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The Image of Europe in Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown: A Phenomenological Study
University West, Department of Social and Behavioural Studies, Division for Educational Science and Languages.
2015 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Beauty is one of all those concepts that we can use to explain our world and even use as a basis for a discussion about the meaning of life. Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie could be called a novel about what beauty is, or to be more specific, about how our efforts towards order or chaos in life, love or hate, or whatever we do to make our own world enjoyable - beautiful - affect our lives. When there is no beauty in life, life is ugly and there is no joy. The arising question then is: What is beauty? Shalimar the Clown will give us one answer to this question. Shalimar is a magnificent garden. There are several gardens called Shalimar, but here it is a garden in Srinagar, in Kashmir, and it is even used as a symbol of Kashmir in this novel. Like other majestic Indian creations, Shalimar was constructed as an act of love, a gift from the Mughal Emperor Jahangir to his wife Nur Jahan.

Shalimar in the novel is a nickname, an alias, used by Noman Sher Noman as the symbol of his adult life. As an artist, a clown, performing classic Kashmiri art, beauty is his mission. It is what he gives the audience: a moment of beauty like the garden he has borrowed his alias from. Now, a garden can be destroyed and ugly and accordingly that can happen to both Shalimar and all of Kashmir. Where there once was beauty, there is now nothing and that is ugly. This is how Shalimar the Clown answers the question about what beauty is: it is what disappeared from Kashmir.

Nothing is ever alone, not Shalimar nor Kashmir, but everything is always a part of the big scheme. The world is never singular or limited, and Shalimar and Kashmir are pieces in a worldwide puzzle and as such, they even represent and reflect the world and the world reflects them. Therefore Kashmir is not alone in this novel, but a shady mirror image of the rest of the world, of what has happened in history 4 before. For example, Rushdie challenges our Eurocentric thought by comparing Kashmir to Europe, using especially Strasbourg during World War II as a mirror, as both Kashmir and Strasbourg are areas that have been subject to long-term international conflicts and the constant re-drawing and reshaping of borders. Alas, Europe serves as a mirror of Kashmir, so whatever signs of beauty we find in Europe also serves as beauty in Kashmir and vice versa.

As readers, we use the thoughts we learn while reading to create the world we live in as we experience the reading, like bricks used in the construction of our minds. We strive for deeper understanding of the world and ourselves. What we read will affect our thoughts, who we read will affect our thoughts, and then it is logical that an “outsider’s” view on our own culture might be extra rewarding for this personal evolution of our mind. Reading the more recent works of Salman Rushdie - an author who comes from Asia, lives in America, and has lived in Europe - ought to work well, exposing Europe and thereby giving us as Europeans new ideas about ourselves. Growing up in the diversity of Bombay, Salman Rushdie has always been a writer who has uncovered heterogenous societies and as a consequence the absolute plurality and hybridity - the world - is continuously present in Rushdie’s fiction. The 2005 novel Shalimar the Clown was written during the years after Rushdie moved to the US and even though Kashmir and the US are the main arenas in this novel, Europe and life in Europe are used as a background throughout the novel. Therefore the image of Europe displayed in Shalimar the Clown - an image constructed of associations to and notions of Europe - is sharp and detailed and that image is what

will be examined in this essay. Certain “paths” are discovered and as we will see, what comes out of this examination are images of Europe as a plurality, Europe as a world of cultural complexity, Europe as a curiosity and Europe as a mirror. Are these 5 qualities signs of beauty or signs of ugliness? What is Salman Rushdie’s opinion? The world is the key. Our world is constructed by our minds - the sum of our experiences - and so is the world of the author, but the amount of all these experiences is too huge to fully understand. A reduction is needed and phenomenological criticism is one way to handle this. As a matter of fact, the key is to ignore the writer's personal experiences, the author’s biography, and only focus on the author’s world as it is displayed in the novel. This, we call the author's Lebenswelt and in order to nail down the theme even more and sum up this introduction, what will be shown in this essay is a number of qualities that Europe - as a concept - has in the world of Salman Rushdie's imagination, as pictured in Shalimar the Clown, and what kind of value these qualities possess, using the antipodes of beauty and ugliness. These qualities are the “paths” mentioned above: Europe as a plurality, Europe as a world of cultural complexity, Europe as a curiosity and Europe as a mirror. First though, as a background, there will be a discussion of what Europe is, as a historical concept, and of how Europe is characterized in other non-European literature, a review of key topics that critics have found in Shalimar the Clown and a short overview of phenomenology and how it may be applied to literary criticism.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. , 32 p.
Keyword [en]
Literature studies, Rushdie
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hv:diva-9985Local ID: EON200OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hv-9985DiVA: diva2:1037563
Subject / course
Educational science
Supervisors
Examiners
Available from: 2016-10-17 Created: 2016-10-13 Last updated: 2016-10-17Bibliographically approved

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