Blue's Reviews > Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
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's review
Nov 27, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, paperbackswap
Read from September 04 to 06, 2010 — I own a copy

** spoiler alert ** Haroun and the Sea of Stories is certainly a children's book, make no mistake about it. And the storyline is accordingly rather simple, though the storytelling is rather good. As for a genre, Rushdie does a very good job of following the conventions of fairy tales and folk tales, repeating many odd and funny sayings or expressions, interesting and funny names for things and people (you'll find a Hindustani glossary at the back that will explain where some names come from), and characters distinct with singular odd features or talents.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is the "adult elements" that are not necessarily children's stuff (perhaps going back to the original folk tales where nothing is as sugar-coated or watered-down as today's lame versions.) Mother runs off with someone else, politicians deceive people and make them unhappy, Haroun's father, like today's pop-stars, gets recruited to sway the vote of the masses, weird religious sect worships weird statue and performs bloody rituals sewing mouths shut, etc. All of these daily adult stuff is well-woven into the fantastical. The fantastical is nothing shocking or even novel, but perhaps stories and fairy tales are always made up of old ones retold and reshaped, or so we find out in Haroun and the Sea of Stories.

Later addition: Rushdie explained that when he went to the south of India, he had a chance to hear one of the most famous storytellers. Apparently, the tradition of oral storytelling is very strong in the south, even though the south has a very high literacy rate. And these storytellers, like the one he saw, perform for hours, starting many stories in stories, singing, dancing, etc. And since they hold thousands of people captivated by their stories for many hours and due to their immense popularity, they are often recruited by political parties to tip over the balance (apparently, the two main parties have about 50-50 votes in the region, so a small sway goes a long way.)
Rushdie also commented on why he explained the foreign words he used in Haroun but did not explain the ones in Luka and the Fire of Life, his latest children's novel, written for his younger son. He said that in the second book, the names do not really add to the story, though it is true that you may enjoy it more if you do know what the words mean. In Haroun, the names of things are an active part of the story; they help move the story forward (he spoke very much like a creative writing teacher about all this, a lot of writing theory...)

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