261). The "Sumerian god of earth and air," Sin is associated with Sinai—Saleem's family name—and with an all-encompassing yet distant control of events: As 'lord of the calendar,' his cult exhibited monotheistic tendencies, since it was Sin 'who determined the destinies of distant days' and whose 'plans no god knows.' According to Genesis, Abraham hailed from Ur by way of Harran, both cities devoted to the moon god. In Arabia, Sin was also worshipped under various titles and it is likely that Mount Sinai, first mentioned in Hebrew texts about 1000 BC, was connected with moon-worship. (Cotterell 49). 115 Saleem appears to emulate Sin's inscrutability when he is gripped by the two-headed demon which secretly plots the downfall of Commander Sabarmati's wife. Saleem also attempts to determine "the destinies of distant days" by playing the role of "the ancient moon-god [who is] capable of acting-at-a-distance and shifting the tides of the world" (MC 175). Rushdie here uses the moon god to describe Saleem's active role in his story Whereas before his birth Saleem imagines himself moving passively with the cloud that floats from the industrial estate to Amina's muhalla, after his birth he sees himself as a moon god actively overseeing events, actively controlling the "ebb and flow" of subcontinental history. The cloud and the mythological figure are both supra-worldly entities, although the cloud points to the antagonism between Muslims and Hindus while Sin symbolizes a power beyond the Muslim-Hindu dichotomy. Rushdie makes it clear that his Saleem is choosing a construction deriving neither from his own religious tradition nor from that of the Hindus who surround him: "I became Sin, the ancient moon-god (no, not Indian: I've imported him from Hadhramaut of old), capable of acting-at-a-distance and shifting the tides of the world" (MC 175). Saleem's identification with Sin signals his belief that he can influence the course of Indian history, yet with the benefit of hindsight he sees this "self-aggrandizement" as a self-protective delusion: "If I had not believed myself in control of the flooding multitudes, their massed identities would have annihilated me" (MC 175). Two-thirds of the way into the novel, Shiva starts to usurp his control: the "modes of connection" which link Saleem to all Indians also enable Shiva "to affect the passage of the days" (MC 299) and to usher in his own selfish and violent brand of history-making. The turning point in Saleem's career as a unifier of his nation comes after his sinus operation, at which time he associates his last name, Sinai, 116 with the barren dryness of the Sinai Dessert. He no longer identifies with the distant control of the moon god Sin, with the loftiness of Mount Sinai, with the skill of Ibn Sina (the "master magician" and "Sufi adept")'4 or with the diabolical power of his two-headed demon or snake: but when all is said and done; when Ibn Sina is forgotten and the moon has set; when snakes lie hidden and revelations end, [Sinai] is the name of the desert--of barrenness, infertility, dust; the name of the end. (MC 305) The end of Saleem's mystical career comes when the Widow dries up his procreative power and his optimism by performing a vasectomy, which is also a "sperectomy," a cutting or draining of hope (MC 437). After Saleem finds that his high-flying ideals are brought crashing to earth, he sees himself as a failed Hoopoe, a grounded paramahamsa and the barren desert of Sinai. Yet the major symbol of his defeat is his identification with a mindless amnesiac "Buddha." Clearly making fun of the Buddhist ideal of detachment, Rushdie expresses Saleem's amoral, dog-like state of mind in terms of Buddha's enlightenment. Saleem says he uses the Urdu word for old man, buddha, to describe himself, yet he adds, "there is also Buddha, with soft-tongued Ds, meaning he-who-achieved-enlightenment-under-the-bodhi-tree" (MC 349). Rushdie parodies the mystical state of nirvana (in which the self is "snuffed out" and merges with the Absolute) when Saleem's identity is snuffed out by the bombs that fall on his family's Rawalpindi bungalow (MC 342-343) and when he becomes "capable of not-living-in-the-world as well as living in it" (MC 349). The important distinctions between Buddha and Saleem lie in the qualities of their existence both outside and inside this world. Buddha's otherworldly state Perhaps Saleem sees Ibn Sina (the Andalusian physician and philosopher, Avicenna) as a Sufi because of his "unified study of Plato, Aristotle, and Neoplatonism" and because of his being "one of the prime targets of al-Ghazzali," who "was obliged to denounce the philosophers [...] in order to forestall a neo-pagan renaissance within Islam" (Glasse 176, 311). 117 was one of detached awareness, while Saleem's is one of forgetful ignorance. Also, Buddha fought a pacifist battle against religious institutions and ideas which he felt were impeding spiritual progress, while Saleem becomes a tool of a military establishment which abuses religion and squelches freedom. Saleem's parodic "buddhahood" reflects Rushdie's view that Pakistani leaders crush the imaginative, liberating and mystical aspects of religion. Saleem goes so far as to assert that Pakistan is less real than India because in "the Land of the Pure" the magic of religion is replaced by an unsavory mix of dogma, propaganda and blind allegiance. Saleem takes the fact that "Islam" literally means "Submission" (to God's will) and he twists it in order to suggest that the "submission" of Muslims in Pakistan boils down to acquiescence and conformity (MC 308). Also, he takes the fact that "Pak" means "Pure" and then complains that in Pakistan he is "surrounded by the somehow barren certitudes of the land of the pure" (MC 316). He suggests that he becomes "the buddha" not so much because of the explosion that knocks him senseless, but because he starts to think in what he considers a Pakistani mode: "emptied of history, the buddha learned the arts of submission, and did only what was required of him. To sum up: I became a citizen of Pakistan" (MC 350). The military rule in Pakistan also perverts the political and mystical potential of Saleem's sister. Instead of following the example of Aunt Alia, who speaks "out vociferously against government-by-military-say-so" (MC 330), Jamila becomes a tool of the dictatorship and its bizarre mix of religion and violence. The Brass Monkey who was "once so rebellious and wild" falls "under the insidious spell of that God-ridden country" and adopts "expressions of demureness and submission" (MC 292). She sings "patriotic songs" which raise her into a "cloud"~not the 118 "rosy cloud" of Hashmat Bibi's mysticism in Shame (S 34), but a "cloud" which Saleem likens to the closed minds of Pakistani students (MC 315). The degree to which the Pakistani leaders mix religion with their own militaristic agenda becomes evident in Ayub Khan's praise of Jamila, and in Saleem's sarcastic comments on this praise: 'Jamila daughter,' we heard, 'your voice will be a sword for purity; it will be a weapon with which we shall cleanse men's souls.' President Ayub was, by his own admission, a simple soldier; he instilled in my sister the simple, soldierly virtues of faith-in-leaders and trust-in-God. (MC 315) Saleem also mocks the government's use of phrases such as "Holy war" (MC 339), "the evildoers of the earth" (MC 353) and "soldiers-for-Allah" (MC 357). His mockery is aimed at the abuse of religion rather than at religion per se, for Rushdie changes his tone—from satiric to sympathetic—when Saleem carries the bisected Shaheed to the height of a minaret and then accidentally turns on the loudspeaker. Saleem tells us that the "people below would never forget how a mosque screamed out the terrible agony of war" (MC 377). Although Islam may be used by generals as an excuse for killing, the mosque cries out against the suffering caused by such abuse of religion. Rushdie uses the propaganda of the generals in an even more ingenious way in the episode which takes place in the Sundarbans: in the Magic Jungle their propaganda takes on a higher order of truth which both tortures and redeems those who believe their promises. While the Pakistani generals tell their soldiers that they are "Martyrs," "Heroes, bound for the perfumed garden" where they will "be given four beauteous houris, untouched by man or djinn" (MC 340), the "afterlife" in East Bengal resembles a Hell rather than a Heaven. 119 THE FORCES OF DEATH AND REGENERATION The concluding chapters of Midnight's Children contain a host of surreal otherworldly elements, some suggesting regeneration for Saleem and the subcontinent, and others suggesting continued division and violence. In terms of settings, the most otherworldly realms are the phantasmagoric Rann of Kutch and the magical Sundarbans Jungle. While the otherworldly elements in the Rann are figments of frightened imaginations,35 the Jungle is an other world which operates according to its own otherworldly logic—a logic which contradicts the otherworldly propaganda of the West Pakistani generals. While the generals promise their soldiers a Heaven replete with houris, the Magic Jungle gives them a Hell or Purgatory complete with soul-draining apsaras. The Jungle also supplies Saleem and his unit with a magic tidal wave which washes them back into the currents of Indian history. This tidal wave contributes to the regenerative, unifying possibilities in the novel, elsewhere suggested by such figures as old Aziz sahib, the Hummingbird, Padma and the Hoopoe. Against these life-supporting forces, Rushdie pits both General Shiva, a savage version of the Hindu god, and 3 5 In his depiction of "the phantasmagoric Rann," Rushdie's Saleem exposes what he sees as the lies and deceptions of Pakistani leaders and he concocts a realm which is both similar to the Sundarbans (it is a bizarre realm full of visions and threatening spirits) and different from the Sundarbans (its visions are completely illusory). The Rann of Kutch is "phantasmagoric" because it changes rapidly and because the layers of propaganda which surround events in it are so thick that these events become unreal. Saleem does not even bother to relate the official version of events in the Rann. Instead, he relates a story "which is substantially that told by [his] cousin Zafar" and which is "as likely to be true as anything; as anything, that is to say, except what we were officially told" (MC 335). Apart from its political content, Saleem's description contains "legends" of "an amphibious zone, of demonic sea-beasts with glowing eyes," of "fish-women [who tempt] the unwary into fatal sexual acts," of a "sorcerers" world [where] each side thought it saw apparitions of devils fighting alongside its foes," of "great blubbery things which slithered around the border posts at night," and of a "ghost-army [and] spectres bearing moss-covered chests and strange shrouded litters piled high with unseen things" (MC 335-336). Saleem's treatment of the Rann's "sorcery" is similar to that of Ramram's "levitation": both seem miraculous until Saleem uncovers the illusion behind the apparent magic. 120 the Widow, who divides and "sperectomizes" the Midnight's Children in the name of both Bharat Mata (Mother India) and the sacred Hindu syllable OM. As in the case of the religious propaganda of the Pakistani generals, however, the Widow's abuse of religion does not go unchallenged: Rushdie employs the mythicized figures of Durga and Aadam Sinai to suggest opposition to the Widow. Except for Kanaganayakam, critics say little about the episode in the Sundarbans— although what they do say suggests that there is much yet to be examined. In his interview with Rushdie, Haffenden remarks that the episode "seems to be an eternity of disintegration and mania" (239). Harrison states that it is a "strangely ecumenical episode" in which four Muslims spend many nights in a Kali temple and "emerge in some sense cleansed" (1992:46). Swann compares Saleem's flight into "the magical night-forest" with "Simplicissimus' descent to the bottom of the lake" and he stresses the importance of the journey "back from the jungle of forgetfulness" (251-252). Durix comments that superfluity of dreams leads to "the gradual disappearance of all social identity and existence," and that the "journey to the end of dreams opens out onto the void" (1987:126). Kanaganayakam puts greater emphasis on Chapter 25, arguing that it "can only be understood in relation to myth." He notes the strangeness of the houris appearing in the Kali temple and he suggests that "Saleem's sojourn in the jungle is not unlike the period of exile imposed on the Pandavas in the Mahabharata" He adds that Shiva's presence in Bangladesh and his failure to spot Saleem are not very different from the attempts made to spot the Pandavas before the allotted time and consign them to a further period of exile. Subsequently, Saleem returns to India and is called upon to confront Shiva. Saleem, instead of vindicating the cause of justice by destroying Shiva, runs in abject terror and is all but killed by the latter. 121 This mythic inversion happens during the turmoil of the Emergency, thus re-emphasizing "the dichotomy between the harmony of the past and the chaos of the present" (91-92). Rushdie himself comments that "In the Sundarbans" was among his "favourite ten or twelve pages to write": It seemed to me that if you are going to write an epic, even a comic epic, you need a descent into hell. That chapter is the inferno chapter, so it was written to be different in texture from what was around it. (Rushdie with Haffenden 239) While the chapter remains apart in many ways—it comes very close to depicting a truly other world—it is also integral to Saleem's story and to his regeneration. As a result of the mystic workings of the Jungle, he goes from rejecting to accepting his life, from being an empty-headed dog of war to becoming a socially aware citizen. He goes from a tortured and meaningless afterlife to a difficult yet meaningful life. The Sundarbans is the most otherworldly realm in the novel, for in it "Strange alien birds" hover in the sky, the trees are so tall "that the birds at the top must have been able to sing to God," and the edge of the Jungle is "an impossible endless huge green wall, stretching right and left to the ends of the earth!" (MC 359-361). Before Saleem and his unit enter the Sundarbans, an enraged peasant attacks Saleem with a scythe, apparently as a result of something (perhaps rape) that the mindless "Buddha" has done to his wife. The scythe-wielding farmer takes on the allegorical status of "Father Time," and when Ayooba shoots him, "Time lies dead in a rice-paddy" (MC 359). Besides implying the rape of Bengal and the violent suppression of Bengali indignation, this incident marks the barrier between a worldly realm in which one finds time and violence, and an otherworldly realm in which one finds timelessness and the result of violence: death. Whereas in the Rann of Kutch unreality distorts 122 the contours of geography and history, in the Sundarbans the impossible logic of another world erases these contours. Space and time in the Sundarbans is as "impossible" as the "impossible endless huge green wall" that reaches to the end of the world. It is a Jungle "so thick that history has hardly ever found the way in" (MC 359). What lies beyond the known world is a realm where myth becomes reality and the fabric of the self wears thinner than gauze. Just as the city of Q. and the Impossible Mountains in Shame have a logic of their own (S 145, 274), so the Jungle has a logic of its own, one in which tears cause rain and rain makes the trees grow so big that their fruit drop "like bombs" (MC 361). This otherworldliness echoes yet surpasses the unreality of the Rann, for the Jungle is not the product of propaganda; rather, it takes the afterlife propaganda of the generals and turns it into a reality of a higher order, one which tortures, purges and regenerates Saleem and his fellow soldiers. The episode in the Magic Jungle also supplies Midnight's Children with an otherworldly logic according to which the afterlife promised by generals is, like their official account of war, the opposite of what it purports to be. Rushdie takes their promise of perfumed gardens and beautiful virgins and turns it on its head: he makes the Jungle's Kali temple a place of "double-edged luxury" (MC 363), a realm which is initially seductive yet subsequently horrific. The four "daughters of the forest" have sex with the soldiers, thereby appearing to fulfill their innermost desires (MC 366) as well as the promises of the generals. In Islamic terms, these girls first appear to be houris or "female companions, perpetual virgins, of the saved in paradise." They are the "symbols of spiritual states of rapture" found in Qur'an 2:23, 3:14 and 4:60 (Glasse 160). The celestial status of the girls in the Jungle takes 123 on a suspicious aspect, however, for "their saris, under which they wore nothing at all, were torn and stained by the jungle," their caresses "felt real enough" and their scratches "left marks" (MC 366-367). In the end they do not resemble houris as much as apsaras, the Hindu nymphs whose "amours on earth have been numerous" and who, by "their languid postures and sweet words [,] rob those who see them of their wisdom and their intellect" (Danielou 305). Appropriately, the "daughters of the forest" leave Saleem and his unit "without a single thought in their heads" (MC 366-367). Luckily, however, Saleem and his comrades come to understand that, by giving in to their own desires, the Jungle "was fooling them into using up their dreams, so that as their dream-life seeped out of them they became as hollow and translucent as glass" (MC 367). While it may seem that Rushdie is parodying and hence rejecting mystical states of oblivion, this hollow translucence is the opposite of mystical union—just as Saleem's empty-headed buddhahood is the opposite of Buddha's enlightenment. The spiritual death suggested by hollowness and translucence has little to do with the "full void," the "inner light" or the "annihilation" of mysticism. Rather, it has everything to do with doing the dirty work of undemocratic leaders and with believing that in reward for doing this dirty work one will be flown first-class, directly to Heaven. The Sundarbans has yet another logic of its own, for in the same abyss where worms drain colour from the blood and nymphs drain life from the soul lies an inexplicable force which turns Saleem's violent trajectory toward oblivion into a boomerang ride back into this world of thought and action. In explaining this nebulous regenerative force, one might recall that in the upper reaches of the Jungle the birds "must have been able to sing to God" (MC 361) and that the word "impossible" (which Rushdie consistently associates with Attar's 124 mysticism) is used twice on the page which introduces the Jungle (MC 359). The notes of the birds may reverberate in some way with the chirpings of old Aziz sahib and with the songs of Jamila Singer, and Attar's Qaf may have something to do with the Jungle's magical powers. Leaving aside these speculative associations, Rushdie clearly builds into his Jungle a magical regenerative force, a tidal wave which interrupts Saleem's atemporal oblivion with a single, powerful stroke of temporal linearity. The Jungle's wave washes Saleem back into the tides of history and back into the violent world he has helped militarists to create. Saleem's experience in the otherworldly Jungle corresponds to one of the darkest moments in subcontinental history, to the moment when the subcontinent's bird-spirit is torn apart—that is, when the East and West wings are violently torn asunder.36 Rushdie gives this bleak moment a human dimension when Deshmukh, the "vendor of notions," is reduced to scavenging gold fillings from dead corpses on what one might call a "killing field" on the outskirts of Dacca. In a moment of pathos equal only to the moment when Aadam Aziz tells his wife that Jallianwallah Baag is "Nowhere on earth" (MC 36), Deshmukh makes an impassioned plea which stops Shaheed from attacking Saleem (Shaheed thinks that because Saleem recognizes the three dying Bombayites—Indian "enemies"—he must be a traitor). Deshmukh cries out, "Ho sirs! Enough fighting has been already. Be normal now, my sirs. I beg. Ho God" (MC 373). Deshmukh is a very pathetic, down-to-earth character who brings the emotional content of Saleem's narrative back into the contours of space and time, back I borrow this metaphor from Shame, in which the narrator says that pre-1971 Pakistan is a "fantastic bird of a place, two Wings without a body, sundered by the land-mass of its greatest foe, joined by nothing but God" (S 178). This metaphor is especially appropriate to Midnight s Children, in which Rushdie takes a closer look at the West-East split than he does in Shame, and in which Saleem sees the unity of the subcontinent and India in terms of the bird-figures of the Hummingbird and the Hoopoe. 125 into this world of geography and history, location and memory. The world to which Saleem returns is, however, one dominated by the darker forces of a Hindu India: the Widow and General Shiva. Rushdie prefigures his shift from Islamic to Hindu realms when his Muslim soldiers enter the Kali temple, and this shift is completed once Saleem returns to the heart of Hinduism, Benares. While Bombay symbolizes the future of India (in Bombay Saleem finds the MCC of the future, the Midnight Confidential Club), Benares symbolizes (and stereotypes) an ancient Hindu world that threatens to overwhelm a progressive secular India.37 Hindu practice is clearly at odds with Bombay modernity when worshippers turn Narlikar's tetrapods into Shiva-lingams (MC 176-177), a humorous incident given the gynecologist Narlikar's obsession with birth control. While in the progressive Bombay Shiva is associated with an ancient mix of religion and fertility, in Benares Shiva is associated with forced sterilizations— an ironic turn given that Shiva is the god of creation and that Benares is the city of Shiva.3 8 Saleem claims that it is in Benares that the "goddess Ganga streamed down to earth through Shiva's hair" (MC 432), yet little of that goddess' beneficence streams into Benares. Rather, Saleem's account of the city is dominated by the torture chambers of the Widow and by suggestions of General Shiva's collaboration While Saleem calls Benares "the shrine to The polarity between Bombay's secular modernity and Benares' religious antiquity crops up in another novel published in the same year as Midnight's Children. In Arun Joshi's The Last Labyrinth, Bombay is depicted as a city of sky-scrapers and businessmen, while Benares is seen as a cluttered, dangerous, labyrinthine world of winding streets and mystical conundrums. The darkness in Joshi's novel is not relieved by humour (as it is somewhat in Midnight's Children), yet, in regard to the otherworldly forces operating in Benares, Joshi focuses on a redemptive Krishna whereas Rushdie focuses on a ruinous Shiva. 3 8 One of Benares' names is "the resplendent city of Siva" (Danielou 220). For Shiva's association with light, know ledge, the Ganges, the Milky Way and temples, see Danielou 220-221. 126 Shiva-the-god" and while he refers to Benares as the "City of Divine Light, home of the Prophetic Book, the horoscope of horoscopes, in which every life, past present future, is already recorded" (MC 432), what occurs in the Benares Hostel is anything but enlightening: the Widow perverts the sacred notions of Bharat Mata and O M and drains all hope from the magical children. Conveniently, Benares is at once the city of the dark god Shiva and the site of a famous temple dedicated to Bharat Mata, the divine Mother India figure appropriated by the Widow. Inside this temple, "in the place where there would ordinarily be an anthropomorphic image of the goddess, there is a large, colored relief map of the Indian subcontinent" (Kinsley 184). Rushdie makes good use of maps in Midnight's Children, and particularly apropos here is Methwold's map-shaped swimming pool—a clear symbol of imperialistic appropriation. Like the British with their Myth-world (or Meth-wold) of a "British India," the Widow wants to create India in her own image. She wants to take in and control all of India and she therefore pretends to the status of Bharat Mata or Mother India. While Saleem also wants to take in or encompass all of India, his desire to chair a tolerant, multivocal, democratic Conference remains antithetical to the Widow's aims, expressed not by any desire to convene a Lok Sabha (as Saleem does in his head) but rather by the suspension of Parliament and by the torture of the Midnight's Children. Rushdie emphasizes the darkness and strength of the forces which crush Saleem and his multivocal Conference by associating these forces with the frightening figures of Kali and Shiva. The Widow aspires "to be Devi, the Mother-goddess in her most terrible aspect, possessor of the shakti of the gods" (MC 438). Kinsley notes that several Tantra texts 127 "proclaim Kali the greatest of the vidyas (the manifestations of the Mahadevi, the 'great goddess') or divinity itself; indeed, they declare her to be the essence or own form (svarupa) of the Mahadevi" (122-123). In his short book, The Wizard ofOz (1992), Rushdie notes that in Saleem's portrait of the Widow "the nightmare of Indira Gandhi is fused with the equally nightmarish figure" of the Wicked Witch of the West (33). The depiction of the Widow in Saleem's dream also strongly suggests the more contextually relevant figure of Kali, who "is always black," who "has long, disheveled hair" and "clawlike hands," and who "gets drunk on the hot blood of her victims" (Kinsley 116). In his nightmare, Saleem sees that the hair of the Widow is "black as black," her "arm is long as death," and her skin is green yet her "fingernails are long and sharp and black." She rips children in two, rolls them into "little balls" and eats them, leaving only "splashing stains of black" (MC 208). Seeing the Widow as Kali also makes sense in that mythologically Kali is Shiva's "consort, wife or associate" and she excites him "to take part in dangerous, destructive behavior that threatens the stability of the cosmos" (Kinsley 116). Saleem implies that Shiva evades castration because of the Widow's oversight (MC 441), yet Shiva's "immunity" (MC 430) renders this suspect. In any case, Shiva's status as "midnight's darkest child" (MC 441) and his subsequent "love of violence" (MC 430) make him a fitting conspirator with the Widow as Kali, the black deity associated with dissolution into "shapelessness in the all-pervading darkness of the eternal night" (Danielou 273). While together these two dark figures succeed in dividing the Midnight's Children, a note of optimism can be seen when the Widow allows Shiva to escape vasectomy. She thus unwittingly makes it possible for him to give rise to the hopes of a new generation—symbolized by one of Shiva's sons, the tough and unblinking Aadam Sinai. 128 While Saleem employs the religious ideals of the Hoopoe and the paramahamsa in an unsuccessful attempt to unify Indians, the Widow uses the Hindu notion of O M in her successful bid to tear them apart. Her servants "sperectomize" the Midnight's Children in the name of OM, that is, in the name of the syllable which expresses a sacred unity and which serves as a link between the world of humans and the other worlds of the gods This syllable is extremely important in Hinduism (see Danielou 338-341); among other things it can be seen "as the first thought-form from which the universe develops" (Danielou 339). The Widow's helper mocks this extremely sacred paradigm when she tells Saleem, "You are Muslim: you know what is OM? Very well. For the masses, our Lady is a manifestation of the O M ' (MC 438). The Widow anticipates The Satanic Verses' Imam, who abuses Islamic paradigms in order to stop the flow of history and to fix reality into one pattern. Joseph Swann puts it concisely when he says that the Widow "would stop the flow of history, fixing the ' O M ' (which cannot be fixed) in the narrow limits of her own being" (257). The coercion, division and violence of the mythicized Widow is in some ways countered by the mythicized figure of Durga. While Rushdie's Durga is a "monster" who forgets "each day the moment it ended," she nevertheless wet-nurses Aadam "through his sickness, giving him the benefit of her colossal breasts." She is rumoured to have two wombs and she represents "novelty, beginnings, the advent of new stories events complexities" (MC 445). Rushdie's Durga is thus the opposite of his Widow, who drains the magic from Saleem and who destroys the creativity or "new things" of the Midnight's Children. Kinsley notes that in mythology, Durga displays a combination of "world-supportive qualities and liminal characteristics that associate her with the periphery of civilized order." As a fierce warrior 129 who resembles Kali in her liminal character, and who can create goddesses (such as Kali) from herself, Durga is a formidable opponent (Kinsley 97). Rushdie's description of Durga suggests that while the Widow may have done her worst to his generation, there is a fierce spirit in the land which rises in response to the tyranny of the Widow. I am aware of the contradiction which presents itself when I suggest that Durga opposes Kali (the two are too closely associated to maintain such an opposition), yet Rushdie is not using mythic figures here to make any fixed correspondences or to enact any consistent mythic pattern. He is using distorted, incompletely depicted mythic figures in an attempt to suggest the mood or spirit of the historical and political period during and after the Emergency. The Kali in Saleem's Widow represents the political coercion and destruction characteristic of the Emergency. The goddess in Saleem's Durga represents a fierce spirit which rises from the earth to help the next generation oppose the decay and disintegration of the nation. Suckling at her enormous breasts, the new Aadam undoubtedly imbibes some of her fierce spirit. In Saleem's story about his family and his subcontinent, Rushdie highlights the desire to overcome division, coercion and violence. Saleem looks nostalgically to the heroic struggles of Aadam Aziz and Amina, and he tries desperately to embody the ideals of unity represented by such figures as the Hoopoe and the paramahamsa. Although Saleem appears defeated by the violence and divisiveness of subcontinental history—by the Ravanas, Shivas and Widows of this world—Rushdie nevertheless wrings tragic meaning from the destruction of Saleem's ideals. He suggests that the annihilation of the Midnight's Children may contain the meaning which eludes Saleem. Their annihilation might be seen in light of a "thirty-first pickle jar," which implies a meaningful annihilation, and also in light of the completion of 130 Scheherazade's 1001 nights, which implies a liberation as well as a permanent living arrangement. Yet Rushdie does not insist on either the dissolution or the regeneration of Saleem and the India he represents. Rather, he explores the possibility that Saleem will return to Kashmir with Padma and Aadam, and the opposite possibility that Saleem's involvement with the demon snake and the Pakistani generals may combine with other dark forces in the subcontinent to destroy any meaningful future. Midnight's Children is a brilliant novel in that it does not dictate whether or not Saleem and his nation will find the road back to the mythical Paradise of Kashmir. Rushdie indicates that while we can, to some degree, see where we have come from, we cannot see where we are, or where we are going. He uses the analogy of watching a film to illustrate that we cannot interpret the present. From a spatial distance from the screen, which corresponds to a temporal distance from the present, we can see what is taking place oh the screen. When we move closer to the screen, however, the picture starts to break up and we see only "dancing grain" and "tiny details" (MC 165-166). Rushdie is refreshingly honest, for in writing a novel which ends in the present, he places his narrator-protagonist, himself and his readers close to that screen. 131 CHAPTER 4 SHAME. AN OTHER WORLD STRIKES B A C K In Shame Rushdie escalates his attack on the mix of religion and dictatorship which led in Midnight's Children to Saleem's "buddhahood" and to Saleem's subsequent "hollowness" in the embrace of the houris-cum-apsaras in the Kali temple. Yet Shame is also a much shorter book, one in which Rushdie restricts his historical and political range and in which his use of otherworldly constructions forms part of a relatively focused dynamic: the worldly tyranny of Raza is defeated by the otherworldly power of the Beast/Kali. Rushdie prepares the ground for the rise of this otherworldly force by depicting the marginalization and repression of various groups (particularly women, the Baluchis, the mohajir and Hindus), and by suggesting that repression creates distorted lives—from the witch-like three Shakil sisters to the maniacal "holy man" Dawood. Repression also creates an invisible, underground, subconscious realm seething with frustration and anger. In this realm one finds heroic otherworldly figures, such as subterranean angels, as well as a frightening hybrid monster which rises out of this invisible underground to wreak havoc and to scourge the repression which created it. This monster usurps the subconscious of the innocent young Sufiya, taking the form of both the Beast and Kali—a dual challenge to Raza's God-centred, monotheistic State. 132 While the peripheral anti-hero, Omar Khayyam Shakil, is partly to blame for the rise of the Beast/Kali,1 Rushdie focuses culpability on Iskander Harappa and Raza Hyder, fictional versions of the late Pakistani politicians, ZulfikarAli Bhutto (1928-1979) and Zia ul-Haq (1924-1988). According to Shame's narrator (who can, for practical purposes, be likened to the author, who is also a Londoner with ties to Pakistan),2 Iskander sets up a secular dictatorship which leads to Raza's equally ruthless yet more religiously repressive dictatorship. Both regimes destroy the innocence and potential of the nation—seen symbolically as the young Sufiya. Iskander's culpability is dramatically depicted by his wife Rani in her fourteenth shawl, titled "Iskander the assassin of possibility." Rani shows Iskander throttling the nation's potential, seen "as a young girl, small, physically frail, internally damaged: she had taken for her model her memory of an idiot, and consequently innocent, child, Sufiya Zinobia Hyder" (S 194). Rushdie constructs another link between the repressions of Iskander and Raza when, in his death cell, Iskander wonders if "someone is dreaming him" and he asks if this someone is God. He then answers his own question: "No, not God," but Raza, the "General of whom this cell is one small aspect, who is general, omnipresent, omnivorous" (S 230). Iskander expresses an ironic view of 1 Omar opportunistically and shamelessly supports Iskander and Raza, and he mesmerizes women so that he can have sex with them. Although Omar appears to love Sufiya, his attempt to keep her alive yet sedated symbolizes the repression of the nation's anger. His murder by the Beast/Kali, "the most powerful mesmerist on earth" (S 236), demonstrates a form of poetic justice. I return to Omar in "Subterranean Angels and Impossible Mountains." 2 Rushdie deals with at least four levels of fictionality in Shame: the entirely fictional "three mothers," the almost purely fictional Omar Khayyam Shakil, the quasi-fictional Iskander and Raza, and the almost autobiographical or non-fictional narrator. Rushdie says that he is the narrator in Shame but that "novelists, being sneaky people, will fictionalize even the bit that looks like autobiography" (Rushdie with Turnstile 46). Unlike the narrators in Midnight s Children or The Satanic Verses, the narrator in Shame does not greatly complicate or obscure the theme of the 133 his place in history when he adds the following exaggerated cosmogonic observation: "Death and the General: Iskander sees no difference between the terms. From darkness into light, from nothingness to somethingness. I made him" (S 230). In imagining that he "made" Raza, Iskander is admitting to himself that he fostered the conditions which allowed Raza to rise to power unchecked by any democratic process that he might have put into practice/ Iskander and Raza foster tyranny and together they represent the opposing forces of "the epicure against the puritan." Rushdie raises the stakes of this conflict to cosmic proportions: "Virtue versus vice, ascetic versus bawd, God against the Devil: that's the game. Messieurs, mesdames: faites vosjeux" (S 240). Neither Raza the God nor Isky the Devil fares well in this game, however: as a libertine Devil, Iskander creates the conditions for his own fall and for the rise of a God-centred tyranny; as a puritanical God, Raza exacerbates the devilish Iskander's throttling of the nation's potential and thus gives rise to the Devil. Rushdie's fierce antagonism to Zia's dictatorial Islamic regime of the early 1980s led him to take liberties in depicting Zia's life so that it could conform to his fictional aims. I refer in particular to Raza disguising himself as a woman, fleeing for his life to the home of Omar's three mothers and dying a gruesome death—all of which was written while the Pakistani dictator still held power. Much of the novel does, however, follow historical novel. Whereas in my chapter on Midnight's Children I maintained the more obvious distinction between author and narrator, in this chapter an insistent distinction between the two is unnecessary. 3 Explaining the rise of Zia, Rushdie claims that Bhutto "chose Zia because he wanted a weak command. He didn't want the army to be strong so he picked the stupidest man he could find, absolutely explicitly, he used to say so. [...] He made him out of nothing on the grounds of his stupidity. Then you get this bizarre relationship where the protege becomes the executioner" (Rushdie with Scripsi 108). 134 accounts. For instance, Zia mounted "Operation Fair Play" in 1978, an operation which led to the incarceration and eventual hanging of Ali Bhutto in April 1979.4 As in the novel, this Operation was followed by the postponement of elections and by the implementation of Islamic Law. It was not until 1984 (after Rushdie's novel was published) that Zia "announced a national referendum to elicit the peoples' views about his Islamization program." Zia held elections in 1985 in which parties were not allowed to participate and on December 30, 1985 he lifted martial law. He also restored a revised constitution and revived human rights. Zia died in a plane crash on August 17, 1988, and Benazir Bhutto ("Arjumand" in the novel)5 won the national elections in December of that year (Burki 214-216) 6 Yet at the time Rushdie was writing Shame it was impossible to foresee these events, to say if or how Zia's dictatorship might be toppled. It is perhaps for this reason that Raza's opposition takes a mythic rather than a political or military form. In his 1995 interview with Phillips, Rushdie says that the public incident which triggered Shame was "the execution of Mr. Bhutto " He then makes the point that this incident was not simply a case of a tyrant executing a democrat: "the Bhutto government in its time of office had been at least as oppressive and corrupt as the military dictatorship that followed it" (18). I spend less time on Iskander than on Raza because the oppressions of the latter are far more closely linked to the main otherworldly event in the novel: the rise of the Beast/Kali. Also, Raza's dictatorship has an explicitly otherworldly monotheistic rhetoric against which Rushdie pits much of his own secular, and at times polytheistic, rhetoric. Earlier in the above interview, Rushdie betrays his bias against religious (as distinct from secular) dictatorship, comparing the several months he spent in Pakistan after he graduated from Cambridge in 1968, he says that "even though it was a military dictatorship it didn't have anything like the degree of what's called Islamization that it now suffers from" (Rushdie with Phillips 17). 5 Rushdie cautions his reader: "To say that Arjumand Harappa is Benazir Bhutto is nonsense, she isn't, that was never the intention. She has one touch of Benazir, which is that she thinks of her father as somebody who can do no wrong" (Rushdie with Scripsi 108). 0 For a summary of Pakistani politics from the relatively secular constitution of Ayub Khan (who imposed martial law in 1958) to Zia's Islamization and Benazir Bhutto's desire for "secularist policies." see Rafiq Zakaria's The Struggle Within Islam, 230-240. 135 In one of his many metafictional comments, Rushdie defends his use of a mythicized agent of revolt: My dictator will be toppled by goblinish, faery means 'Makes it pretty easy for you,' is the obvious criticism; and I agree, I agree. But add, even if it does sound a little peevish: 'You try and get rid of a dictator some time.' (S 257) Rushdie's use of "goblinish" and "faery" elides the more serious and terrifying aspects of the Beast which possesses Sufiya and which stalks Raza to Nishapur. In his interview with Haffenden, Rushdie admits that he was frightened by Sufiya, and he claims that "the dark area at the centre of her" is what the "book is about" (255). In his interview with Scrips/ he says that what happens in the novel is "very alarming" and that it is certainly "the most savage writing" he has ever done. He even had a nightmare about Sufiya as the Beast: "I woke up and realized that I had been scared out of my mind by somebody I'd made up" (109-110)7 No doubt Rushdie sets up a very serious cause-and-effect, worldly-otherworldly dynamic, one in which the dictatorial power controlling the State professes godliness and the rebellious power opposing this State incarnates devilishness. Remembering that Islam literally means Submission, one might say that Raza's imposition of God and Submission creates the Beast and Rebellion. One might also say that Raza replaces the Sufi in Sufiya with the Beast.8 As this replacement suggests, it would be difficult to support the contention that Sufiya in her possessed state represents a liberating 7 Rushdies discovery that Zia had "a mentally retarded daughter"~a discovery made after he had already written Sufiva into the plot—also gave him "a reallv eerie feeling" (Rushdie with Phillips 111)." 8 As with Sufyan in The Satanic Verses. Rushdie's use of a name similar to Sufi is given to a character who suggests rather than defines the open-minded, open-hearted ideals of mysticism. Mysticism is often an unorthodox mode of devotion, one which is not necessarily aware of its "religious" nature. 136 or Romantic "Satan." The Beast is vicious in its possession of Sufiya and it suggests a "human guillotine" (S 244) rather than Rushdie's borrowed ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity (S 251). R A Z A ' S S T A T E In analyzing Rushdie's use of the otherworldly in Shame one ought to emphasize from the outset that regardless of the manner in which a political leader might implement Islamic Law, Rushdie remains antagonistic to the very idea of such implementation. Rushdie fervently resists any political philosophy in which "Law" deriving from an other world of angels, gods or God ought to be applied literally to this world. He believes that all law must be flexible enough to accommodate cultural and historical changes. In promoting this secular view, Rushdie mocks the notion that a text can be eternal and infallible, and he paints unsavory portraits of those who support Islamization—chiefly Raza Hyder and his fundamentalist advisor Maulana Dawood. He also suggests that in imposing a religious system on Pakistanis, Raza assumes a God-like status, one which betrays inordinate presumption and which serves to highlight the discrepancy between God's traditional justice and mercy on one hand and Raza's arbitrariness and cruelty on the other. Finally, Rushdie devises what he would no doubt consider fitting punishments for the two characters who impose their religious views on Pakistanis: Dawood enters a senility in which he degrades the Islamic sanctities he tries to promote; Raza falls into a schizophrenic state of mind in which he is harassed by an angel and a demon and in which he is hounded by the Beast—all of which are integral figures of the religion he politicizes. 137 Raza thus eventually enters a state of mind in which he is terrorized by the offspring of his Islamic State In his essay "Zia ul-Haq. 17 August 1988," written immediately after Zia's death, Rushdie argues that Zia's version of Islam is antithetical to the more tolerant spirit of subcontinental Islam: It needs to be said repeatedly in the West that Islam is no more monolithically cruel, no more an 'evil empire,' than Christianity, capitalism or communism. The medieval, misogynistic, stultifying ideology which Zia imposed on Pakistan in his 'Islamization' programme was the ugliest possible face of the faith, and one by which most Pakistani Muslims were, I believe, disturbed and frightened. To be a believer is not by any means to be a zealot. Islam in the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent has developed historically along moderate lines, with a strong strain of pluralistic Sufi philosophy; Zia was this Islam's enemy. (IH 54) In Shame Rushdie attacks and satirizes a zealous, fundamentalist Islam, and it is consistent with this attack that he suggest Islam can have a positive influence in society. He argues that Islam "might well have proved an effective unifying force in post-Bangladesh Pakistan, if people hadn't tried to make it into such an almighty big deal" (S 251). He also suggests that if honest and sincere Islamic sentiments were heard, Pakistanis would be better able to fight authoritarianism. Unfortunately, these voices are silenced before they have a chance to change things for the better: there were a few voices saying, if this is the country we dedicated to our God, what kind of God is it that permits—but these voices were silenced before they had finished their questions, kicked on the shins under tables, for their own sakes, because there are things that cannot be said. No, it's more than that: there are things that cannot be permitted to be true. (S 82) At the basis of Rushdie's attack lies his view that Pakistani leaders impose fundamentalism "from above" (S 251), that is, without including free and open debate, without attempting 138 to convene the type of Conference Saleem attempts to convene in Midnight 's Children. Instead, those with opposing views are "kicked on the shins under the table." Rather than creating an open forum in which everyone can be heard, Raza imposes his suspiciously convenient understanding of religion "from above" and he takes advantage of religious language which Pakistanis are "reluctant to oppose" (S 251). Rushdie undermines Raza's opportunistic employment of religious language, as well as his appeal to the sacred writings from which this language derives, by suggesting that all writing is a fallible human construction, however divine the original inspiration or source. For instance, Rushdie mocks the manner in which the story of Bilquis' flight from her father's burning cinema takes on the rigidity of a sacred text: [Bilquis'] story altered, at first, in the re-tellings, but finally it settled down, and after that nobody, neither teller nor listener, would tolerate any deviation from the hallowed, sacred text. (S 76) Rushdie continues to mock this sanctification when he says that the account of Bilquis' life in Delhi becomes inscribed in "formulaic words which it would be a gross sacrilege to alter" (S 78). Rushdie's antagonism to "formulaic words" which cannot be altered also surfaces in his depiction of a senile Dawood walking through Islamabad "with his hands opened before him like a book, intoning verses from the Quran in an Arabic which the loss of his reason led him to adulterate with other, coarser dialects" (S 205). This is not the first or last time Rushdie mimics and questions the notion of an infallible sacred text. In Grimus both Liv's "recitation" of Virgil's diary and Virgil's 139 exhortation to believe what he has written mimic the Quran.9 Virgil's diary also contains a thinly disguised cosmic history, complete with the fall of the Devil (Deggle) from God's grace (communion with the Rose). In Midnight's Children, Ahmed dreams of re-arranging the Quran^ and Saleem thinks of his autobiography as a Hadith or Purana. Saleem observes that "Memory's truth [...] selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies," and he claims that "no sane human being ever trusts someone else's version more than his own" (MC 211). Saleem also draws his reader's attention to the spaces that are outside a given picture frame (MC 122-123), thus emphasizing the selective nature of any depiction or version of reality. Likewise, Shame's, narrator observes that "snapshots conceal as much as they make plain" (S 116). Rushdie's antagonism to "formulaic words which it would be a gross sacrilege to alter" also surfaces in The Satanic Verses and Haroun. the Imam believes that history ought to stop because the words of the Quran are the final Truth, and Khattam-Shud wants to stop the endless permutation of stories and to replace this creative flow with his idol Bezaban or "Without-a-Tongue." In Shame Rushdie's opposition to making revelation a fixed, normative standard ranges from light-hearted humour to harsh satire. He writes playfully when he has Bariamma insist that sex cannot be "like sitting on a rocket that sends you to the moon" because "the faith clearly stated that lunar expeditions were impossible" (S 146). He hits a Surah 96 begins with "Recite," many verses begin with "Say," and the Quran is constantly reminding its readers not to doubt its contents. For instance, the first surah begins, "ALIF lam mim. This book is not to be doubted" (Koran 11). 140 more serious note when the "organizers of the war" in Kashmir give their soldiers promises of an afterlife in a blissful other world: Those who fell in battle were flown directly, first-class, to the perfumed gardens of Paradise, to be waited on for all eternity by four gorgeous Houris, untouched by man or djinn. 'Which of your Lord's blessings,' the Quran inquires, 'would you deny^' (S 77) In Midnight's Children the Pakistani State similarly urges Saleem and his fellow soldiers into battle with cries of Holy War and with promises of perfumed gardens and houri girls. In Shame the backlash against using religious propaganda for military purposes is not as immediate as in Midnight \s Children, in which Saleem and his troop proceed directly into a hellish "afterlife." In Rushdie's fictional Pakistan, anger first goes underground and then surfaces in the form of the Beast/Kali. Rushdie does, however, make his antagonism to Raza's Islamization clear from its inception. After his coup, Raza appears on national television, "kneeling on a prayer-mat, holding his ears and reciting Quranic verses." Rushdie forces his readers to wonder what is in Raza's hand while Raza explains that in putting Iskander under house arrest he simply wants to be an honest broker, an "honest ref or ump" to the nation: What, leatherbound and wrapped in silk, lent credibility to his oath that all political parties, including the Popular Front of'that pluckiest fighter and great politician' Iskander Harappa, would be allowed to contest the rerun poll? Rushdie delivers his answer in studied fashion: The television camera travelled down from his gar/ta-bruised face, down along his right arm, until the nation saw where his right hand rested: on the Holy Book. (S 223) 141 Rushdie emphasizes the word "right" partly because the left hand is considered impure, yet mostly because Raza justifies his elimination of the Opposition by declaring that Iskander's leftist politics are incompatible with Islamic rule: He announced that God and socialism were incompatible, so that the doctrine of Islamic Socialism on which the Popular Front had based its appeal was the worst kind of blasphemy imaginable. (S 247) "Right" thus also brings to mind Raza's right-hand man, Dawood, who reviles socialism, secularism and everything he considers impure or "un-Islamic " Prior to the Imam of The Satanic Verses, Maulana Dawood remains Rushdie's most caustic portrait of "the violent Muslim fundamentalist."10 Dawood tells Raza that the reason the Army "must not stop at stamping out tribal wild men" (the separatist Baluchis in Needle Valley) is that violence can be elevated to a religious plane: "Prayer is the sword of the faith. By the same token, is not the faithful sword, wielded for God, a form of holy prayer?" (S 99). Rushdie combines the type of puritanical violence Saleem directs at Lila Sabarmati (MC 258) with the ruthlessness of Saleem's Pakistani leaders J Dawood appears to be a caricature of Abu'l Ala al-Maududi, who "feared that Pakistan (which means Land of the Pure') would become ha-Pakistan ('Land of the Impure') in the hands of Muslims of doubtful faith. |... Politically, al-Maududi] was never much of a force until the time when the free-living, modem-thinking Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was ousted from power by General Ziaul Haq. [Zia] was basically a military dictator, not answerable to the people; his support of the Jama'at [Maududi's religious organization], therefore, had no popular approval. He was not a fundamentalist, but in order to give legitimacy to his seizure of power, he made use of the Jama'at" (Zakaria 9). Maulana Dawood's name suggests two possible origins. First, "Maulana" may be an ironic allusion to the commonly used name of the Persian poet Jalal al-Din Rumi. Dawood's violent politics and intolerance are antithetical to Rumi's mystical love and tolerance. "Dawood" could also refer to N.J. Dawood, who first translated the Quran into contemporary English (1956) and whose translation of Tales from the Thousand and One Nights was published (as Penguin No. 1001) in 1954. N.J. Dawood's translation of the "pure Arabic" of the Quran could be seen as a blasphemous act in itself, as could the fictional Dawood's unwitting adulteration of the Quran "with other, coarser dialects" (S 205). 142 when he has the ghost of Dawood scream into Raza's right ear that he should punish women who speak out against Islamic Law. Dawood counsels Raza to "strip the whores naked and hang them from all available trees." Responding to Dawood's suggestion that he kill the leader of these "whores," Raza feels "reluctant to ask God to make the bitch disappear, because you can't ask the Almighty to do everything, after all" (S 249). Rushdie escalates the otherworldly element of his attack on the political abuse of religion when he has his dictator identify himself with God. After rounding up Talvar and two other highly placed officers, Raza says to their executioners, "Well, well, now it is all in the lap of God" (S 250). Rushdie underscores Raza's presumption of otherworldly authority when he recounts the Baluchi "joke" about God being gulled into helping successive dictators destroy their opposition (S 112), and when he deliberately confuses God with Raza: God was in charge, and just in case anybody doubted it He gave little demonstrations of His power: he made various anti-faith elements vanish like slum children. (S 248) Given that Rushdie is deliberately confusing God and Raza, it is difficult to say if the small case he is a misprint for He or whether it is meant to stand for Raza. One might note in passing that in The Satanic Verses Rushdie also satirizes those who usurp God's position in the otherworldly chain of command: the Imam "summons, conjures up, the archangel, Gibreel" and commands him, "you must fly me to Jerusalem" (SV 211-212); also, Mahound "just laid down the law and the angel would confirm it afterwards" (SV 365). Returning to Shame, Rushdie makes it clear that Raza's version of Islamic Law is not a compassionate one, that it in no way reflects the Quranic insistence that God is merciful. 143 Rather, Raza's Law is one according to which God operates in the manner of a right-wing death squad Neither does this Law have much to do with the notion of God's justice, for Raza replaces the legal system with "religious courts presided over by divines whom Raza appointed on the sentimental grounds that their beards reminded him of [Dawood,] his deceased advisor" (S 248). Rushdie emphasizes his main point—that religious tyranny creates the Beast—when he has the Beast appear dramatically just at the moment Raza becomes comfortable in his exercise of a God-like power. Raza exclaims that the Russian invasion of Afghanistan is "the final step in God's strategy" (S 255), immediately after which he is confronted by the devastating effects of his tyranny: the Beast. Omar tells him that Sufiya is on the loose, and the ghost of Iskander whispers in his left ear that Sufiya resembles "Fortune" and "an impetuous river" that destroys everything in its path (S 256). Sufiya takes on mythic dimensions when she becomes a "white panther" and when it is rumoured that this magic animal "could fly, or dematerialize, or grow until it was bigger than a tree" (S 254). Anticipating the Beast's final disappearance (S 286), Sufiya becomes "a demon" which can vanish into the air (S 254). When the demon panther circles its prey, "moving slowly inwards, spiralling inexorably in to the centre, to the very room in which [Raza] paced," Raza fully realizes that he is no longer in God's position of omnipotence. Instead, he feels he "had been left to his fate by God" (S 258). Rushdie punishes the fundamentalism of his Dawood and Raza by ridiculing and terrifying them with hallucinations and horrors, the elements of which derive from the very religion they promote. Expressing in parodic form his fierce antagonism to zealots, 144 Rushdie has his Dawood make a fool of himself by prostrating "outside fish-shops as if they were the holy places of Mecca," by abusing the citizens of Islamabad "for their irreligious blasphemies," and by mistaking an activated sludge tank for Mecca's holy Kaaba (S 205-206). Rushdie magnifies the import of Dawood's "vision" of the Kaaba, which is "a sanctuary consecrated to God since time immemorial,"11 by having this "vision" occur at the moment of his death, a moment in which one is supposed to "see" into the spiritual world (as Mirza appears to do in The Satanic Verses). In depicting Dawood's senility and death, Rushdie takes a dangerous step beyond his previous depictions of religiously-obsessed senility, those in which old Aziz sahib loses himself in his mysticism and Aadam Aziz brings a lock of the Prophet's hair into a Hindu temple. While Attar's symbology supplies meaning to old Aziz sahib's senility, and while Aadam's disgust with communalism makes sense of his crazed act, Dawood's vision only points to his utter senility. One must of course keep in mind—as one must when considering the "visions" of Gibreel in The Satanic Verses--that the degraded visions of deranged characters point to the derangement of the characters more than to the things degraded by their hallucinations. One might also compare Dawood's "vision" to the iconoclastic rape of Axona in Grimus. The latter does not constitute parody, for there is no "real world" correlate for Axona. In contrast, Dawood sees a sludge tank as the most concrete, verifiable and sacred object in the otherwise iconoclastic world of Islam. '1 Glasse adds that the Kaabah is "a spiritual centre, a support for the concentration of consciousness upon the Divine Presence," and that "it is towards the Ka'bah that Muslims orient themselves in prayer" (214). 145 Raza's fate also contains a poetic justice of sorts: Dawood the "angel" and Iskander the "devil" sit on his shoulders, driving him to distraction, and the Beast tracks him to Nishapur, where the three sisters have him cut to pieces in their elevator of many blades. I will return to Raza's fate below, although I observe here that in having Omar's hallucinating mind give form to the dichotomous voices that once tortured Raza, 1 2 Rushdie suggests that Omar and Raza deserve a similar apocalyptic fate, one that cannot be avoided by closing one's eyes, by indulging in shamelessness. In an unnerving mix of the apocalyptic and the absurd, Rushdie has Iskander "the monkey" make his final point: [Omar] shut his eyes, but eyelids were no defense any more, they were just doors into other places, and there was Raza Hyder in uniform with a monkey on each shoulder. The monkey on the right had the face of Maulana Dawood and its hands were clasped over its mouth; on the left shoulder sat Iskander Harappa scratching his langoor's armpit. Hyder's hands went to his ears, Isky's, after scratching, covered his eyes, but he was peeping through the fingers. 'Stories end, worlds end,' Isky the monkey said, 'and then it's judgment day.' Fire, and the dead, rising up, dancing in the flames. (S 276) Omar's hallucination (which anticipates those of Gibreel in The Satanic Verses)1* also associates Raza and Omar with the rise of the violent, apocalyptic Beast/Kali. Earlier in the novel, Sufiya's body is burnt by the fire of the Beast: "the fire pulls the nerve-strings of Iskander's voice occasionally takes on a comic aspect, as when Raza ignores it "even though Isky kept trying to make his points" (S 246), while Dawood's voice is consistently violent and ominous. The loss of Dawood's voice (S 258) results from Raza's refusal to kill Sufiya, to sacrifice his only child. One can only surmise that such a sacrifice would further repress the forces that would eventually rise against Raza, for the Beast "has many faces" and it "takes any shape it chooses" (S 279). 1 3 Gibreel sees demons "with open eyes" and also with closed eyes, just as the monk Richalmus "would shut his eyes and instantly see clouds of minuscule demons surrounding every man and woman on earth" (SV 321). Raza's "monkeys" also anticipate the "demons of jealousy" that sit on Gibreels shoulders (SV 442). Yet there is a crucial distinction between the hallucinations of Gibreel and Raza: Gibreel's irreligion appears to open the door to uncontrollable visions whereas Raza's politicized religiosity opens this door. 1 4 6 the corpse, which becomes the fire's puppet, conveying a ghastly illusion of life amidst the flames" (S 243). This image of dancing in flames resurfaces in Iskander's apocalyptic words about "judgement day," which can in turn be associated with the Beast as Antichrist (who wreaks havoc prior to "the End of Time") and to Kali (who is "Shiva's power of Time," dancing in the chaos wrought by her destruction).14 These associations help to provide a subtle, poetic infrastructure for Rushdie's main point: by imposing a violent and puritanical form of Islam upon his people, Raza precipitates the coming of the Beast in the forms of the Antichrist and the Hindu goddess. BORDERS OF THE GODLY The cause-and-effect relation of Raza's repression to the Beast's vengeance remains fairly subtle, yet not as subtle as the way Rushdie skillfully constructs a hidden, underground, subconscious realm in which readers can find the following elements: sexual and democratic impulses denied by puritanism and Islamic Law, the anger of marginalized women (especially Rani, who is banished to Iskander's rural mansion, and Sufiya, who is chained in Raza's attic), Hindu polytheism and multivocality, subterranean angels who have been "kept down" by Raza's centralized State, and a host of underground and peripheral forces feared by Omar. The undercurrents and pressures in this realm 1 4 Danielou notes that it is "under her fierce aspect as the Power-of-Time" or "the power of disintegration closely connected to the power of liberation, that the consort of Shiva is mainly worshipped. She is then shown under a fearful form. She is a fierce-looking goddess, fond of intoxicants, of lust, of bloody sacrifices. Cruel and orgiastic rituals are performed in her honor by the followers of the Tantra cult" (264). . 147 accumulate throughout the novel and are associated with Hinduism in general and with the otherworldly figure of Kali in particular. Rushdie's use of'"shame's avatar" and "disorder's avatar" to describe the possessed Sufiya is important, for the term "avatar" derives from Hinduism, which is also referred to when the narrator speaks of Sufiya's Indian or "mohajir ancestry" (S 254),1 5 and when Raza hopes to father a "reincarnation" or "avatar" of his first still-born son.1 6 Raza hopes that the spirit of this child will return in another body, yet when Bilquis has a second child the "shame" of giving birth to a dead baby is replaced by the "shame" of giving birth to a female baby. Thus Sufiya is at once an "avatar" of the still-born child and of the "shame" associated with that child. One might find some degree of irony in that while Raza once believed in the Hindu notion of avatars, it is he who superimposes Islamic dogma onto Pakistani life. Raza thus eventually exacerbates the Pakistani tendency to deny "that Indian centuries lay just beneath the surface" of Pakistan (S 87). In depicting a revolt—or striking back—against such denial, and against the repression of multivocality in all its religious, cultural and political forms, Rushdie constructs the composite figure of the 1 5 A "muhajir" is an Indian-bom immigrant to Pakistan. The problems of the muhajir go back to Partition, when Pakistan gained 7.2 million refugees from India, most of whom settled in and dominated the cities and towns of the south. The muhajir from East Punjab "sought the establishment of an Islamic state and a state-managed economy" while the other more urbanized mujahir (from a variety of Indian locations) "believed in relatively 'secular' politics and laissez-faire economics" (Burki 203). 1 6 An avatar refers to the freely willed descent of a deity into human or animal form, whereas reincarnation or samsara refers to the necessary- rebirth of a soul from one body to the next. Rushdie uses avatar rather loosely, perhaps in order to suggest that his Muslims do not grasp the distinction between it and samsara, or perhaps in order to accommodate the "descent" of Kali into Sufiya. Another possible explanation may be that Raza supplies his still-bom son with such a spectacular fictional life (S 83) that this son might be seen as a god who descends into Sufiya's body after his death in Bilquis' womb. 148 Beast/Kali. This figure takes on satanic and Hindu associations, which is understandable given that "it/she" revolts against a centralized, monotheistic, patriarchal power that is at once Mosque and State. One might also see the Beast/Kali as an avatar in that the spirit of Sufiya~and of the innocence and sympathy she represents—is repressed, dies and then comes back from the dead in a destructive form, a form in which it can avenge those who kept it down and snuffed it out. The anti-Indian and anti-Hindu streak in Rushdie's Pakistanis can be situated in a global context, one in which Pakistanis also see the West as a godless place,1 7 yet in Shame the association between the foreign—the Other—and the demonic pertains mostly to the subcontinent and to Muslim demonization of Hindus. Rushdie suggests that in Pakistan the Other is forced into the role of Satan, the antithesis of Islam's Allah. The Other is also forced into the role of Kali, the most infamous of the Hindu goddesses who represent polytheism and female cosmic power—both of which are rejected by those who insist on the superiority of Islam over Hinduism. Although Rushdie is not explicit about the cause-and-effect relation between the insults Pakistanis hurl at the muhajir and the vengeance of the Beast/Kali, these insults and the attitudes behind them contribute to the 1 7 Rushdie makes fun of the view that there is a '"demonic quality" in "Western-style dance music" (S 16) and he has Dawood express the extreme view that products from the West are "Foreign devilments," "Devil things from abroad" and "items from hell" (S 99). He also writes of "wild lovers" copulating "in the aisle of the vegetation-covered house of the Christian God" (S 55) and of international hotels "where the naked white women go" (S 97). Rushdie's account of bias against Westerners is more damning to Pakistanis than to Westerners, since this bias is extreme and therefore ridiculous, and since Pakistanis appear to relish thinking about the shameful acts they attribute to Westerners and Christians. For instance, speculating on the relationship between Rodrigues and his student Farah, the "good people of Q. hit upon the most shameful, scandalous explanation of all" (S 48). 149 angry and vengeful nature of the force which is called "shame's avatar" and "disorder's avatar," and which is given a specifically "mohajir ancestry." While Rushdie initially lends a degree of humour to the insults Pakistanis direct at Hindus and the muhajir, he eventually makes it clear that the violence behind these insults is anything but funny. Highlighting the ludicrous degree to which religion divides the citizens of pre-Partition Delhi, Rushdie remarks: going to the pictures had become a political act. The one-godly went to these cinemas and the washers of stone gods to those; movie-fans had been partitioned already. (S 61) Bilquis' father, Mahmoud, revolts against this division between the "washers of stone gods" and the "one-godly" by playing a Hindu-Muslim double-bill, that is, by playing one film which caters to Hindus (in this film cows are set free) along with another film which caters to Muslims (in this film cows are eaten). Aadam Aziz's "optimism disease," which in Midnight's Children amounted to the belief in a tolerant, united subcontinent, here takes the form of Mahmoud's "mad logic of romanticism" and of a "fatal personality flaw, namely tolerance" (S 62). Aadam's heroic status in Amritsar and Agra also anticipates Mahmoud's celestial status. When Mahmoud's theatre explodes in a "hot firewind of apocalypse," Bilquis hears "a sound like the beating wings of an angel" (S 62-63). Rushdie's imagery suggests that Mahmoud's death is not merely a worldly event, but partakes in the divinity associated with angels. In giving the name Mahmoud to his anti-communalist crusader, Rushdie may also be borrowing from the Sufi depiction of Mahmud of Ghazni, whose love of his slave Ayez represents a love so great that it crosses the otherwise impenetrable boundaries of status and rank. In the novel Mahmoud crosses the 150 ail-too fortified boundary between Muslims and Hindus, and he thus attains a sort of angelic status 1 8 The violent and divisive sentiments which result in the double-bill of Mahmoud's destruction resurface when Bariamma assails Raza and Bilquis for importing the Hindu notion of reincarnation into her Muslim country. When the matriarch learns that they think God has "consented to send them a free substitute for the damaged goods" (a new child for their stillborn child), she reacts zealously to what she sees as a vestigial Hindu mode of thinking: Bariamma, who found out everything, clicked her tongue noisily over this reincarnation nonsense, aware that it was something they had imported, like a germ, from that land of idolaters they had left. (S 83) Iskander also uses Raza's Indian background against him when he reminds people (during his trial) that the pro-Islamic Raza once believed in avatars. Isky's supporters then mutter that there is "evidence of a Hindu great-grandmother on his father's side," and that "those ungodly philosophies had long ago infected his blood" (S 84). While these comments are somewhat humorous because of their extremity, humour disappears when Bariamma calls Bilquis "a fugitive from that godless country over there" (S 84) and when she yells at Raza's wife, "Come on, mohajir! Immigrant! Pack up double-quick and be off to what gutter you choose" (S 85). 1 8 Helen Watson-Williams suggests that Rushdie's Mahmoud alludes to the historical Mahmud of Ghazni. She observes that Mahmud was "the founder of the Ghaznawid dynasty" and that he led Islamic Turks "into Peshawar, crossed the Indus in 1005 AD. and took Lahore in 1010" (44). In this case, Rushdie applies the name "Mahmoud" ironically, given that the historical Mahmud was warlike and orthodox, and that the Mahmoud of the novel is a pacifist who confronts Muslims and Hindus alike with their prejudice. 151 Rushdie argues that to build Pakistan "it was necessary to cover up Indian history, to deny that Indian centuries lay just beneath the surface." He sees "the subsequent history of Pakistan as a duel between two layers of time" (S 87), and he champions the Indian "layer of time" which he feels has been repressed. Against the Islamic nationalism which created Pakistan at Partition, and which Raza reinforces with his Islamic Law, Rushdie advances "shame's avatar," a mythic, cosmic force which surfaces from the depths of Time, from the "Indian centuries," to exact vengeance on those who use coercion and violence to impose their version of Islamic purity on others. O.P. Mathur draws much the same conclusion: [Rushdie's] sensibility is basically Indian—democratic, secular and humanistic. Indian myths and legends have been so extensively used in Midnight's Children and even in Shame one may perhaps get glimpses of goddess Kali in the retributive and murderous Sufiya Zinobia, and of the legendary demons in Raza Hyder. In fact, as we have seen, throughout Shame, the nightmarish and monochromatic Pakistani reality has been examined, satirized and ridiculed from the perspective of one who has his "roots" fixed in undivided India and drawn sustenance from its values. (92) A goddess such as Kali is a fitting opponent to the "monochromatic Pakistan" promoted by Raza, rising as she does from the "Indian centuries" and from the polytheistic, polymorphic, polyvocal mythology that comes with these centuries. SUBTERRANEAN ANGELS AND IMPOSSIBLE MOUNTAINS Rushdie invests the hidden realm, the "Indian layer of time," that lies beneath Pakistan with a variety of cosmic forces. Prominent among these are the rebellious subterranean angels which Omar fears and with which Omar's younger brother Babar identifies. Rushdie creates an effective dichotomy between marginalized rebellious forces 152 and centralized conservative forces by having Babar join the subterranean angels of the Baluchis (an ethnic group marginalized and repressed by the central government) and by having Omar (who keeps close to the centre of power) fear the type of rebellious, mythic force suggested by these underground angels. While Rushdie does not make it clear that the Beast (as fallen angel) rallies the subterranean angels, he clearly uses Omar's fears of peripheral and underground forces to create a foreboding backdrop for the Beast/Kali, who surfaces right before Omar's terrified eyes. Whereas Omar moves from "Q." (which stands for the city of Quetta near the border with Afghanistan) to Karachi, Babar drifts from Q. to the furthest hinterland of the country, that is, to the camps of the Baluchi rebels in the mountains surrounding Q. Babar's move to the hinterland is initially an "act of separatism" against his three mothers, a reaction to their idealization of Omar (S 131), yet his subsequent revolt is against the central government and the control it exerts through its military strongman Raza. 1 9 The suppression of the Baluchis has a long history in the subcontinent20 and Rushdie makes of it one more instance of political and ethnic repression which will eventually find its agent 1 9 At this point in the story Raza is Iskander's general. It is Raza who quells the Baluchi revolt in Needle Valley and who leads the party which shoots Babar. 2 0 The five million Baluchis in Pakistan speak an Indo-Iranian language and they have never been well integrated with "British India" or the rest of Pakistan. After attempting to subdue them, the British "accorded" them an autonomous region in 1876. "On the partition of India [in] 1947 the khan of Khalat [the large central region south of the regional capital, Quetta] declared Baluchistan independent: the insurrection was crushed by the new Pakistani army after eight months" (Hutchinson 97). Early in the Bhutto era, opposition governments "in Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier [home to the Pathans] suffered open discrimination; their leaders were frequently criticized for being unpatriotic. Finally, on February 12, 1974, the Baluchistan government was dismissed on the charge of inciting the people of that province to rebel against the central authorities" (Burki 213). Since the creation of Pakistan, there have been three rebellions, the last being from 1973 to 1977 (roughly corresponding to the Bhutto era), when 3,300 Pakistani soldiers and some 6,000 Baluchi were killed (Hutchinson 97). 153 of vengeance in the Beast/Kali. Rushdie does not allude to the Devil as the leader of the rebellious angels of Baluchistan, yet he does prepare the ground (or the "underground") for such an inference. Babar writes in his notebook that Baluchi separatists believe their desire for freedom is supported by "golden angels" who are trapped—presumably by an unjust "God" or by such a God's corollary, a despot such as Raza—beneath the surface of the earth: their belief that the golden angels were on their side gave the guerrillas an unshakeable certainty of the justice of their cause, and made it easy for them to die for it. 'Separatism,' Babar wrote, 'is the belief that you are good enough to escape from the clutches of hell.' (S 130) When Babar dies for this cause he finds Heaven below rather than above the earth: he soars "lucent and winged into the eternity of the mountains" and he is "received into the elysian bosom of the earth" (S 132). Given that this account is imagined by the three mothers, one cannot ascribe it a straightforward meaning.21 It does, however, suggest that when forces of resistance are defeated they join other forces of resistance, other angels trapped beneath the earth. The rise of Sufiya as Beast makes sense in this context, for the Devil is a fallen and, to some degree, a trapped angel vwho would find it in his interest to rally such forces of resistance. Omar aligns himself with the central powers in the land (Iskander and then Raza) and he fears the peripheral, repressed, destabilizing forces joined by Babar. Omar's 2 1 The three sisters first idolize Omar and then Babar. Their initial idolization and their subsequent hatred of Omar is not inconsistent. Omar is initially a product and symbol of their revolt against marriage, yet he eventually leaves the three mothers and befriends Raza, who not only kills their only other son, but also promotes the patriarchal religious standards they vehemently reject. One could also argue that their idolization of Omar serves to torture Babar, who, once dead, is in turn idolized (or "angelized") so as to make Omar feel guilty. 154 friendship with Iskander gives him momentary relief from his recurrent psychological and spiritual fear of the periphery, a fear which makes him dream that he is "falling off the world's end": It should be said that his professional success, and his friendship with Iskander Harappa, have had the effect of reducing the frequency of these giddy spells, of keeping our hero's feet on the ground. But still the dizziness comes, now and then, to remind him how close he is, will always be, to the edge. (S 127) Whereas Babar gains glory when he is defeated by the central government, Omar appears to lose both body and soul when he is devoured by the force which stalks the leader of this government. The punishment of Omar may seem harsh, yet one should remember three points. First, Omar is punished by the Beast and the three mothers. One cannot expect appropriate justice from such vindictive and evil figures, despite the fact that they act as the necessary scourge of Raza's tyranny. Likewise, one cannot expect appropriate justice from Madame Guillotine. Second, Omar is punished largely for the company he keeps, for his friendship and compliance with the autocratic Iskander and Raza. Third, Omar is not merely an innocent bystander. As the "top man" in Karachi's leading hospital, he hypnotizes women so that he and Iskander can have "some highly charged sex," after which he rationalizes his abuse of power by saying that it is impossible "to persuade a subject to do anything she is unwilling to do" (S 128). Omar's sexual abuses and shamelessness, combined with the many other instances where women are marginalized and repressed in the novel, make it easy to see why the agent of revolt and retribution takes a female body, and why this agent bears a striking resemblance to the goddess Kali and to "old Madame Guillotine with her basket of heads" (S 240). 155 Rushdie skillfully conflates cosmology and psychology in his depiction of Omar's escalating fear of the dark forces which emerge from the depths of outer space, the mountains of Baluchistan and the subterranean "mountains" of Nishapur. At first Omar sees the mountains surrounding Quetta as the last barrier between humanity and a fearsome, meaningless cosmos which he imagines to contain "silicon creatures or gas monsters": the child Omar Khayyam surveyed the emptiness of the landscape around Q., which convinced him that he must be near the very Rim of Things, and that beyond the Impossible Mountains on the horizon must lie the great nothing into which, in his nightmares, he had begun to tumble with monotonous regularity. (S 22) Omar's fear of unseen cosmic forces worsens when he explores the depths of Nishapur, a mansion haunted by the witch-like three sisters. In this "Nishapur," Omar finds a terrifying abyss lying within a mountainous underworld: he discovered ruined staircases made impassable by longago earthquakes which had caused them to heave up into tooth-sharp mountains and also to fall away to reveal dark abysses of fear ... in the silence of the night and the first sounds of dawn he explored beyond history into what seemed the positively archaeological antiquity of'Nishapur.' (S 31) This passage differs tellingly from an earlier description of the Impossible Mountains, one in which readers find the image of "crumpled ochre slopes," as well as a skillfully placed ellipsis between "stonemasonry" and "divine dream-temples" (S 23). In place of such imagery, readers now find "tooth-sharp mountains," as well as an ellipsis between "dark abyss of fear" and "silence of the night." Omar appears to see the "mountains" beneath Nishapur in terms of a tradition not emphasized by Attar, one in which "the chief abode of the Jinn is in the mountains of Qaf, which are supposed to encompass the whole of our earth" (Thomas Hughes 136). This possibility is enhanced when the three mothers appear 156 to fly to these Impossible Mountains at the end of the novel. Such a flight suggests that they are returning to their homeland of mischievous spirits. The imagery of "stonemasonry" and "divine dream-temples" is given its most harrowing and its most overtly psychological transmogrification when Omar returns to Nishapur at the end of the novel. Here he hallucinates that the destabilizing forces under the mountains, the angelic pressures which make the dream-temples rise and fall (S 23), have descended upon the rest of the country: The world was an earthquake, abysses yawned, dream-temples rose and fell, the logic of the Impossible Mountains had come down to infect the plains. In his delirium, however, in the burning clutches of the sickness and the foetid atmosphere of the house, only endings seemed possible. He could feel things caving in within him, landslips, heaves, the patter of crumbling masonry in his chest, cog-wheels breaking, a false note in the engine's hum. (S 274) Rushdie skillfully combines earlier images of tectonic shifting with Omar's mental and anatomical breakdown. He gives all of these a cosmic and apocalyptic tone, suggesting that Omar's universe turns out to be as dark and destructive as he feared when a child. Much of Omar's terror can be attributed to the influence of his three witch-like mothers, who actively discourage their son from exploring the possibilities or consolations of rationality, philosophy and mysticism. When Omar sets out "the most elegant proofs of Euclidian theorems" and when he "expatiatefs] eloquently on the Platonic image of the Cave," Munnee responds, "Who is to understand the brains of those crazy types? [...] They read books from left to right" (S 36). The three sisters reject Greek ideas, which can be associated with the poet Omar Khayyam,22 without giving these ideas much thought, 2 2 In studying medicine. Omar Khayyam takes after his namesake, who resided in the Persian city of Nishapur in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and who was influenced by Greek science as well as Sufi mysticism. Khayyam's Ruba iyat can be read as a straightforward text in which the love 157 perhaps because one of the main outcomes of such thought—atheism—complements their anti-religious sensibilities. In the Islamic context, atheism is considered one form of the sin of shirk (replacing God with other deities, ideas or things) since it puts "nothingness in the place of God" (Glasse 370). Yet mysticism creates something sacred from apparent nothingness and hence it constitutes a considerable threat. It may be for this reason that the three sisters very deliberately discard the screen of Qaf, thus rejecting the mystical symbolism developed by that other famous twelfth-century resident of Nishapur, Farid ud-Din Attar: And one day the three mothers sent a servant into the study to remove from their lives an exquisitely carved walnut screen on which was portrayed the mythical circular mountain of Qaf, complete with the thirty birds playing God thereupon. (S33) While Omar goes on to study the "arcane science" of hypnotism and the medical science of immunology, he does not pursue the mystical ideas suggested by the screen or by its curious association with Hashmat Bibi's mystical death. After the three sisters' removal of the screen—after the "flight of the bird-parliament"—Omar uses hypnotism to give Hashmat Bibi "glimpses of non-being." Hashmat Bibi then "apparently willfs] herself into death" (S 33-34). Whereas Omar's grandfather old Mr Shakil dies cursing himself and other people to Hell (S 12, 14), Hashmat Bibi dies with whispers of Heaven and God on her lips: "at the very end she had been heard muttering, '...deeper and deeper into the heart of the rosy cloud'" (S 34). Her somewhat comic "mystical death" (her name of wine and women signifies a love of physical pleasure, or as an allegorical text in which drunkenness stands for the intoxication of divine ecstasy and in which sexual union signifies the bliss of union with God (the Beloved, the Friend). 158 suggests a flight into oblivion on a carpet or mat of hashish) echoes that of old Aziz sahib in Midnight's Children. Yet in Shame Attar's notion of mystical annihilation does not recur, as it does in Midnight's Children, to suggest ideals of conference, unity, divine song or a meaning which transcends death. Rather, the three sisters seem to have succeeded in expunging Attar and his mystical flight from the mansion of Omar's birth. The three mothers' sinister influence, combined with their dismissal of science (the "material") and their exclusion of mysticism (the "spiritual") make Nishapur a "hideously indeterminate universe," a "third world that was neither material nor spiritual, but a sort of concentrated decrepitude made up of the decomposing remnants of those two more familiar types of cosmos" (S 30). Instead of encouraging the best of twelfth-century Nishapur, the three mothers bring to mind what Khayyam and Attar fear—the malicious wheel of heaven and the "hundred monsters loosed from hell" (Khayyam 49, Attar 192):23 Omar finds what the Persian poet hints at in his Ruba 'iyat: a cosmos in which humans exist "beneath unscrupulous stars" and in which the wheel of heaven "is a thousand times more helpless than you" (Khayyam 81, 47). 2 3 The use of both Khayyam and Attar suggests two sides of Rushdie's sensibility: the hedonist and the mystic. The dichotomy may not be an unbridgeable one given the dual nature of Khayyam's Ruba 'iyat. although Attars rejection of Khayyam suggests a serious gap. In passing I would note that a curious parallel exists between the way Khayyam was rejected by Attar and the way Rushdie has been rejected by many Muslims. In his Introduction to Khayyam's Ruba 'iyat. Peter Avery notes that Attar imagines an afterlife for Khayyam in which the latter is "ashamed and confused on being rejected at God"s threshold." Avery adds that Khayyam thus "stood condemned alike by the spiritually and intellectually tolerant Sufi poet, from whom, exceptionally, he received no compassion because he was so heinously a materialist, and by the Sufi schoolman, who abhorred him as a spurner of religion, lacking the grace to attain the Sufi's gnostic beatitude" (17). Like Khayyam, Rushdie employs metaphors drawn from Sufism, and, like Khayyam, he has not been embraced by those who use such metaphors within a more orthodox framework of belief. 159 The demonic nature of the three sisters is important to the otherworldly structuring of the novel because it suggests a diabolic nexus of forces (composed mainly of the three sisters and the Beast) as well as a nefarious supernatural presence running from the opening to the closing scenes. While the sisters might initially seem heroic, even feminist, they are, as Haffenden observes, an "enjoyable but ultimately sinister complex" (256). Rushdie associates them with the Satan who plots the downfall of Adam and Eve, for they sleep in "a huge mahogany four-poster [bed] around whose columns carved serpents coiled upwards to the brocade Eden of the canopy" (S 21). They reject religious customs by refusing to circumcise, shave or whisper to their newborn son, and by living apart from the Ummah or community which gives meaning to the social ideals of Islam. Their rejection of men and patriarchal authority is also suggested in the "rumours that they would indolently explore each other's bodies during the languourous drowsiness of the afternoons, and, at night, would weave occult spells to hasten the moment of their father's demise" (S 13). Their inseparability might mock the "three-in-oneness" of the Trinity (S 35), and their communal pregnancy—during which one cannot identify the father or the mother—might mock the immaculate conception of Christ (later they say, perhaps merely to spite Omar^  that Babar's father was an angel while Omar's father was a devil). Rushdie suggests the three sisters' antagonism to God and mysticism in a variety of ways, explicitly in Munnee's assertion that "there is no God" (S 281) and more subtly when they discard the walnut screen of Qaf. Further evidence of the demonic nature of the three sisters can be found in the characteristics they share with the Beast, and in the way their actions complement those of 160 the Beast. Three of the main forms of the possessed Sufiya—the Beast, Kali and Madame Guillotine—can be associated with the three Shakil sisters: the Beast can be seen in the triune mothers' antagonism to God, in their vicious acts and in their refusal to perform Islamic rites; Madame Guillotine can be seen in their violent rejection of traditional hierarchy and in their body-shredding contraption which dispatches the tyrant Raza; Kali can be seen in their female revolt against patriarchal and monotheistic Islamic power structures. Rushdie strengthens the link between the Beast and the three sisters when, joining forces in Nishapur, they kill Raza and Omar and then appear to lift themselves above the final gruesome scene: the Beast leaves Sufiya's body and hovers ambiguously over Nishapur and the three sisters crumble, "perhaps, into powder under the rays of the sun," or they grow wings and fly off "into the Impossible Mountains in the west" (S 285). In his interview with Scripsi, Rushdie says that he "was very pleased" with the way "the text sets up the expectation that The Beast, this nemesis figure, is coming to get the general and then she doesn't. Somebody else gets the general" (111). This "somebody else" is the three sisters, who Rushdie calls the "sort of Macbeth-like witches [who] become the avengers at the end" (110). On a superficial level of plot, Rushdie is correct about the upsetting of expectations. Yet the final actions of the three sisters fulfills expectations one might have about their evil, Macbeth-like, behind-the-scenes designs. The fact that the three mothers act in concert with the Beast during the final scene also confirms the basic similarity between them and the other dominating otherworldly presence in the novel, the Beast. 161 The fear of metaphysical evil instilled in Omar during his childhood in the home of the three mothers is helpful to the plot, since it makes him at once afraid and aware of the malicious evil which lurks in the universe. Observing the sulfurous "pricks of yellow light" in Sufiya's eyes, Omar admits to himself that there are more things in the universe than can be explained by a scientific philosophy: From the flickering points of light he began to learn that science was not enough, that even though he rejected possession-by-devils as a way of denying human responsibility for human actions, even though God had never meant much to him, still his reason could not erase the evidence of those eyes, could not blind him to that unearthly glow, the smouldering fire of the Beast. (S 235) Having demonstrated considerable skill as a mesmerist, Omar is well qualified to recognize the "eyes of Hell," "the golden eyes of the most powerful mesmerist on earth" (S 236). When he sees these eyes he is terrified and turns instinctively to God for help: 'God help us,' said Omar Khayyam, in spite of his uncircumcised, unshaven, unwhispered-to beginnings. It was as though he had divined that it was time for the Almighty to step forward and take charge of events. (S 239) Omar's plea to God stands out in the text because it is in direct opposition to everything he has been taught by his mothers and to everything scientific he has learned as an immunologist. Omar's experience with the strange forces of the universe and the subconscious combine with his attraction to the young Sufiya to make him the ideal observer of the transformation of Sufiya into the Beast. Omar's dreams about the pedophile Rodrigues were "prescient warnings against the dangers of falling in love with under-age females and then following them to the ends of the earth," for once one is at the edge of the world (presumably near "the Rim of Things") the young girls "inevitably cast you aside" and "the blast of their rejection picks you up and hurls you out into the great starry nothingness 162 beyond gravity and sense" (S 141). With his imagination that fills the depths of space with "silicon creatures or gas monsters" (S 23), and his understanding that young females can cast older men into the void, Omar provides the reader with a unique vantage point from which to watch the rise of the Beast in Sufiya. Rushdie emphasizes the power of the Beast as well as Omar's position as chief witness by having the possessed Sufiya escape through a brick wall and by having Omar stare for "hours on end" at the "fantastic outline" of "his departed wife." Rushdie also suggests that Sufiya becomes a surreal otherworldly presence that roams freely and cannot be chained by human power when Omar's "eyes, roving outwards through the attic window, seemed to be following someone, although there was nobody there" (S 243). Omar's life has come full circle, since he once again confronts the frightening voids of his childhood. This time, however, the cosmic force which haunts him does not lurk beneath the precipices of mountainous staircases or hide in the depths of outer space. Rather, it appears right in front of his very eyes. Even more frightening, it disappears, and then tracks him all the way back to Nishapur. SUFIYA AS THE BEAST/KALI Rushdie himself was unnerved by the extremely dark undercurrents expressed by Sufiya: I find [Sufiya] is the most disturbing thing in the book, and she was very disturbing to write because she more or less made herself up. [...] [S]he did frighten me. I think it's unusual to be frightened by one's own creations, but she did make me worried about her. I worried about what she meant. [...] Yes, I know where she comes from and the process of making her, but she seems to transcend her source material. There is a dark area at the centre of her, and the book is about that dark area. (Rushdie with Haffenden 255) 163 The "dark area" within Sufiya results from the merciless possession of an innocent and sympathetic girl, from the way a fragile self is overwhelmed by hellish fire, dirty water and a monster of the deep. This monster has some of the same associations as Omar's interstellar gas monsters—fearsomeness, dark cosmic power—yet it is also a specifically satanic power which possesses an innocent girl whose name suggests union with God. In the process of creating Sufiya, Rushdie employs three different media accounts, the first two pointing to the way shame is inflicted by sexist morality, and the last pointing to the way metaphysical forces feed on a physical body. The first two accounts focus on the notion that dishonour leads to shame: in London "a Pakistani father murdered his only child, a daughter, because by making love to a white boy she had brought such dishonour upon her family that only her blood could wash away the stain" (S 115); again in London, a teen-aged "Asian" girl is beaten by white boys and afterwards she feels shame rather than anger (S 117). The first instance illustrates the imposition of shame, the second the internalization of values which define dishonour and shame. Sufiya is subject to both of these. The third media account supplies a hint of the metaphysical mechanics which allow Sufiya to be transformed: a boy "had simply ignited of his own accord, without dousing himself in petrol or applying any external flame. We are energy; we are fire; we are light. Finding the key, stepping through into that truth, a boy began to burn" (S 117). While Sufiya blushes so hotly that her skin burns whoever touches it, she does not step into any liberating "truth." Rather the fire of the Beast pulls the nerve-strings of her corpse, "which becomes the fire's puppet, conveying a ghastly illusion of life amidst the flames" (S 243). 164 Rushdie also skillfully creates an aqueous "realm" which corresponds to Sufiya's subconscious and which becomes an "ocean" from which the Beast rises. Sufiya becomes a "sponge" which soaks up invisible shame and shamelessness; she becomes a janitor "of the unseen," mopping up the "dirty waters" so that Pakistan can live up to its name, "Land of the Pure" (S 120, 122). She "soaks up" all the negative energy or "dirty water" resulting from military, political, ethnic, sexual and religious repression, and these waters then serve as the subconscious realm or "ocean" from which the Beast rises. Rushdie establishes the depth of the sea as a metaphor for sexuality when Bilquis tells Good News to think of male penetration as "having a fish up your fundament" (S 146) and when, on the eve of Sufiya's wedding, Shahbanou tells her to think of herself as the ocean and the man as a "sea creature." Shahbanou tells her, "that is what men are like, to live they must drown in you, in the tides of your secret flesh" (S 199). Sufiya replies "obstinately in her voice of a seven-year-old girl, which was also the eerily disguised voice of the latent monster: 'I hate fish'" (S 199). Rushdie suggests that Sufiya's child-like mind is not ready for sex, although her body may be. The monster takes advantage of this situation by harnessing and magnifying her body's sexual energy. Shahbanou gives the monster more scope by denying Sufiya any release of the accumulating sexual energies in her body. Because of Shahbanou's overprotective or selfish actions (she sleeps with Omar in Sufiya's place), the monster usurps Sufiya's subconscious "sea" and then stalks the land in its monstrous seven league boots. Sufiya appears to become the passive victim of possession in the form of satanic rape when her subconscious becomes a sea in which the Beast rises. While Rushdie 165 previously suggests that the monster hates fish, the association between the threat of male sexuality and satanic rape becomes likely given the above association between phallus and fish and given the following eerie description of the way the Beast stirs in Sufiya's "ocean": There is no ocean but there is a feeling of sinking. It makes her sick. There is an ocean. She feels its tide. And, somewhere in its depths, a Beast, stirring. (S 215) This description evokes a great deal of pathos in itself, yet it also comes immediately after a pathos-laden account of the way Sufiya takes things in and out of her head (S 213-215), signifying that while she has sympathy for the world around her, this world does not allow her to construct any form of meaningful existence. While she "packs her head mil of good things so that there won't be room for the other things, the things she hates," these other, foreign things "that don't seem to be from anywhere" invade her mind: "They come most often during the sleepless nights, shapes that make her feel like crying, or places with people hanging upside-down from the roof." These invasions confuse Sufiya about the nature of good and evil, and about whether she is good or evil: If she were good the bad things would go elsewhere, so that means she is not good. Why is she so bad9 What makes her rotten, evil? She tosses in her bed. And pouring out from inside the fearsome alien shapes. (S 214) It is not only the world which is against her: the otherworldly satanic force which is traditionally said to prey on the blindness and cruelty of this world also steals her body and terrifies her fragile consciousness. Rushdie hits a similar note in The Satanic Verses when Chamcha sees Pamela's face as "a saintly mask behind which who knows what worms feasted on rotting meat (he was alarmed by the hostile violence of the images arising from his unconscious)" (SV 402), and when Chamcha asks himself, "What evil had he done— 166 what vile thing could he, would he do? For what was he — he couldn't avoid the notion — being punished? And, come to that, by whom? (I held my tongue.)" (SV 256). One of the main differences in the possessions of Sufiya and Chamcha is that Sufiya's possession is explicitly the work of the Beast, whereas Rushdie only slyly intimates that the Beast is responsible for Chamcha's possession. Also, Chamcha is to some degree aware of, and responsible for, his actions. Sufiya, on the other hand, is completely ignorant and innocent of what is really going on in her mind and body. Because the path which links sharam (shame)24 to violence is hidden (S 139), people do not recognize it, and in self-destructive denial they "pretend the menace is not loping towards them in seven-league boots" (S 199). They do not examine the monster they create, for to do so would mean to question their most basic beli