Fury by Salman Rushdie

Modern Library, 2002. 259p

Set mostly in New York Fury is perhaps the fruit of Rushdie’s move to the US after the restrictions necessitated by the fatwa made life in the UK less than congenial for him.

It is not a vintage work, no Midnight’s Children nor Shame. Too much is told, not shown. It also begins inauspiciously; with a very Dan Brownesque first sentence, “Professor Malik Solanka, retired historian of ideas, irascible dollmaker, and since his fifty-fifth birthday celibate and solitary by his own (much criticised) choice, in his silvered years found himself living in a golden age.”

Now, it could be said that Rushdie is playing with the reader, essaying a fable, but, really, three of those crudely dumped slivers of information are examples of newspaper prose and the knowledge they bring us ought to have emerged more organically during the course of the novel.

The novel deals with Solanka’s life after leaving his second wife. He was so full of fury he had almost killed her and their young son and he fled to New York to escape that horror becoming reality. He was also the creator of a TV series in which a doll called Little Brain hosted a kind of chat show where various historical and philosophical figures were interviewed. It became a cult hit, was taken up further, spawning the usual commercial opportunities attendant on success, but in the process was dumbed down. The doll masks which are one of the manifestations of the show-s popularity later become a plot point.

Rushdie’s usual scatter-shot referencing is present, not only to the Erinyes (Furies) of Greek myth – along with allusions to more popular culture – but also copious descriptions of SF stories (eg The Nine Billon Names of God) and films (Solaris, even – heaven help us – Star Wars.) The three Furies have their counterparts in the three women whom Solanka is involved with in the course of the book.

There is a sub-plot involving a republic known as Lilliput-Blefescu (where the doll masks take on a political significance) and which allows Rushdie ample scope for Swiftian allusions.

As a novel, Fury is too tied up in itself. Rushdie is riffing on his concerns but here his orotund, fabular style is distracting, the characters are not as rounded as in his earlier works and the plot not as engaging.

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    […] the relatively disappointing aberration of Fury this novel sees Rushdie return for his setting to the locales and interests from which he made his […]

  2. Shalimar The Clown by Salman Rushdie – A Son of the Rock -- Jack Deighton

    […] the relatively disappointing aberration of Fury this novel sees Rushdie return for his setting to the locales and interests from which he made his […]

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