A mesmerizing single-sitting read if you’re up for it. QUICHOTTE is yet another sample of Rushdie’s prose-magic–or “metaphoric roguery”–a serpentine dual adventure along the tricky pathways of reality and unreality, an intricate fictional/meta-fictional inquiry into contemporary literary, political, social, moral, and domestic alarms.
At one point the Author character writes that the story developing on his computer makes him smile happily. Likewise, a reader attuned to the sprawling, recursive, multiverse of literary allusion and this catalog of bizarre social trends will smile as she reads.
Perhaps not since Melville’s unlikely masterpiece has any author waded, perhaps rashly but with steely determination, into the mire of every blessed thing that could possibly be extracted from popular culture. In this case, Rushdie alludes to the ubiquity of TV (“the god that keeps on giving”), alludes slyly dead white poets (“not Sir Galahad nor was meant to be”), and even finds a spot for MOBY DICK itself.
On open palms stained with printer’s ink and ordinary pollution, Rushdie offers this serio-comic take on what his characters–and I imagine many readers–perceive as our floundering passage through the storms of modernity. He meshes satire with absurdity and ties both to his vision of the sorry state of the human condition and our sick planet; to the backstory of western literature from Renaissance Romance to Apocalyptic Ends of Time; and to his historical sensibility as it pertains to India, Britain, and the United States.
It helps to have a grasp of his reach.
The overarching theme is expressed by the observation that, as we approach the possible end of our own times, the human condition has been to live inside fictions created by untruths or the withholding of truths. This, I think, is the foundation of every family saga and domestic drama both fictional and actual–the satisfying plot almost always constructing a pathway to the truth.
The same applies to our social fictions, in especial our toleration of recent political manipulations, the suppression of scientific authority, and the battle for the livability of our planet. The satisfying plot must surely be the pathway to the truth of our commitment to the greatest good.
The two families in QUICHOTTE (pronounced Key-Shot, as in a bump of cocaine from a key) are fictional and meta-fictional, the latter created by an Author in the aforementioned fictional family. Both families are rooted in Bombay (Mumbai), but their similar histories and experiences in love, violence, illness, addiction, and betrayal by extension shed light on our own travails with family dynamics.
In terms of social lies, the story is firmly embedded in them. The bedrock fictions are Cervantes’ picaresque romance DON QUIXOTE and Massenet’s opera DON QUICHOTTE.
The central (meta-fictional) character, who names himself Mr. Quichotte as he pursues the “one perfect love” with a bi-polar TV star, is an aging man with memory gaps that suggest a life not well lived. Yet, somehow, he conjures a willful teenage son in a surprising turn to magic realism, a Sancho to squire him on his quest to win the beloved. From the original Quixote–the representative of a “beautiful foolishness and an innocent grandeur”–Rushdie brings to vibrant life on these pages a new “marginal” man, an unlikely hero with a gammy leg tackling the modern windmills of hot air.
A read to remember. A hero to emulate.