PowerI just finished reading Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Rushdie has a way of expertly combining elements of the supernatural with aspects of history, ideology, and religious conflict. In this novel, I really got a better understanding of Indo-Pak relations, seeing as the main character is Kashmiri. Kashmir being an area that is still fraught with conflict. The book also dealt with terrorism, and instead of producing the cookie-cutter thoughtless comments of the American hegemony version of 'terrorism', we the readers get to see what may drive an individual person to commit such acts. I thought it was very enlightening and refreshing.
Towards the beginning, a father tells his daughter a rather poignant parable about the nature of power. I was struck by it, and felt the need to post it.
"'The palace of power is a labyrinth of interconnecting rooms', Max once said to his sleepy child. 'It's windowless, and there is no visible door. Your first task is to find out how to get in. When you've solved that riddle, when you come as a supplicant into the first anteroom of power, you will find in it a man with the head of a jackal, who will try to chase you out again.
If you stay, he will try to gobble you up. If you can trick your way past him, you will enter a second room, guarded this time by a man with the head of a rabid dog, and in the room after that you'll face a man with the head of a hungry bear, and so on. In the last room but one there's a man with the head of a fox. This man will not try to keep you away from the last room, in which the man of true power sits. Rather, he will try to convince you that you are already in that room and that he himself is that man.
If you succeed in seeing through the fox-man's tricks, and if you get past him, you will find yourself in the room of power. The room of power is unimpressive and in it the man of power faces you across an empty desk. He looks small, insignificant, fearful; for now that you have penetrated his defences he must give you your heart's desire. That's the rule.
But on the way out, the rooms are full of half-human flying monsters. They swoop down and rip at your treasure. Each of them claws back a little piece of it. How much of it will you manage to bring out of the house of power?
Such is the nature of power', he told her as she slipped toward sleep, 'and these are the questions it asks. The man who chooses to enter its halls does well to escape with his life.
The answer to the question of power, by the way, is this: Do not enter that labyrinth as a supplicant. Come with meat and a sword.
Freedom is not a tea party, India. Freedom is a war'".
It's a beautiful passage, and the rest of the book is equally stunning.