Quichotte disappoints

Book Review

Salman Rushdie’s new novel, Quichotte, is too clever to entertain, let alone become a classic. There are too many allusions to contemporary politics and (other) entertainments such as movies and the TV. Quite many of them are likely to remain beyond the comprehension of even knowledgeable readers. A few years from now some of these allusions will be plainly obsolete. Who likes to google every other minute while reading a novel?
Rushdie’s Quichotte goes cranky from watching TV shows just as his classical namesake, Quixote, goes mad from reading the chivalric romances of his time. Quichotte’s quest is for Selma R, a talk-show star. The feelings and desires in the shrivelled heart of old man Quichotte are stirred by the charming star of Indian origin. Quichotte is the pseudonym of a medical rep of Indian origin who loses his job right when his crazy romance begins.
Quichotte is not real. He is the fictional creation of an Indian-born spy novelist who longs to write something different. Moreover, this fictitious protagonist has an unreal son named Sancho: illusion within fiction which is itself story within a story!
Quichotte’s quest is quite similar to his creator’s who longs to re-establish his relationships with his sister as well as his son both of whom were estranged years ago. Broken relationships is a very relevant theme in our times.
We live in broken times too and Rushdie efficiently captures the images of those fragments. But is he successful in stirring the imagination of the reader? I doubt. The novel is too cerebral to appeal to the imagination. It is a kind of scholarly polemic that is founded on bizarre satire: a strange mix.
Quichotte presents the human race as a kind of perverted species, “or perhaps deluded, about its own nature.” Human species has “become so accustomed to wearing its masks that it has grown blind to what lies beneath”.  The reality is dreadful beyond words.
Rushdie has invented a new lingo, a new expression to present that post-truth reality which should ideally force every person to ask him-/herself the question: “Am I a man or am I a jerk?”
Quichotte’s quest is in the end not just a romantic, chivalric, cranky, quixotic exercise, it appears. In his own words, it is a quest for his “own compromised goodness and virtue”. And he is not just a superannuated medical representative, but a representative of the human race that seems to have lost “its reason, its capacity for ethics, its goodness, its soul.”
The novel’s theme is very relevant. But I wonder how many readers will appreciate the narrative. Missing the wood for the trees is not a very rewarding experience.

PS. All quotes are from the novel.


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