Salman Rushdie: Shame

(c) 1983; New York: Knopf; ISBN: 0394534085

This book is perhaps Rushdie’s most personal work. “Shame” is about that emotion which we are all subject to. Before we can complete the process of understanding how it both fetters us and is responsible for what we are, we must see people enduring shame, and those to whom it is alien. The book is apt to leave a bad taste in the reader mouth, but that is probably because it resonates with sharpness. Rushdie does not make compromises in this book. And that is why the book remains so forceful. The novel opens doors that let us peer into the universally fine cobweb-shrouds that we call takalufsharam and the writer’s mind, to see what lies within.

From “Shame”, page 72:
By now, if I had been writing a book of this nature, it would have done me no good to protest that I was writing universally, not only about Pakistan. The book would have been banned, dumped in the rubbish bin, burned. All that work for nothing! Realism can break a writer’s heart.

Fortunately, however, I am only telling a sort of modern fairy-tale, so that’s all right; nobody need get upset, or take anything I say too seriously. No drastic actions ned be taken either.

What a relief!

And from page 125:
Looking at the smoking cities on my television screen, I see groups of young people running through the streets, the shame burning on their brows and setting fire to shops, police shields, cars. They remind me of my anonymous girl. Humiliate people for long enough and a wildness bursts out of them. Afterwards, surveying the wreckage of their rage, they look bewildered, uncomprehending, young. Did we do such things? Us? But we’re just ordinary kids, nice people, we didn’t know we could… then, slowly, pride dawns on them, pride in their power, in having learnt to hit back.

Shame was awarded the French “Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger”.