Book Reviews

Book Review: Haroun And The Sea Of Stories

Haroun And The Sea Of StoriesHaroun And The Sea Of Stories by Salman Rushdie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars







“What starts with stories ends with spying ,” says Khattam-Shud. ” Stories make trouble.”

Haroun and the Sea of stories is a children’s book by Salman Rushdie. It was preceded by The Satanic Verses. Like all his other works, Salman Rushdie use magic realism and real events & persons to create his characters and weave this wonderful story. The only difference here is that Rushdie uses the incidents that were taking place in his own life to create the story or at least the moral of the story.

Haroun & the sea of stories was published in 1990, 2 years after the publication & subsequent controversy of The Satanic Verses.

Even after growing up I’ve often enjoyed reading children’s books & watching children’s films. They’re so concise & have a beautiful & simple good vs bad theme. But after reading this book, I remembered the main reason I’ve loved works primarily created for kids even after becoming an adult. It’s the metaphors. As adults we try to find logic & meaning in everything, even in whimsy. The protagonist, the antagonist, every action, every situation in a story becomes something else. And this book definitely is a proof of that.

The story is about a boy named Haroun Khalifa, the son of Rashid Khailfa, a story-teller who lives in the city of Alif Bay; a city so sad that it has forgotten its own name. Rashid is also known as the Shah of Blah and the Ocean of Notions for his ability to create fascinating stories impromptu. One day Haroun returns home and discovers that his mother, Soraya has run off with their upstairs neighbour, Mr. Sengupta; who was always critical of Rashid’s profession. Haroun is crushed by this and in his anger, asks his father “Whats the point of stories if they aren’t even real ?”

These words crush Rashid & he discovers that he has lost his talent of storytelling. Rashid is hired by a political party to tell a story at their campaign. He opens his mouth, but no words come out. Rashid is then to appear at the next campaign at the valley of K. Haroun and Rashid board a bus to the alley. But, Haroun is worried about his father, whether he will be able to tell stories again? He becomes more worried when they arrive in the Valley of K and meet the politician, Mr. Buttoo.

At night, Haroun is woken up by a sound & discovers a creature with an onion shaped head in the bathroom who’s come to turn off Rashid’s Story supply. Haroun protests & the creature reluctantly agrees to take him to meet his boss.  And thus, the journey begins; to a world as bizarre as Alice’s Wonderland, as magical as Dorothy’s Oz. Haroun embarks upon a journey to the Gup city, Kahani. The city ruled by King Chattergy. The city of Prince BoloPrincess Batcheat. The city of General Kitab, the commander of the Guppee Army, called the Library which consists of may soldiers who’re called Pages. The city where our hero meets Blabbermouth. Most of the names in this book for characters & places are derived from hindustani & a glossary is provided at the end of the book.

Our hero also encounters an evil ruler Khattam-Shud “Prince of Silence and the Foe of Speech”, the ruler of Chup, who has founded a religion whose fundamental principle is abstinence from speech.

“But why do you hate stories so much?” Haroun asks when he finally confronts the tyrant. “Stories are fun.”

“The world, however, is not for Fun. . . . The world is for Controlling,” replies Khattam-Shud (who, though he will not allow anyone else to speak, talks continually in a flat, monotonous voice.) “And inside every single story, inside every Stream in the Ocean, there lies a world, a story-world, that I cannot Rule at all.”

The book is a tale which showcases the enormous power of stories-a power that scares dictators. I believe that this story is the silver lining of the whole Satanic Verses controversy. And it is our good fortune that “Khattam-Shud” or any of his followers have been successful in silencing Mr. Rushdie, our own “Sea of Notions”.

I hope Salman Rushdie’s story-water supply keeps on flowing for a long time.


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