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Salman Rushdie’s latest blasphemy In his new novel, pre-colonial India is no utopia

"A historian in novelist’s clothing" (Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

"A historian in novelist’s clothing" (Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


February 15, 2023   6 mins

“Fictions could be as powerful as histories.” In his new novel Victory City, Salman Rushdie comes as near as he has ever come to issuing a manifesto. His champions see him as a free speech martyr, his detractors as Satan reincarnated, but really, he’s a historian in novelist’s clothing. All his major novels, especially his recherché Indian ones, work at the level of national allegory. As he recently wrote in The Guardian: “For all its surrealist elements, Midnight’s Children is a history novel.” So, too, the new one, his 15th — though at the outset, it doesn’t feel like one.

If anything, Victory City feels like Sin City — cartoonishly brutal, emotionally stunted, jarringly anachronistic. There’s the usual parade of deities and elephants. But peel away the exoticism and one is left with a useful history lesson. For too long, pre-colonial India has been a tabula rasa for both nationalist and liberal projections. It was, Rushdie reminds us, no golden age.

For India’s Hindu supremacists today, the Vijayanagara empire was a land of cow’s milk and saffron-infused honey, a Hindu holdout in the Muslim Deccan, where Art and Culture, solemnly graced with capital letters, flourished unhindered by the depredations of the barbarians at the gates. (Those barbarians, of course, are all mascaraed Muslim men flaunting their philistinism, their many wives and their dextrosinistral script.) Queasily sharing a bed with the supremacists are liberals given to an allied fantasy, that pre-colonial Indian kingdoms were pristine, perfect societies, unsullied by contact with the West; that it took the Brits to cow a self-respecting people into submission.

Both are bovine delusions that Rushdie sends up in Victory City. His two fictional cow-herding founders of Vijayanagara, the brothers Hukka and Bukka, medieval India’s answer to Romulus and Remus, are apostles of openness. They briefly consider the beliefs of their subjects — “do you think they are circumcised or not circumcised?” — but are then confronted by the impracticability of the task: “Do you want to go down there and ask them all to open their lungis, pull down their pyjamas, unwrap their sarongs?” It’s all too much of a bother. “The truth is I don’t really care.”

Indeed, unlike Narendra Modi, the historical Vijayanagara’s rayas — rulers — weren’t that interested in the faith of the people they lorded it over. Rushdie, of course, gives their toleration a blasé touch, as if they were detached moderns. But the point stands: they may have been rather religious themselves, building temples and adopting deities, but they preferred not to saddle their subjects with their beliefs. Vijayanagara, in fact, was a fairly Islamicised affair, its kings dressing like Muslim rulers, its armies enlisting Muslim strategists and horse traders, its architecture incorporating Muslim motifs — a riot of arches and domes, vaulted arcades and squinches.

So, rather than a plucky Hindu kingdom standing alone in the South, enisled in a sea of Muslim kingdoms, Vijayanagara was, to all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from its neighbours. And those neighbours weren’t especially hostile. Bijapur’s Muslim kings, for instance, were not the grim, Sharia-obsessed, humourless, Isis types of lore, but rather, like Hukka and Bukka, a largely tolerant bunch. Hindu gods were halal, as were erotic miniatures.

War made quick work of religious distinctions in the real world. Vijayanagara’s rayas were men of fickle loyalties, siding with Bijapur against (also Muslim) Ahmadnagar at one time, and with Ahmadnagar against Bijapur at another. The corollary was also true: the Hindu Gajapati empire was once a sworn enemy of Vijayanagara. And according to the latter empire’s foremost historian, Burton Stein, its rayas registered their biggest military successes against the Hindu empires to its south, not the Muslim ones to its north. What’s more, these victories were secured in the main through the recruitment of Muslim mercenaries. In the end, a notionally “Muslim” triple alliance did in Vijayanagara — not because it was a Hindu kingdom, but because it had the temerity to declare war on all three of them.

Rushdie takes aim at the myths of not only the Hindu nationalists but also those of unthinking anti-imperialists. Today, an increasingly common view peddled by American academics has it that the caste system was a British construct, alien to the golden age to which Vijayanagara belonged. It is a view, moreover, that appears to be finding a receptive audience this side of the pond. The BBC, for one, has aired the risible claim of a Temple University geographer that “the pre-colonial written record shows little or no mention of caste”. The Indian polemicist and parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor argued much the same in a puerile Oxford Union performance, before repeating the assertion in the Guardian.

It’s an assertion that liberals, British as well as Indian, instinctively sympathise with, since it points the finger at the villainy of imperialists and casts the colonised as blameless victims. But it is just as blinkered and anachronistic as the pseudo-histories hawked by Hindu nationalists. As Rushdie rightly shows, and indeed as scores of sensible historians such as Ananya Chakravarti and Rosalind O’Hanlon have argued, caste hierarchy was the organising principle in pre-colonial Indian society. Endogamy was the norm: inter-dining, let alone inter-marriage, was rare to the point of nonexistence.

Rushdie’s allegorical “castes” — crows, owlets, parrots, songbirds — don’t get on. They live as communities apart, much as real castes did in Vijayanagara. Contemporary travellers recorded the wildly different lifestyles of the lower and upper orders, their mutually unintelligible customs. Here’s one of them, observing the consuming passions of the Brahmins, the priestly class, in 1535: “The learned Brahman [has] never married nor ever touched a woman… These people have such devotion to cows that they kiss them every day, some even on the rump, and with the droppings of these cows they absolve themselves from their sins as if with holy water.” He then goes on to describe a ritual associated with “that [low] caste of people called Telagas, amongst whom the wives are buried alive with their husbands when they die”.

Vijayanagara was no liberal utopia, then. It may have been multicultural to a certain extent, but Rushdie carefully avoids falling into the trap of viewing medieval India as a “composite culture”. Secularism was very much work in progress. Violence along religious and caste lines was not absent, and even the peaceful interludes were more of a passive, live-and-let-live business, rather than an active celebration of unity in diversity. As Rushdie shows, medieval India was a deeply divided society long before the arrival of the “foreign pink monkeys”.

Time and again, as in his previous novels The Moor’s Last Sigh and The Enchantress of Florence, toleration proves a false Eden. His latest heroine Pampa Kampana’s “theological laxity” proves elusive. Hindu supremacists take charge, and she is exiled to a forest. But then she returns to usher in a fleeting renaissance, only to be relegated by another Modi-type. The dark ages return. Here, then, is Rushdie’s cyclical interpretation of history: good times follow bad times follow good times follow bad times ad nauseam.

Above all, his new book paints a picture of life in pre-colonial India that isn’t pretty. As elsewhere, it was nasty, brutish, and short. Victory City opens with mass suicide, an all-too-graphic description of sati, self-immolation, as war widows throw themselves into flames to escape dishonour as their “fourth-rate” empire collapses. Severed heads circulate as if legal tender. A deposed king has his “crownless head” chopped off and filled with straw. These aren’t always magical realist flourishes. Some quick cross-checking reveals that Rushdie has culled many of these gory details from the accounts of two Portuguese travellers, Domingo Paes and Fernão Nunes, both of whom feature as prominent characters in Victory City. The latter’s memoir is especially graphic:

“The punishments that they inflict in this kingdom are these: for a thief, whatever theft he commits, howsoever little it be, they forthwith cut off a foot and a hand, and if his theft be a great one he is hanged with a hook under his chin… Nobles who become traitors are sent to be impaled alive on a wooden stake thrust through the belly, and people of the lower orders, for whatever crime they commit, he forthwith commands to cut off their heads in the market-place… These are the common kinds of punishments, but they have others more fanciful; for when the King so desires, he commands a man to be thrown to the elephants, and they tear him in pieces.”

“The past is a foreign country,” wrote L. P. Hartley, “They do things differently there.” Which is to say the past is never pretty. History is full of awkward facts. Fiction, especially good fiction, recognises this. Victory City will upset some liberals, of course, who will find no pre-colonial golden age between its covers. But I suspect it will rile up Hindu supremacists a lot more. As it happens, the villain of the piece in Rushdie’s fictional world is a faux-celibate pandit who has it off with the reluctant heroine, a prepubescent girl possessed by the deity Parvati. In other words, a Hindu goddess is raped by a Hindu priest. Rushdie may have spent the last 30 years of his life hiding from Muslim mullahs, but I fear he’ll have to spend his remaining ones fleeing their Hindu counterparts.


Pratinav Anil is the author of two bleak assessments of 20th-century Indian history. He teaches at St Edmund Hall, Oxford.

pratinavanil

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Emre S
ES
Emre S
1 year ago

It’s an assertion that liberals, British as well as Indian, instinctively sympathise with, since it points the finger at the villainy of imperialists and casts the colonised as blameless victims.

It’s worth noting the imperialist British were already liberals when they occupied India. They were driven by a similar core set of liberal ideas at the time as today, only their interpretation was different. They thought by bringing in civilization to pre-modern societies they were doing them a favour which entitled them to the resources of the lands and people they were invading. Today’s liberals instead bring civilization to the pre-woke masses of their countries to enlighten the population which entitles them to their capital accumulation and resources of the countries they operate in.

Last edited 1 year ago by Emre S
AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

“The Progress of Liberalism: A Slow and Sordid Journey”
But didn’t conservatives or tradition-minded actors such as nationalists, hellfire evangelists, and Tory industrialists also participate in both phases as you’ve sketched them?

Emre S
ES
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

That may very well be so. But I’d argue the British establishment of the time can still be best described as liberal between the Whigs and Tories, much like today between Labour and Tories.

Phineas Bury
P
Phineas Bury
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Ah well the imperialists brought the English language, democracy and railways to India and Christianty (very limited success admitidly. Look to Nazi Germany, fascist Russia and dictatorship China for contrast.

Oliver Nicholson
ON
Oliver Nicholson
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Surely Victorian industrialists were inclined to be Liberal and believe in Free Trade. The Tories were the Landed Interest.

Phineas Bury
P
Phineas Bury
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Ah well the imperialists brought the English language, democracy and railways to India and Christianty (very limited success admitidly. Look to Nazi Germany, fascist Russia and dictatorship China for contrast.

Oliver Nicholson
ON
Oliver Nicholson
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Surely Victorian industrialists were inclined to be Liberal and believe in Free Trade. The Tories were the Landed Interest.

Emre S
ES
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

That may very well be so. But I’d argue the British establishment of the time can still be best described as liberal between the Whigs and Tories, much like today between Labour and Tories.

michael harris
MH
michael harris
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

The ‘liberal’ British imperialists were those of the Crown Raj which took over the East India Company in 1858.
The EIC itself was not ‘liberal’. it was an (imperfect) money making machine and an amoral dealer in power, temporary alliances and, where necessary, wars.
For most of its existence it forbad Christian missionaries from its territories. And its upper ranks were always lax in their sexual dealings with Muslims and Hindus alike.
The company produced the bulk of the world’s opium and had the British navy enforce the opening of China to that product.
At the same time, in the person of William Jones its chief commercial judge in Calcutta, it translated historic Sanskrit texts, established the historical reality of the Buddha, disinterred buried temples and sculpture and founded the Asiatic Society.
In short the EIC was greedy, manipulative, violent and curious about the world in which it operated. None of that can be said about the Crown Raj.
One further point about the EIC. During its ascendancy the average survival time of those who disembarked to serve it and make their fortunes in India was two years from the day their feet stepped onto the dock. A minority of survivors and the shareholders in London were the lucky ones.

Emre S
ES
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

For most of its existence it forbad Christian missionaries from its territories. And its upper ranks were always lax in their sexual dealings with Muslims and Hindus alike.

Just to confirm, you’re using the above paragraph to show EIC was _not_ liberal?

it was an (imperfect) money making machine and an amoral dealer in power, temporary alliances and, where necessary, wars.

Reads like the archetypical neoliberal corporation to me.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Yet aside from its appearance on the page, neo-liberal is not a very near synonym for liberal–is it? The terms are all muddy but can’t tame-the-globe free market profiteering be associated with a type of “businessy” political and social conservatism that outsources its biggest ambitions? Is libertarianism now synonymous with liberalism?
Huge corporate and military interests represents primarily liberal rather than Tory or Republican values?
This begins to sound like a switcheroo attempt to load the vast majority of history’s evils onto the collective shoulders of liberals. I hope we can a least control the volume of the “l-word” pool by admitting that hardline progressives, let alone true Marxists, are not liberal.

Emre S
ES
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Are you really going to take the line that globalisation, end of history, Tony Blair – these are not liberalism? I might, just about, accept the push back on the neocons, but neoliberalism isn’t liberal, really?

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Francis Fukuyama, the author of the book The End of History, which I’ve read, is a (moderate) conservative American.
Are you going to take the position that the military-industrial complex and corporate outsourcing are liberal projects alone? Does neoconservatism seem like a near-synonym for Conservatism to you?
I’d wager that we’re not gonna persuade one another here but I’m just advocating more clarity in use of terms and more balance that better avoids pre-calcified or polemical stances, from all of us.
See you on the next board.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I’ll only add to the above that our disagreement is at a deeper level than lack of clarity of terms, specifically about what liberalism means. My stance is that, political parties between moderate left to moderate right in the spectrum in the English speaking world would all normally be liberals (until after 2008 at least). This is not as controversial a view as you might think by the way, and isn’t helped by the frequent conflation of “left” and “liberal” in American politics of today. Therefore, Fukuyama and, say, Paul Krugman are equally liberal writers in this sense. Both failures and successes of these two political wings then should be attributed to liberalism – unless we’re seeing the influence of far left or right, or indeed the rise of the populist right today which is an illiberal reactionary movement. We’ll have plenty of time to discuss about that rise on these forums I suspect, so see you!

Last edited 1 year ago by Emre S
AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Thanks for for clarifying your definition, which is at once more specific and more broad than any I’ve noticed. By your definition: For example, cutting off the farthest left 10 percent of the US Democratic Party, and the farthest right 10 percent of the Republicans essentially leaves only liberals (at least until 2008 or 2016). Is that your approximate stance?
If so, that really does enable you to impute a gargantuan disproportion of modern political and social ills to liberalism, as I perceive you to do in your post above.
Fukuyama a liberal. Never heard that. How far right or away from the net of liberalism, typically understood, does one have to get to escape your label?
What remedy or other “ism” do you advocate (isolationism? traditionalism?)–and why? I’m genuinely interested.

Emre S
ES
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Fukuyama the author one of the the most significant treatises celebrating the triumph of Western liberal democracy as the ultimate government model – you do not think he’s a liberal, even broadly speaking?
I think my point is more about the political parties and really the establishment being liberal. For example, it’d be hard to argue for UKIP being a liberal party, or Trump’s Republicans, even Corbyn’s Labour which had a clear anti-establishment character, regardless of what percentage of vote they get. Labour and Tories on the other hand as they’re without a populist at the helm, would broadly speaking best be described as liberal parties around the centre.
I would personally advocate for being a moderate without worshipping of any ideology, in particular liberalism in this case. Wokeism today gives fantastic example of what can go wrong if you take the ideas of liberalism too far too seriously. Liberal imperialism contains other examples of things that’ve gone wrong which ironically have been unearthed by the Woke.

Last edited 1 year ago by Emre S
AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Amen to your last paragraph, though I would add that there is a very zealous form of world-is-ending-“because”-progressives anti-wokeism that supplies a blinding or distorting force of its own. It’s not rare to encounter it on these boards. I think wokeism emerges from militant progressivism, which is decidedly illiberal.
I don’t find it ironic–more like a characteristic yin and yang (if you will)–that an ideology which some have taken too far makes some illuminating points. I agree that no single ism–(and I would say) nor any pre-measured series of isms–provides a clear enough window into an ultimate reality that remains dynamic and elusive because of our smudged doors of perception, apologies to Blake.
You point to the successes of liberalism above. Can we agree that those include an advance in minority rights and technological innovation, though not in some perfect or one-sided positive direction?
In closing: We seem to agree that rigid or worshipful ideological frameworks are a hindrance to human flourishing. But I don’t think you’d find generations of colonialists or globalists and their “enablers” agreeing–or deserving–to be branded “liberalists” with such a broad brush.
I’m glad to get a better sense of why you are quite impossible to situate at one place on some political or sociological spectrum: your “anti-ideologicalism“. Yes it’s a dreadful term but point made, I hope. I fancy myself a hard-to-pigeonhole, engaged moderate with an anti-ideological bent. Henceforth, I won’t expend energy trying to search out easy patterns in your idiosyncratic views. A reciprocal courtesy is requested. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed the exchange.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Emre S
ES
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The success of liberalism I’d most readily grant is technological progress and material gains. As for minority rights, having complained about the sins of the (liberal) empire for so long, I’d say the picture seem much more ambiguous.
About the colonialists and the globalists – I’d say there’s this tendency of seeing liberalism as being a good thing. The view I’d push there is more that liberalism is what liberalism does, and on that score card again very equivocal.
I don’t see a big problem with subscribing to some ideas as long as they make sense within context even if they’re ideological to be honest.
Anyhow, it was a very interesting exchange and was nice to know your views better, thanks for your time!

Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

The success of liberalism I’d most readily grant is technological progress and material gains. As for minority rights, having complained about the sins of the (liberal) empire for so long, I’d say the picture seem much more ambiguous.
About the colonialists and the globalists – I’d say there’s this tendency of seeing liberalism as being a good thing. The view I’d push there is more that liberalism is what liberalism does, and on that score card again very equivocal.
I don’t see a big problem with subscribing to some ideas as long as they make sense within context even if they’re ideological to be honest.
Anyhow, it was a very interesting exchange and was nice to know your views better, thanks for your time!

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Amen to your last paragraph, though I would add that there is a very zealous form of world-is-ending-“because”-progressives anti-wokeism that supplies a blinding or distorting force of its own. It’s not rare to encounter it on these boards. I think wokeism emerges from militant progressivism, which is decidedly illiberal.
I don’t find it ironic–more like a characteristic yin and yang (if you will)–that an ideology which some have taken too far makes some illuminating points. I agree that no single ism–(and I would say) nor any pre-measured series of isms–provides a clear enough window into an ultimate reality that remains dynamic and elusive because of our smudged doors of perception, apologies to Blake.
You point to the successes of liberalism above. Can we agree that those include an advance in minority rights and technological innovation, though not in some perfect or one-sided positive direction?
In closing: We seem to agree that rigid or worshipful ideological frameworks are a hindrance to human flourishing. But I don’t think you’d find generations of colonialists or globalists and their “enablers” agreeing–or deserving–to be branded “liberalists” with such a broad brush.
I’m glad to get a better sense of why you are quite impossible to situate at one place on some political or sociological spectrum: your “anti-ideologicalism“. Yes it’s a dreadful term but point made, I hope. I fancy myself a hard-to-pigeonhole, engaged moderate with an anti-ideological bent. Henceforth, I won’t expend energy trying to search out easy patterns in your idiosyncratic views. A reciprocal courtesy is requested. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed the exchange.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Fukuyama the author one of the the most significant treatises celebrating the triumph of Western liberal democracy as the ultimate government model – you do not think he’s a liberal, even broadly speaking?
I think my point is more about the political parties and really the establishment being liberal. For example, it’d be hard to argue for UKIP being a liberal party, or Trump’s Republicans, even Corbyn’s Labour which had a clear anti-establishment character, regardless of what percentage of vote they get. Labour and Tories on the other hand as they’re without a populist at the helm, would broadly speaking best be described as liberal parties around the centre.
I would personally advocate for being a moderate without worshipping of any ideology, in particular liberalism in this case. Wokeism today gives fantastic example of what can go wrong if you take the ideas of liberalism too far too seriously. Liberal imperialism contains other examples of things that’ve gone wrong which ironically have been unearthed by the Woke.

Last edited 1 year ago by Emre S
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Yes Emre but if we’re going to take people to account for using terms loosely or inaccurately then perhaps sticking in an unhelpful term like neo-liberal (or was it neocon – are THOSE terms interchangeable?!) into a discussion about 18th century India – which was the subject we were talking about – was unhelpful at best, pretty meaningless at worse.

As your other interlocutor has picked up, you appear to be reducing a complex reality to a polemic against an all purpose bogey of ‘liberalism’, but actually it has become difficult to understand exactly what case you are making – perhaps my fault.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Thanks for for clarifying your definition, which is at once more specific and more broad than any I’ve noticed. By your definition: For example, cutting off the farthest left 10 percent of the US Democratic Party, and the farthest right 10 percent of the Republicans essentially leaves only liberals (at least until 2008 or 2016). Is that your approximate stance?
If so, that really does enable you to impute a gargantuan disproportion of modern political and social ills to liberalism, as I perceive you to do in your post above.
Fukuyama a liberal. Never heard that. How far right or away from the net of liberalism, typically understood, does one have to get to escape your label?
What remedy or other “ism” do you advocate (isolationism? traditionalism?)–and why? I’m genuinely interested.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Yes Emre but if we’re going to take people to account for using terms loosely or inaccurately then perhaps sticking in an unhelpful term like neo-liberal (or was it neocon – are THOSE terms interchangeable?!) into a discussion about 18th century India – which was the subject we were talking about – was unhelpful at best, pretty meaningless at worse.

As your other interlocutor has picked up, you appear to be reducing a complex reality to a polemic against an all purpose bogey of ‘liberalism’, but actually it has become difficult to understand exactly what case you are making – perhaps my fault.

Emre S
ES
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I’ll only add to the above that our disagreement is at a deeper level than lack of clarity of terms, specifically about what liberalism means. My stance is that, political parties between moderate left to moderate right in the spectrum in the English speaking world would all normally be liberals (until after 2008 at least). This is not as controversial a view as you might think by the way, and isn’t helped by the frequent conflation of “left” and “liberal” in American politics of today. Therefore, Fukuyama and, say, Paul Krugman are equally liberal writers in this sense. Both failures and successes of these two political wings then should be attributed to liberalism – unless we’re seeing the influence of far left or right, or indeed the rise of the populist right today which is an illiberal reactionary movement. We’ll have plenty of time to discuss about that rise on these forums I suspect, so see you!

Last edited 1 year ago by Emre S
Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Globalisation has become another poorly defined amorphous dark force. It is an emergent phenomenon, not a political programme. We’ve had it before, in the late Victorian and early Edwardian world. We can of course argue about the loss of resilience in particular industries, but we should note that the last time the global economic system broke down in the 1930s did not produce happy outcomes.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Francis Fukuyama, the author of the book The End of History, which I’ve read, is a (moderate) conservative American.
Are you going to take the position that the military-industrial complex and corporate outsourcing are liberal projects alone? Does neoconservatism seem like a near-synonym for Conservatism to you?
I’d wager that we’re not gonna persuade one another here but I’m just advocating more clarity in use of terms and more balance that better avoids pre-calcified or polemical stances, from all of us.
See you on the next board.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Globalisation has become another poorly defined amorphous dark force. It is an emergent phenomenon, not a political programme. We’ve had it before, in the late Victorian and early Edwardian world. We can of course argue about the loss of resilience in particular industries, but we should note that the last time the global economic system broke down in the 1930s did not produce happy outcomes.

Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Are you really going to take the line that globalisation, end of history, Tony Blair – these are not liberalism? I might, just about, accept the push back on the neocons, but neoliberalism isn’t liberal, really?

J. Hale
JH
J. Hale
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

I suspect banning Christian missionaires was necessary to maintain good relations with Hindu rulers.

Helen Moorhouse
HM
Helen Moorhouse
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

A book by Vishal Mangalwadi The Book that Made your World describes the impact of missionaries in India. In order to make the Bible available to people in their own languages, even in the remotest of areas, it was first necessary to invent a written form which the bible could be translated into. And with the bible in their language literacy emerged and with it the huge advantages of advanced civilisation. Legal contracts could be made, property rights established. The East India Company had selfish reasons to keep out the missionaries but they came anyway.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

You seem to be shifting your ground here. The EIC was not a high-minded institution spreading the benefits of western liberal enlightenment, which was the motivation for British involvement that YOU originally suggested, or at least a couple of us thought you meant – and then disputed.

The prohibition on missionaries was precisely because the EIC did not want to proselytise the Indians and disrupt their belief and ways of life and thereby sow unnecessary discord, whether through Christian ideas or assertive ‘liberalism’. (No doubt largely because this would disrupt trade and threaten profit). For the Victorians of a later period, there was no contradiction in any case between Christian and liberal beliefs, though we may not agree with them 150 or so years later.

A major problem today with the term ‘liberalism’ is that it can mean several different or almost contradictory ideologies. The anachronistic term ‘neo-liberal’ shoved into the argument is not helpful. The term is anyway now largely an ill-defined, verging on meaningless, ‘boo’ word.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Yet aside from its appearance on the page, neo-liberal is not a very near synonym for liberal–is it? The terms are all muddy but can’t tame-the-globe free market profiteering be associated with a type of “businessy” political and social conservatism that outsources its biggest ambitions? Is libertarianism now synonymous with liberalism?
Huge corporate and military interests represents primarily liberal rather than Tory or Republican values?
This begins to sound like a switcheroo attempt to load the vast majority of history’s evils onto the collective shoulders of liberals. I hope we can a least control the volume of the “l-word” pool by admitting that hardline progressives, let alone true Marxists, are not liberal.

J. Hale
J. Hale
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

I suspect banning Christian missionaires was necessary to maintain good relations with Hindu rulers.

Helen Moorhouse
HM
Helen Moorhouse
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

A book by Vishal Mangalwadi The Book that Made your World describes the impact of missionaries in India. In order to make the Bible available to people in their own languages, even in the remotest of areas, it was first necessary to invent a written form which the bible could be translated into. And with the bible in their language literacy emerged and with it the huge advantages of advanced civilisation. Legal contracts could be made, property rights established. The East India Company had selfish reasons to keep out the missionaries but they came anyway.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

You seem to be shifting your ground here. The EIC was not a high-minded institution spreading the benefits of western liberal enlightenment, which was the motivation for British involvement that YOU originally suggested, or at least a couple of us thought you meant – and then disputed.

The prohibition on missionaries was precisely because the EIC did not want to proselytise the Indians and disrupt their belief and ways of life and thereby sow unnecessary discord, whether through Christian ideas or assertive ‘liberalism’. (No doubt largely because this would disrupt trade and threaten profit). For the Victorians of a later period, there was no contradiction in any case between Christian and liberal beliefs, though we may not agree with them 150 or so years later.

A major problem today with the term ‘liberalism’ is that it can mean several different or almost contradictory ideologies. The anachronistic term ‘neo-liberal’ shoved into the argument is not helpful. The term is anyway now largely an ill-defined, verging on meaningless, ‘boo’ word.

Rob Nock
Rob Nock
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

Interesting, thanks.

Jason Plessas
JP
Jason Plessas
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

Excellent account (fascinating about the Buddha in particular):
“At the same time, in the person of William Jones its chief commercial judge in Calcutta, it translated historic Sanskrit texts, established the historical reality of the Buddha, disinterred buried temples and sculpture and founded the Asiatic Society.”
BUT you forgot that they abolished widow-burning! The very best and noblest of their achievements Bengal Sati Regulation, 1829 – Wikipedia (but then as Emre S has it, they were the archetypal British liberals)

Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

For most of its existence it forbad Christian missionaries from its territories. And its upper ranks were always lax in their sexual dealings with Muslims and Hindus alike.

Just to confirm, you’re using the above paragraph to show EIC was _not_ liberal?

it was an (imperfect) money making machine and an amoral dealer in power, temporary alliances and, where necessary, wars.

Reads like the archetypical neoliberal corporation to me.

Rob Nock
RN
Rob Nock
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

Interesting, thanks.

Jason Plessas
Jason Plessas
1 year ago
Reply to  michael harris

Excellent account (fascinating about the Buddha in particular):
“At the same time, in the person of William Jones its chief commercial judge in Calcutta, it translated historic Sanskrit texts, established the historical reality of the Buddha, disinterred buried temples and sculpture and founded the Asiatic Society.”
BUT you forgot that they abolished widow-burning! The very best and noblest of their achievements Bengal Sati Regulation, 1829 – Wikipedia (but then as Emre S has it, they were the archetypal British liberals)

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Quite so. And yet I’ve had African American friends and colleagues over the years tell me with adamant certainty that Great Britain was responsible for the slave trade to the US. This, as it turns out, is what they have been taught in school and beyond. When I tried to explain the British stopped the slave trade, silent expressions of quizzical incredulity followed after a few seconds, sotto voce, by: “Those British have a lot to answer for.”
Who knows what the response might have been toward a Brit, rather than an Australian?
To the Americans, the domestic propaganda of 1770 is as alive today as if it happened last week, because: a) the victors write the history b) the victors in the US War of Independence were not, as we know, the British c) the US is the master race in persuasion.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Boughton
Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

While I am very sympathetic in general to the article, the reason the British were in India was trade and profit. The East India Company was the reason the British became involved in India. It was a pretty non ideological organisation, not one trying to spread the doctrine of liberalism.
Later after the Battle of Plassey, and gaining political control over Bengal, there isn’t much doubt that their extortionate tax demands contributed to the Bengal famine. All this was debated in the British Parliament. Then there were the expansionist and aggressive policies of Richard Wellesley against neighbouring Indian states.

It is true that the EIC provided a high level of education for its officers, including in Sanskrit. The ‘British’ didn’t of course have homogeneous views any more than any other people. But the liberal ‘justification’ for Empire was of a later period when British political control was a fait accompli.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

“The Progress of Liberalism: A Slow and Sordid Journey”
But didn’t conservatives or tradition-minded actors such as nationalists, hellfire evangelists, and Tory industrialists also participate in both phases as you’ve sketched them?

michael harris
MH
michael harris
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

The ‘liberal’ British imperialists were those of the Crown Raj which took over the East India Company in 1858.
The EIC itself was not ‘liberal’. it was an (imperfect) money making machine and an amoral dealer in power, temporary alliances and, where necessary, wars.
For most of its existence it forbad Christian missionaries from its territories. And its upper ranks were always lax in their sexual dealings with Muslims and Hindus alike.
The company produced the bulk of the world’s opium and had the British navy enforce the opening of China to that product.
At the same time, in the person of William Jones its chief commercial judge in Calcutta, it translated historic Sanskrit texts, established the historical reality of the Buddha, disinterred buried temples and sculpture and founded the Asiatic Society.
In short the EIC was greedy, manipulative, violent and curious about the world in which it operated. None of that can be said about the Crown Raj.
One further point about the EIC. During its ascendancy the average survival time of those who disembarked to serve it and make their fortunes in India was two years from the day their feet stepped onto the dock. A minority of survivors and the shareholders in London were the lucky ones.

Andrew Boughton
AB
Andrew Boughton
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

Quite so. And yet I’ve had African American friends and colleagues over the years tell me with adamant certainty that Great Britain was responsible for the slave trade to the US. This, as it turns out, is what they have been taught in school and beyond. When I tried to explain the British stopped the slave trade, silent expressions of quizzical incredulity followed after a few seconds, sotto voce, by: “Those British have a lot to answer for.”
Who knows what the response might have been toward a Brit, rather than an Australian?
To the Americans, the domestic propaganda of 1770 is as alive today as if it happened last week, because: a) the victors write the history b) the victors in the US War of Independence were not, as we know, the British c) the US is the master race in persuasion.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Boughton
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

While I am very sympathetic in general to the article, the reason the British were in India was trade and profit. The East India Company was the reason the British became involved in India. It was a pretty non ideological organisation, not one trying to spread the doctrine of liberalism.
Later after the Battle of Plassey, and gaining political control over Bengal, there isn’t much doubt that their extortionate tax demands contributed to the Bengal famine. All this was debated in the British Parliament. Then there were the expansionist and aggressive policies of Richard Wellesley against neighbouring Indian states.

It is true that the EIC provided a high level of education for its officers, including in Sanskrit. The ‘British’ didn’t of course have homogeneous views any more than any other people. But the liberal ‘justification’ for Empire was of a later period when British political control was a fait accompli.

Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago

It’s an assertion that liberals, British as well as Indian, instinctively sympathise with, since it points the finger at the villainy of imperialists and casts the colonised as blameless victims.

It’s worth noting the imperialist British were already liberals when they occupied India. They were driven by a similar core set of liberal ideas at the time as today, only their interpretation was different. They thought by bringing in civilization to pre-modern societies they were doing them a favour which entitled them to the resources of the lands and people they were invading. Today’s liberals instead bring civilization to the pre-woke masses of their countries to enlighten the population which entitles them to their capital accumulation and resources of the countries they operate in.

Last edited 1 year ago by Emre S
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

What is the origin of the phrase “foreign pink monkeys”? Surely not Mr Rushdie?

If one were to substitute BLACK for pink “all hell would break loose”.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

What is the origin of the phrase “foreign pink monkeys”? Surely not Mr Rushdie?

If one were to substitute BLACK for pink “all hell would break loose”.

Russell Hamilton
RH
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

“dextrosinistral” … always nice to learn a word unknown to the OED.

Martin Bollis
MB
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

I also wondered

Definition of ‘dextrosinistral’
1. passing or extending from the right to the left. 2. left-handed, but having the right hand trained for writing.

Per Collins

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Bollis
Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I recognised the sinistre part as meaning ‘left’ but had forgotten what the dextro meant. I only did one year of Latin at school – one year of mostly chanting (hasta, hastae, hastum, hastarum or whatever) was enough for me. To a ten year old, being taught by a bored teacher, it was just a language that had died out!

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

You did better than me, my first thought was it had something to do with the nose.

Our Latin master, Taffy, was obsessed by the “cutting and thrusting” use of the Roman short sword, which he regularly demonstrated to the bemusement of his class. Bar that, amo, amas, amant is my only memory

As an adult, I sometimes wonder now how many of the people that taught in my school had some wartime trauma in their background. There were some oddballs.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I had a similar experience – the Latin teacher I had was one of the ‘lay’ teachers (in a Catholic school) and a WW1 veteran. His tales of the trenches were the only interesting part of the class. Had my Latin class been taken by one of the Brothers I would have learnt more because their motivational tool was the cane. The lay teachers hardly ever belted us.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The Christian Brothers?

Russell Hamilton
RH
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

The Marist Brothers – have probably died out by now.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Thank you.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Thank you.

Russell Hamilton
RH
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

The Marist Brothers – have probably died out by now.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The Christian Brothers?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The ‘gladius hispaniensis’.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I had a similar experience – the Latin teacher I had was one of the ‘lay’ teachers (in a Catholic school) and a WW1 veteran. His tales of the trenches were the only interesting part of the class. Had my Latin class been taken by one of the Brothers I would have learnt more because their motivational tool was the cane. The lay teachers hardly ever belted us.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The ‘gladius hispaniensis’.

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
1 year ago

I doubt that hindu supremacists will attack Rushdie in the same way his islamic brethren did. They may make noise on twitter and maybe even burn a few books in India but they will not be setting off bombs or killing translators. Modi will not be setting a fatwa on his head. What is always forgotten or elided over is centuries of brutal islamic invasions and rule. But the hindoos were castebound and cow-shit worshippers, so it is really not so bad eh?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

“ cow-shit worshippers”! Is that technically correct?

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
1 year ago

No but cows and caste are the favoured thought terminating stereotypes when writing about Hinduism. Wait, also mention sati and thuggees if possible!
The article references Rushdie writing about a brahmin kissing a cow’s rear end and ingesting its waste.
Cow dung is a valuable product in India and is used as a fuel, among many other uses. Burnt cowdung is used to make Vibhuti, the holy ash which devotees mark their foreheads with.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

In other words a non-fossil fuel.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Cunningham
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Thank you so much.
I wonder if Mr Rushdie was thinking of the notorious Ms Gopal, a Brahmin currently teaching at ‘the other place’?*

(* Cambridge, for US readers.)

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

These days, the supposed rape culture in India is the new in thing. Of course, when they say India, they mean Hindus.
Strange, when you compare the actual crime rates in India versus the West or say African or Latam regions.
Or consider how there seem to be no Hindus in the so called “Asian” grooming gangs.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

That’s because a great deal of Pakistani immigration to UK derives from the Sylhet area. Pakistan is a Muslim country; that was the driving force of Partition, that neither Muslim nor Hindu (but most particularly Muslim) can live in peace with their neighbours

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

That’s because a great deal of Pakistani immigration to UK derives from the Sylhet area. Pakistan is a Muslim country; that was the driving force of Partition, that neither Muslim nor Hindu (but most particularly Muslim) can live in peace with their neighbours

Jeff Cunningham
JC
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

In other words a non-fossil fuel.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Cunningham
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

Thank you so much.
I wonder if Mr Rushdie was thinking of the notorious Ms Gopal, a Brahmin currently teaching at ‘the other place’?*

(* Cambridge, for US readers.)

Samir Iker
SI
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

These days, the supposed rape culture in India is the new in thing. Of course, when they say India, they mean Hindus.
Strange, when you compare the actual crime rates in India versus the West or say African or Latam regions.
Or consider how there seem to be no Hindus in the so called “Asian” grooming gangs.

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
1 year ago

No but cows and caste are the favoured thought terminating stereotypes when writing about Hinduism. Wait, also mention sati and thuggees if possible!
The article references Rushdie writing about a brahmin kissing a cow’s rear end and ingesting its waste.
Cow dung is a valuable product in India and is used as a fuel, among many other uses. Burnt cowdung is used to make Vibhuti, the holy ash which devotees mark their foreheads with.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Mirax Path

“ cow-shit worshippers”! Is that technically correct?

michael harris
MH
michael harris
1 year ago

My first day at boarding school and at the first lesson a blue volume was handed out. Hillard and Botting’s Latin grammar.
Thenceforward known to me (and to others) as the prison manual.

Martin Bollis
MB
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

You did better than me, my first thought was it had something to do with the nose.

Our Latin master, Taffy, was obsessed by the “cutting and thrusting” use of the Roman short sword, which he regularly demonstrated to the bemusement of his class. Bar that, amo, amas, amant is my only memory

As an adult, I sometimes wonder now how many of the people that taught in my school had some wartime trauma in their background. There were some oddballs.

Mirax Path
Mirax Path
1 year ago

I doubt that hindu supremacists will attack Rushdie in the same way his islamic brethren did. They may make noise on twitter and maybe even burn a few books in India but they will not be setting off bombs or killing translators. Modi will not be setting a fatwa on his head. What is always forgotten or elided over is centuries of brutal islamic invasions and rule. But the hindoos were castebound and cow-shit worshippers, so it is really not so bad eh?

michael harris
michael harris
1 year ago

My first day at boarding school and at the first lesson a blue volume was handed out. Hillard and Botting’s Latin grammar.
Thenceforward known to me (and to others) as the prison manual.

Russell Hamilton
RH
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I recognised the sinistre part as meaning ‘left’ but had forgotten what the dextro meant. I only did one year of Latin at school – one year of mostly chanting (hasta, hastae, hastum, hastarum or whatever) was enough for me. To a ten year old, being taught by a bored teacher, it was just a language that had died out!

Maurice Austin
Maurice Austin
1 year ago

I worked it out from “sinister” and “dextrous” from which I assumed that Sanskrit-based languages are left-to-right, like us.
Using that word instead of saying “right-to-left” (when you consider how may other Big Words are peppered through an otherwise interesting article) did however strike me as unnecessary, and whiffing a little bit of sesquipedalian insecurity.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

I also wondered

Definition of ‘dextrosinistral’
1. passing or extending from the right to the left. 2. left-handed, but having the right hand trained for writing.

Per Collins

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Bollis
Maurice Austin
MA
Maurice Austin
1 year ago

I worked it out from “sinister” and “dextrous” from which I assumed that Sanskrit-based languages are left-to-right, like us.
Using that word instead of saying “right-to-left” (when you consider how may other Big Words are peppered through an otherwise interesting article) did however strike me as unnecessary, and whiffing a little bit of sesquipedalian insecurity.

Russell Hamilton
Russell Hamilton
1 year ago

“dextrosinistral” … always nice to learn a word unknown to the OED.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

For those of us brought up on Clive and Cornwallis this is nothing new !
No mention of ‘Sati’ or ‘Thuggee’ which ‘we’ almost managed to stamp out.

“that it took the Brits to cow a self-respecting people into submission” Was an unfortunate if amusing phrase to use!

Linda Hutchinson
LH
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

The word “sati” is not used, but there appears to be mention of widows being burnt alive.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Actually it is mentioned, my mistake, as also is being buried alive which I hadn’t heard of.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Actually it is mentioned, my mistake, as also is being buried alive which I hadn’t heard of.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

Sati, contrary to what the Brits fondly believe, wasn’t stamped out by them.
The credit for that goes to a bunch of Indian reformers and kings who had to practically sit on the heads of the British rulers to get it banned.
Incidentally, same with casteism. Zero efforts to eradicate that, until India gained independence.

What also helped, was that killing off widows was never that common or justified by Hindu scriptures. The main reason Hindu women committing suicide became widespread – around the 12th century especially – was not Hinduism, but the religion of the invaders who came in, and tended to be a bit more rapey than the Hindus themselves. If anything, far more women died of starvation thanks to
the “civilised” British empire than ever did from Sati.

That being said, for all the ills of the British empire, they were certainly so far more respectful of women and local religions than those “other” invaders, it’s ridiculous to even compare. And the Brits and other West Europeans did use the looted wealth to build modern civilization. That’s why I am rather sympathetic towards white people who are being constantly demonised for colonialism.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

You forgot to mention we left that inestimable gift: CRICKET!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CS
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

You forgot to mention we left that inestimable gift: CRICKET!

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

The word “sati” is not used, but there appears to be mention of widows being burnt alive.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

Sati, contrary to what the Brits fondly believe, wasn’t stamped out by them.
The credit for that goes to a bunch of Indian reformers and kings who had to practically sit on the heads of the British rulers to get it banned.
Incidentally, same with casteism. Zero efforts to eradicate that, until India gained independence.

What also helped, was that killing off widows was never that common or justified by Hindu scriptures. The main reason Hindu women committing suicide became widespread – around the 12th century especially – was not Hinduism, but the religion of the invaders who came in, and tended to be a bit more rapey than the Hindus themselves. If anything, far more women died of starvation thanks to
the “civilised” British empire than ever did from Sati.

That being said, for all the ills of the British empire, they were certainly so far more respectful of women and local religions than those “other” invaders, it’s ridiculous to even compare. And the Brits and other West Europeans did use the looted wealth to build modern civilization. That’s why I am rather sympathetic towards white people who are being constantly demonised for colonialism.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

For those of us brought up on Clive and Cornwallis this is nothing new !
No mention of ‘Sati’ or ‘Thuggee’ which ‘we’ almost managed to stamp out.

“that it took the Brits to cow a self-respecting people into submission” Was an unfortunate if amusing phrase to use!

Jonathan Nash
JN
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

I recognize Rushdie is a good writer and his books are quite interesting, but I can never finish them: they’re just not interesting enough.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Likewise, but they must be interesting enough to some. I did finish his latest New Yorker short story, which I recommend. It’s kind of an archetypal meta-narrative, but it’s much better than that makes it sound; resonant and well-told.
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/12/12/a-sackful-of-seeds

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Thank you – I’ll give it a go.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Thank you – I’ll give it a go.

Heikki Doeleman
Heikki Doeleman
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Read Shame – it’s an older one but truly great. Shalimar the Clown is also highly entertaining.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Likewise, but they must be interesting enough to some. I did finish his latest New Yorker short story, which I recommend. It’s kind of an archetypal meta-narrative, but it’s much better than that makes it sound; resonant and well-told.
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/12/12/a-sackful-of-seeds

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Heikki Doeleman
Heikki Doeleman
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Read Shame – it’s an older one but truly great. Shalimar the Clown is also highly entertaining.

Jonathan Nash
JN
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

I recognize Rushdie is a good writer and his books are quite interesting, but I can never finish them: they’re just not interesting enough.

Andrew Boughton
AB
Andrew Boughton
1 year ago

” Today, an increasingly common view peddled by American academics has it that the caste system was a British construct, alien to the golden age to which Vijayanagara belonged.”
The lack of awareness in Great Britain of the profound hostility toward the mother country astonishes me. That it informs present-day US foreign policy should alarm our political class, but they seem oblivious. King George III has never been forgiven and the daily diet of anti-British sentiment is kept alive by a set of caricatures of GB in a cartoonish school history curriculum. As I would know, having put two children through American schools (within America).
Harold and Meg stepped into the real-life soap opera after being portrayed, in a parody of the British Royal Family as an American soap opera dynasty, in precisely the roles they filled in the parody, seamlessly. We all noticed that but it was all so silly we didn’t absorb the serious side.
American exceptionalism, with its ever-growing excesses, is kept alive by having it explained to American school kids as young as six that the original British democracy was and remains hopelessly flawed. There is only one true democracy, “One best hope for the world” as a particularly grating neo-con put it recently, and that, my friends, is to Americans the US.
Pride can be noble, narcissism dangerous.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Boughton
Oliver Nicholson
Oliver Nicholson
1 year ago

And the whole thing is ritually reinforced twice a year at Thanksgiving and on July 4th.

Oliver Nicholson
Oliver Nicholson
1 year ago

And the whole thing is ritually reinforced twice a year at Thanksgiving and on July 4th.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 year ago

” Today, an increasingly common view peddled by American academics has it that the caste system was a British construct, alien to the golden age to which Vijayanagara belonged.”
The lack of awareness in Great Britain of the profound hostility toward the mother country astonishes me. That it informs present-day US foreign policy should alarm our political class, but they seem oblivious. King George III has never been forgiven and the daily diet of anti-British sentiment is kept alive by a set of caricatures of GB in a cartoonish school history curriculum. As I would know, having put two children through American schools (within America).
Harold and Meg stepped into the real-life soap opera after being portrayed, in a parody of the British Royal Family as an American soap opera dynasty, in precisely the roles they filled in the parody, seamlessly. We all noticed that but it was all so silly we didn’t absorb the serious side.
American exceptionalism, with its ever-growing excesses, is kept alive by having it explained to American school kids as young as six that the original British democracy was and remains hopelessly flawed. There is only one true democracy, “One best hope for the world” as a particularly grating neo-con put it recently, and that, my friends, is to Americans the US.
Pride can be noble, narcissism dangerous.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Boughton
Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago

Reviews seem to indicate the great man is back on form so I am looking forward to reading this one. Recent novels set in USA have not been that good.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago

Reviews seem to indicate the great man is back on form so I am looking forward to reading this one. Recent novels set in USA have not been that good.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Anil has a pugnacious style I’m starting to enjoy a little (he’ll be so pleased, I think!). His tone is pretty snarky, as if Swift, Carlyle, and Twain were joined together–and just shared a bad breakfast. But he seems very knowledgeable and doesn’t try to hide that he’s roaringly opiniated.
Concerning the human subject of the article: It is very hard to silence Salman Rushdie. I say that with admiration.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Anil has a pugnacious style I’m starting to enjoy a little (he’ll be so pleased, I think!). His tone is pretty snarky, as if Swift, Carlyle, and Twain were joined together–and just shared a bad breakfast. But he seems very knowledgeable and doesn’t try to hide that he’s roaringly opiniated.
Concerning the human subject of the article: It is very hard to silence Salman Rushdie. I say that with admiration.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Samir Iker
SI
Samir Iker
1 year ago

The funny thing is how Hindu majority India, after a decade of “Hindu supremacist” Modi, still treats minorities with respect. So no change really, compared to the Vijaya Nagar empire, or Hindu culture per se.

The problem is, authors like this ignore the real issue – Islam’s hostility and lack of tolerance of Hinduism or other religions. This long winded article somehow forgets to mention Talikota – where those supposedly tolerant muslim neighbours joined hands to destroy Vijaynagar, and proceeded to desecrate and completely destroy the large number of Hindu temples in the capital.
Funny how that happened so often when muslim rulers won battles against Hindu kingdoms, but not when it was the other way round, eh?

The issue isn’t Hindu “supremacists”. It’s growing Hindu realisation how they are slandered and badmouthed, and expected to be “secular”, while EVERY single part of South Asia that’s majority muslim ends up the same way, where minorities are concerned.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

The funny thing is how Hindu majority India, after a decade of “Hindu supremacist” Modi, still treats minorities with respect. So no change really, compared to the Vijaya Nagar empire, or Hindu culture per se.

The problem is, authors like this ignore the real issue – Islam’s hostility and lack of tolerance of Hinduism or other religions. This long winded article somehow forgets to mention Talikota – where those supposedly tolerant muslim neighbours joined hands to destroy Vijaynagar, and proceeded to desecrate and completely destroy the large number of Hindu temples in the capital.
Funny how that happened so often when muslim rulers won battles against Hindu kingdoms, but not when it was the other way round, eh?

The issue isn’t Hindu “supremacists”. It’s growing Hindu realisation how they are slandered and badmouthed, and expected to be “secular”, while EVERY single part of South Asia that’s majority muslim ends up the same way, where minorities are concerned.

J. Hale
JH
J. Hale
1 year ago

Concerning politically correct historical revsionism, a noted historian recently said “If history is only those stories from the past that confirm current political positions, all manner of political hacks can claim historical expertise.”
 

J. Hale
JH
J. Hale
1 year ago

Concerning politically correct historical revsionism, a noted historian recently said “If history is only those stories from the past that confirm current political positions, all manner of political hacks can claim historical expertise.”
 

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago

Sounds like the perfect antidote to the film RRR. I’d love to hear Rushdie’s opinion of it. I suspect no-one here has seen it – it’s excrucitatingly badly written, cranking up the puerile nationalism to 11, and the most successful Indian movie ever. The mystery, to me, is why it is so popular – even with critics, and why so few people can’t see the mulitple faults, from a script seemingly written by a pre-teen, to the “seriously troubling politics”.

Dominic A
DA
Dominic A
1 year ago

Sounds like the perfect antidote to the film RRR. I’d love to hear Rushdie’s opinion of it. I suspect no-one here has seen it – it’s excrucitatingly badly written, cranking up the puerile nationalism to 11, and the most successful Indian movie ever. The mystery, to me, is why it is so popular – even with critics, and why so few people can’t see the mulitple faults, from a script seemingly written by a pre-teen, to the “seriously troubling politics”.

chris sullivan
CS
chris sullivan
1 year ago

I hope he is well !

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago

I hope he is well !

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago

Am I alone in having had just about enough of Mr Rushdie giving gratuitous offence to Third World countries, for commercial gain and then expecting us to pick up the cost of the resulting security ?

Linda Hutchinson
LH
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

Probably.

Ruari McCallion
Ruari McCallion
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

Rushdie largely paid for his own security.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

Probably. He’s valuable to us as a cudgel against those third world cultures who hate him.

si mclardy
si mclardy
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

I dont know Rushdie, but his work can’t be a big factor when compared to our actions. Like, when we go around blowing up gas lines to independent countries, invading countries under false pretence, and occupying nations with no exit strategy.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  si mclardy

Ha! Rather like focusing on the waste of the individual consumer instead of the practices of mega-corporations.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  si mclardy

Are you Russian then?

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  si mclardy

Ha! Rather like focusing on the waste of the individual consumer instead of the practices of mega-corporations.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  si mclardy

Are you Russian then?

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

Nope!

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

If you think Salman Rushdie is in the business of giving gratuitous offence to Third World countries then I think you have fundamentally misunderstood his novels, assuming that you have read them.

Nanu Mitchell
Nanu Mitchell
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

You obviously know almost nothing about India under Modi

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

Probably.

Ruari McCallion
Ruari McCallion
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

Rushdie largely paid for his own security.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

Probably. He’s valuable to us as a cudgel against those third world cultures who hate him.

si mclardy
si mclardy
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

I dont know Rushdie, but his work can’t be a big factor when compared to our actions. Like, when we go around blowing up gas lines to independent countries, invading countries under false pretence, and occupying nations with no exit strategy.

Jacqueline Burns
Jacqueline Burns
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

Nope!

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

If you think Salman Rushdie is in the business of giving gratuitous offence to Third World countries then I think you have fundamentally misunderstood his novels, assuming that you have read them.

Nanu Mitchell
Nanu Mitchell
1 year ago
Reply to  ben arnulfssen

You obviously know almost nothing about India under Modi

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago

Am I alone in having had just about enough of Mr Rushdie giving gratuitous offence to Third World countries, for commercial gain and then expecting us to pick up the cost of the resulting security ?