Salman Rushdie’s Fifth Novel And the Legacy of Storytelling

As we reach adulthood, we often leave behind our childlike imagination that has no limits. We find it harder to relax and enjoy simple things in life, whether it be magical tales or funny jokes. In Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, the book brings awareness to the change from childhood to adulthood. In the beginning, protagonist Haroun Khalifa does not understand why his dad, Rashid Khalifa, tells stories if they are not real. Along with the fact that Haroun’s mom left the family, his dad can not tell stories for the masses. At first, Haroun enters another world with the water genie Iff to help his dad. During the journey, he has to stop the land of Chup (a silent world) from destroying the land of Gup (a talkative world).

Throughout the story, the author weaves in fantasy-like elements from other tales like Arabian Nights. I found the imaginary world that Rushdie created mesmerizing. The author’s creativity reminded me of my first time watching Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss ten years ago. Rushdie’s ability to describe a world with strange creatures and unconventional societies is amazing. I mean, who else can think of a city in which the units of the army are pages that form a chapter and then a book? In addition to magical realism, I enjoyed Rushdie’s singsong writing style. By doing so, he gave the setting like Alifbay and characters a whole new dimension. The rhymes such as, “If you try to rush or zoom you are sure to meet your doom,” had this comic quality that I found amusing.

Another thing I appreciated about this book was the story’s dreamy quality. The fictional world that Haroun and his dad enters sounds like a dream that does not make complete sense but still has a story. There is the mechanical bird Butt and water genie Iff that accompanies Haroun. The hero of the story, Haroun fights the world of Chup to stop the leader Khattam-Shud from silencing stories and his people. An interesting metaphor of stories is that the stories are liquids that make up a vast ocean of various colors. For me, I thought that this scenario sounded like an ocean of memories floating around in my brain when I am asleep. Sometimes, poisons can pollute the ocean, causing me to have inaccurate memories. The same goes for stories, except that “poisoned” ones can disrupt the foundations of culture and society.

Critiques I have for the book are that there was that the pace was a bit too slow in the beginning. Although Rushdie introduced the conflict right away, I kept wondering when would the rising action occur. I had a nagging thought in the beginning because I wanted to know whether Rashid’s situation would improve.

In general, this book makes some aspects of childhood come back to life again. As I approach adulthood, I tend to forget the importance of reading fictional tales. Sometimes, the antagonist Mr. Sengupta reminds me of my current self. Like Mr. Sengupta, I am too serious and forget to have fun at times. After reading the book, I have decided to add some childhood classics to my reading list. Reading stories act as escapism from our hectic lives. We forget reality for a brief moment by immersing ourselves in another world. Far from only being a source of entertainment, Rushdie highlights their importance in society. Even if they are not real, stories help unite people of different backgrounds, just like the inhabitants of Chup and Gup.

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