Islam, Pakistan, and "Shame"

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

How does the following passage from Shame employ Rushdie's notions of (1) fantasy and reality (2) his attitude towards religion, and his use of (3) cinema as image, (4) Ruskinian symbolic grotesques, (5) and pop culture (Lone Ranger)?

This was the time immediately before the famous moth-eaten partition that chopped up the old country and handed Al-Lah a a few insect-nibbled slices of it, some dusty western acres and jungly eastern swamps that the ungodly were happy to do without. (Al-Lah's new country: two chunk of land a thousand miles apart. A country so improbable that it could almost exist.) But let's be unemotional and state merely that feelings were running so high that even going to the pictures had become a political act. The one-godly went to these cinemas and the washers of stone gods to those; movie-fans had been partitioned already, in advance of the tired old land. The stone-godly ran the music business, that goes without saying, and being vegetarians they made a very famous film: Gai-Wallah. Perhaps you've heard of it? An unusual fantasy about a lone, masked hero who roamed the Indo-Gangetic plain liberating herds of beef-cattle from their keepers, saving the sacred, horned, uddered beats from the slaughterhouse. The stone-gang packed out the cinemas where this movie was shown; the one-godly riposted by rushing to see imported, non-vegetarian Westerns in which cows got massacred and good guys feasted on steaks. And mobs of irate film buffs attacked the cinemas of their enemies. . . well, it was a time for all types of craziness, that's all.

Nobody was surprised that there were accidents . . . . well, there were a few voices saying, If this is the country we dedicated to our God, what kind of a God is it that permits -- but these voices were silenced before they had finished their questions, kicked on the shins under the table, for their own sakes. No, it's more than that: there are things that cannot be permitted to be true. [ellipsis in original, (New York: Aventura/Vintage, 1984) 85]

Postcolonial Web Pakinstan OV Rushdie OV Shame OV