Salman Rushdie returns to his origins. To the chaotic and immanent India; plunge into the melting pot of its history and its myths. And on literature, from which an assassination attempt in New York last August threatened to separate him and on which Ciudad Victoria, his new novel, is now taking full revenge. The usual Rushdie returns to the charge, overflowing and tearing, reinforced in his literary mission of “freedom through the word” by the stab wounds inflicted on him by a supporter of the Iranian ayatollahs in an event that has cut him off from public life and physical sequelae like the loss of an eye and the mobility of a hand have remained. The author had completed the original Ciudad Victoria, which will be published next week, before the incident.
The postponed execution of the fatwa issued by Tehran in 1989 against the Anglo-Indian writer over his novel Satanic Verses has therefore left no mark on his new work, a humorous Indian epic lauded by critics praising “Colossal and deep, sublime and radiant. Every page is magical, every page is magnificent,” said writer Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours. “An epic story that takes us back to the key questions of what it means to be human, to be authentic, to love and to mourn,” says novelist AM Homes. “A saga of love, adventure and myth, which in itself is a testament to the power of storytelling,” advertises the American bookstore chain Barnes & Noble, which is particularly timely due to its ambitious expansion plans .
Like Barnes & Noble, the major bookstores in the United States, where the author has lived for years, have already received an avalanche of orders, despite the volume only being 9 permanent nominee for the Nobel Prize. Ciudad Victoria tells the story of a 14th-century girl, Pampa Kampana, who is possessed by a goddess who begins speaking through her mouth. By divine plan, the girl will be the cornerstone for the establishment of a great city, which will be called the “City of Victory”; she will be the mediator, the medium, but she will never become the queen.
The protagonist thus becomes an uncrowned factotum of the Empire, whose adventures are documented in a narrative poem in Sanskrit, preserved in a clay pot and later buried underground, and whose discovery illuminates the plot of the novel. The narrator asserts that Ciudad Victoria is the abbreviated translation of the pampas epic Jayaparajaya (compound word meaning victory and defeat simultaneously), told in “simpler language” and more concisely than the original 24,000 verses. A trompe-l’oeil of voices repeating one another.
Writers and supporters of Salman Rushdie pay tribute to the writer a week after the attack in New York BRENDAN MCDERMID (Portal)
The story is set in a real-life setting, that of the Vijayanagara Empire, which covered most of southern India in the 15th and 16th centuries and was a melting pot of cultures and ideas, and where battles between forgotten kingdoms, warlords, magical encounters, betrayals and greed; hidden powers that elude human nature. Everything moves on the pages of Ciudad Victoria, including a gendered reading: the figure of the Pampa Kampana, who aspired to the scepter without reaching it, as a justification for women in a patriarchal world (the collective suicide at the stake of their mother and of other soldiers’ widows recalls the fate of the Indian women). The novel is a great fresco, almost a cosmogony. But it also carries messages relevant now in light of the attack on Rushdie: the ever-looming shadow of intolerance, like that which has haunted the writer for decades; Pluralism as desire, frustrated when descending from ideas to facts. Themes already present in Hijos de la medianoche and El último suspiro del moro.
“Brilliantly written as a translation of an epic text from the ancient world, Ciudad Victoria is a saga of love, adventure and myth that is itself a testament to the power of storytelling,” recalls the Barnes & Bookstore Noble’s claim. Some describe it as a display of magical realism, as if that definition were not the mold of India.
Those who predicted the novel’s death surely have had to swallow the prediction with each new Rushdie book, and Ciudad Victoria makes it at number 16. This “lavish fairytale,” according to critics of The Guardian newspaper, drinks from the prolific Indian epics and integrates humor as a house brand. “Infectious sense of fun,” points out the British newspaper: the hilarious, mischievous and lively Rushdie ever since.
In addition to magical realism, Rushdie’s novel contains a lot of true history, encoded in a game with mirrors or matryoshkas, the Russian dolls. The entire narrative has a historical basis. Brothers Hukka and Bukka, Pampa troops and military leaders, existed as did the city they founded after Pampa strewed a heap of seeds to the wind. Vijayanagar, capital of the Empire from 1336 to 1565 – the period inhabited by the long-lived Pampa, who reaches 247 years and yet appears ever younger – survives today in the ruins of Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ciudad Victoria is presented in the opening lines as a manuscript found in a long-buried clay pot, an “immense narrative poem” in Sanskrit, written by Pampa Kampana himself: the secret history of an empire, condensed by a contemporary scribe with no name . a humble author, neither scholar nor poet, just a thread spinner,” says the off-screen narrator about himself. A demiurge with first and last names that of Salman Rushdie, author of this modern Ramayana.
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