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Shalimar the Clown

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  12,840 ratings  ·  915 reviews
This is the story of Maximilian Ophuls, America’s counterterrorism chief, one of the makers of the modern world; his Kashmiri Muslim driver and subsequent killer, a mysterious figure who calls himself Shalimar the clown; Max’s illegitimate daughter India; and a woman who links them, whose revelation finally explains them all. It is an epic narrative that moves from Califor ...more
Paperback, 398 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by Random House Trade (first published September 6th 2005)
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Claudio I've started the book twice and was pretty launched in it, but twice I gave up. Somehow, in the middle, it kind of loses you, don't it? I think it's t…moreI've started the book twice and was pretty launched in it, but twice I gave up. Somehow, in the middle, it kind of loses you, don't it? I think it's the barocque language and some inaction back in the clown/circus phase. It's a great story, though.
I'll give it another try soon.


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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  12,840 ratings  ·  915 reviews

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(B) 75% | More than Satisfactory
Notes: It's description-over-dialogue, nonlinear storytelling. A tedious read, owing to many lengthy and meandering asides.
Kevin Ansbro
At times, this rambling, rambunctious rollercoaster of a read is feathered by the genius seen in Rushdie's Midnight's Children, at other times it becomes mired in an overload of Indian/Pakistani/Kashmiri political history, which is great for providing context but stems the otherwise rampant flow of this terrific story.
As you would expect from the great man, the humour is irreverent and the human imagery transcendent. To offset this, there is pathos-a-plenty and at times the story is unbearably h
mark monday
a smart young lady trying to find herself in California. the assassination of her father - America's counterterrorism chief. a portrait of Kashmir before all the ugliness and horror. the life of a man: lawyer, Jew, printer, resistance fighter, diplomat, husband, lover, father. a portrait of Kashmir - the ugliness, the horror. the life of a man: acrobat, actor, husband, freedom fighter, terrorist, chauffeur, assassin. a courtroom drama. a tale of a guy who really knows how to handle himself in pr ...more
Gumble's Yard
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-mookse, 2005
Revisited for the 2019 Mookse Madness tournament.

The book opens with the murder of Max Ophuls – a WWII Resistance hero from Strasbourg (itself a disputed territory fought over between Germans and French and so analogous to Kashmir), turned maker of many of the institutions of the modern world, turned initially popular ambassador to India turned America’s counter-terrorism chief. He is assassinated by his Kashmiri Muslim driver – a mysterious character called Shalimar the Clown.

The book tells th
Jun 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
My Review (in very "reviewy" language)
Wonderful. All of Rushdie's powers are at play here, but perhaps the most striking is his exploration of the social and psychological borderland between visceral, emotional impulse and ideological motivation. What motivates someone to become an assassin, a terrorist, a murderer? And in the enlongated moment of that decision, how do personal, emotional wounds gain political currency enough to justify killing someone? Or killing many people?

(For a second ther
Jun 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After toiling through The Satanic Verses a few years ago, my overriding memory is of how little of the novel I understood. I was therefore reluctant to get stuck into Shalimar The Clown when my sister passed it on recently.

Sure enough, I'm finding Rushdie's authorial voice to be much like I remember it - extensive vocabulary, usage of magical realism/dreams/fantasies, strong character descriptions, and multi-cultural savvy that combine together seamlessly. For these reasons I'm finding the stor
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-odyssey, library
Rather dazzling in a depressive manner. 
We are no longer protagonists, only agonists.

Rushdie does wonderful lush prose. Rather sharp, too, in his critiques of peoples and events. But his characterization is superb. In each of the main characters you find things to admire and recoil in disgust. He brings a male sensibility and gaze to his writing, that's not to say that it's performative masculinity, but rather that you would never mistake his gender.

You have an idyllic place with Muslims living
Nov 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Excellent book. For me, it started out painfully slow. I was not terribly interested in the first characters he introduced to me. Nor was I terribly interested in the story. CONTINUE READING! The histories of these characters are deep, deep, deep. Rich and beautiful language. By the quarter mark of the book I was completely riveted. For the first part of the book I found myself, irritatingly, asking, "when is he going to get to the point!" and the rest of the book eagerly asking, "what happens N ...more
I've been a reader for some time now & I've read a few good books but none of them have made me realise the power of fiction. Until now. Until I picked up 'Shalimar the Clown'.

Had anyone ever given us a non-fiction book about the issues related to Kashmir as raised in this book, we'd have probably abandoned it after 100 pages or so & I'm not lying or judging anyone when I say that, since that is pretty normal. That is perhaps since most of us have been watching the same thing over & over again i
Melania 🍒
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it

This book was two months in the reading and it’s probably one of the reasons I had a big reading slump this Summer... but I still loved it so damn much. It’s not an easy book to read by any means, but for me it was totally worth it. I probably didn’t get all the references since it requires some history knowledge but I was there for the ride and I enjoy every minute of it.
Shalimar the Clown has been on my shelf collecting dust. While I do admit to having quite the crush on Rushdie, I get flashbacks from the utter disappointment I felt when I read The Satanic Verses. My friend, also a Rushdie aficionado, finally convinced me to pick it up and blow the dust off the covers. My love affair with Rushdie has been rekindled.

Rushdie is at full power in Shalimar. He combines his lush prose and diverse characters with political allegory and cultural savvy. Although it's
Dec 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: magical-realism
I enjoyed this a lot. Compared to Rushdie's style in The Satanic Verses his magical realism here is more subtle and toned down to the point where it enhances rather than disrupting my suspension-of-disbelief. At one point magic even forms the case for the defence in a trial in an entirely believable way: the argument is, as my friend Alicia pointed out to me recently "If people define situations as real, they are real in their consequences".

The magical strand helps to creates a wonderful, unset
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shalimar the Clown is consummate Rushdie although with less magic realism than most of his books, particularly the most recent ‘Two year, eight months and twenty-eight nights’ which was just full on magic! There is so much in this book, starting with an assassination in California, to 1950’s Kashmir to the Second World War and the French resistance in Strasbourg and then back and forth between Kashmir and California.

In Shalimar, Rushdie focuses on the contested land of Kashmir before most of th
This book has been a hell of a ride. When I started it, I had the feeling I wasn't going to enjoy it that much, but by page 100 I was hooked and so invested in the characters that it I felt like I made all of their decisions with them. The book is a political comentary on the conflict between Kashmir and India, but, through the depth of its characters' humanity, it is also much more than that: a story of love, hatred, feat and death. Just like any good story should be, a reminder of the diversit ...more
Jeremy Preacher
Joy keeps lending me books that I dislike in interesting ways.

There is no doubt that this is a collection of beautiful sentences. The writing is vivid, lyrical, and evocative. Unfortunately it's mostly evocative of horror. The sections all pretty much start out "Here are some people. Horrible things happened to them. Let's examine their lives leading up to the horrible things." The Kashmir sections are the loveliest, I think, but that just makes the torture, rape, and systematic murder in them a
Jan 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: salman-rushdie
Sometimes, now, she did not hear his voice for weeks, even months. In the night she reached out for him but found only a void. He had gone beyond her reach and she could only wait for him to return, not knowing if she wanted him to return so that she could preserve her dream of a happy ending, or if she wished him dead because his death would set her free. But he always returned in the end, and when he did it seemed that in his life only a single night had passed, or at the very most two or thre ...more
With Salman Rushdie's fascinating novel, Shalimar the Clown I found it rather easy & often necessary to suspend disbelief, in part because this is no conventional story but rather an amazing fable that uses the fractious land of Kashmir as a metaphor for the India/Pakistan partition, Hindu/Moslem relations and perhaps the world at large.

On the surface Shalimar the Clown appears as an updated, Kashmir-based Romeo & Juliet tale, seeming to portray an unsanctioned love affair between Shalimar (a M
Jun 07, 2012 rated it liked it
A slow, ponderous and plodding narrative!

This is a book that is ostentatiously about the transformation of a Kashmiri stage performer into a vengeful assassin, but ends up being about too many things. The plot is the scorned love of the protagonist and his Kashmiri dancer wife. An American ambassador to India, an illegitimate daughter (named India), and the consequent murder of the ambassador by Shalimar The Clown, complete the plotline. In between, while giving a remarkable insight into the Kas
Apr 30, 2013 added it
Shelves: indian-fiction
After reading some of the more explicitly fabulist works of Salman Rushdie, this feels so grounded in a world I know, even if it is populated by Kashmiri acting troupes and 64-course meals and potato witches.

And Shalimar the Clown is entertaining, witty, and snarky as it flies from LA to Alsace to Kashmir to the Philippines, seemingly wanting to suck every aspect of globalized society (fundamentalism, Bretton Woods, decolonization, interracial romance, you name it) up into its propeller. It's no
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
Rating: 4.5 stars

A mournful lament of the paradise that was Kashmir ("a ruined paradise, not so much lost as smashed", says the blurb) wrapped in an enticing tale of love, loss, hatred, relegious extremism, power and that ubiquitous, terribly influential entity - luck. The writing is fabulous - at once evocative, captivating, heartbreaking and magical - and the characters are very real.

I read this book on cramped and somewhat-raining train journeys across the beautiful, pond-filled terrain of W
Brett C
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: magical-realism
The story is a tragic one from beginning to end. It's not necessarily depressing but it is a powerful story. Salman Rushdie does an outstanding job of telling a colorful tragedy utilizing imagery and painting the picture of the human character. Lastly, he shows human emotion and the evil it can drive men to do. The quality of the book I liked the most was the blending of cultural, linguistic, social, and religious inferences to add dimension to the plot. In the reading there are concepts pertain ...more
John David
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I remember my first foray into Salman Rushie being his then-newly released novel “Fury,” that I quickly forgot and now don’t even faintly remember. I scratched my head, wondering where the momentous literary reputation had come from. And then, merely because it might share certain elective affinities with something else I was reading at the time, I picked up “Shalimar the Clown.” And suddenly, I found myself in the middle of a novel that I not only enjoyed, but whose symphonic breadth enchanted ...more
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Undisputedly, Salman Rushdie is a smart, clever and deep thinking writer. An eloquent linguistic acrobat whose voice shines through with every character, every description, every metaphor in his rich dense magical-realist, political allegories. He IS that verbose, stellar and sometimes obnoxious party guest who never shuts up; who entertains without pause, lights up the room, until you realize there is no oxygen left in it. His books are wonderful treats, but for myself, I can only take them in ...more
Jan 06, 2016 rated it liked it
All the Rushdie books that I've read before I began this one - The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Midnight's Children, Moor's Last Sigh, Enchantress of Florence, 2 years 8 months 28 nights, even Joseph Anton - have left me exhausted at the end and made me look forward to some ultra light reads that would give me some much needed relaxation. Some of his books were so tiring (I guess it is the unfinished Satanic Verses) that I dove directly for light-hearted children's books. But Shalimar the Clown is p ...more
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
All the time while I was reading this, I was specially reminded of the 'Kashmir Hour' broadcasted on PTV during the late 90s when the photos of mutilated bodies and wailing mothers used to repeatedly flash on the screen that made an 8 year old me cringe and get chilled to the bones. The fight for freedom was rich and loud while we dined and the TV blasted off songs of Humera Channa calling out to the world's justice. We had no other option to switch a different channel. We had to realise that th ...more
Nov 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: library, 2008, quit
I just can't do it. I cannot concentrate enough on the style of writing to comprehend it. It hurts my head. I am not enjoying this, and I'm stopping on page 31. There is just TOO much allegory and similie and flowery-vision descriptive prose for me to truly take in this story. I know Salman Rushdie is supposed to be this big important prominent world author and everything, but I think the last time I felt like this about a book was when I ***HAD*** to read Faulkner in high school. Well, there's ...more
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I started reading this book long ago and only finished it now, recently having been reminded of Kashmir by someone, I came back to it.

Interestingly enough, it's a tale of love and revenge and the lovers' broken hearts and desperate choices on the backdrop of the tragic history of Kashmir, which in Rushdie's occasionally stunning prose threatens to rip your heart out especially the poignant lyrical passage describing the destruction of the Kashmiri village of Pachigam.

This being Rushdie, there a
One of the best of Rushdie's later novels.
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rushdie knows how to transform words into music. Not necessarily a comfortable or relaxing book, but definitely worth reading
Buddy Bell
May 04, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, book-club
DNF - I got 180 pages in and just cannot anymore.
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Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is a novelist and essayist. Much of his early fiction is set at least partly on the Indian subcontinent. His style is often classified as magical realism, while a dominant theme of his work is the story of the many connections, disruptions and migrations between the Eastern and Western world.

His fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, led to protests from Muslims in several coun

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