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Furious Simulation, or Simulated Fury: Salman Rushdie’s Fury (2001)            
Brian Finney

Fury, Rushdie’s eighth novel, reads like a book that was written fast, which turns out to be the case. Rushdie has said that in 2000 it “c[a]me out of nowhere and . . . insist[ed] on being written” (Interview with Steffens D3).


Seeing that it was first published on April 1 2001 in Holland he must have written it in less that a year. Many British reviewers responded with negative notices – what Boyd Tonkin called “a collective verbal mugging unequalled in its scorn, its savagery; yes, in its sheer fury” (Fury!). They claimed not only that it was too slapdash, but that it was all to obviously based on the circumstances of Rushdie’s life since he left London for New York in 1999. Its protagonist, Malik Solanka, is an Indian immigrant aged 55 (Rushdie was 53 in 2000) and both had lived in England before moving to New York where both began an affair with an ex-Indian younger woman (Neela / Padma Lakshmi, to whom Fury is dedicated) after abandoning their respective wives (Eleanor / Elizabeth West) and their sons (Asmaan / Milan). Caroline Moore’s review in the Sunday Telegraph is representative of what happens when the novel is read as a disguised autobiography. Fury, she writes, “is a very dubious combination of fiction and confession, in which apparent self-accusation slides queasily into vaunting” (13). This kind of elision allows her to accuse Rushdie of boasting about his sexual prowess when “The Professor, we learn, is a ‘first-class’ kisser” (13).

In 2008 Rushdie admitted that Solanka was one of two characters who had loosely autobiographical roots (the other is Saleem Sinai in Midnight’s Children). But he went on to insist that both characters “became their own entities,” and was shocked how many reviewers “assumed strong parallels between [himself] and Solanka, a character who one night nearly kills his sleeping wife” (Abrams, “Author”). Caroline Moore nevertheless dismissed the novel as “a very dubious combination of fiction and confession” (13). What most reviewers ignored was the more subtle connection between the way Solanka had earlier constructed his dolls and the way Rushdie used his experience of the fatwa to write this novel: “Solanka soon learned the value of working, like the great matador, closer to the bull; that is, using the material of his own life and immediate surroundings and, by the alchemy of art, making it strange” (16). Rushdie had only recently emerged from a decade spent hiding from his potential assassins after the Ayatollah Khomeini reacted with outrage to Rushdie’s fourth novel, The Satanic Verses (1988) by censoring it and issuing his fatwa (sentence of death) in 1989. Just as The Satanic Verses took on a life of its own after offending a large segment of the Muslim world, so Solanka’s principal puppet, Little Brain, offends the Vatican and is censored before being completely appropriated and commercialized by the media and corporate business. Boyd Tonkin first pointed to this parallel when he wrote: “the fatwah advertised in bright red letters what every writer should grasp: that, in modern times, fiction may always seep out into the world of law and politics to ‘grow monstrous,’ as Fury puts it” (“Fury!”). Clearly the fatwa was still prominently in his mind the year before he wrote Fury when Rushdie has Vina Apsara, the protagonist of his previous novel, The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999), swallowed by an earthquake on 14 February 1989, the date that Khomeini issued the fatwa.

In 2005 Sarah Brouillette published an essay, “Authorship in Crisis in Salman Rushdie’s Fury,” that confronted this far more significant hidden element of autobiography in the novel. Where the history of Little Brain is told as part of Solanka’s “back-story” in England, the novel stages a repeat performance with his creation of the Puppet Kings. They are based on Solanka’s current relationship with a beautiful documentary film maker, Neela, who is an “Indo-Lilliputian” from Lilliput-Blefuscu (a fictional counterpart, derived from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, to Fiji), and her association with Babur who leads a rebellion of the Indo-Lillies against the indigenous “Elbees” (LB’s - Lilliput-Blefuscuans) and who in turn appropriates these cyber-puppets. So the novel offers dual instances of the seizure of Solanka’s creation by others for economic or political purposes. Countering Amitava Kumar’s review of Fury for the Nation in which she criticizes the book’s “zeal for self-glorification” (34), Brouillette argues, “Fury rather parades its biographical masking” in that both The Puppet Kings and Fury “are about lives making their way into fictions and fiction making its way, all too viscerally, back into the world where meaning is made” (151). She goes on to assert that “the book is not about Rushdie’s life, but about ‘Rushdie’ as a brand name, as a paratext, and as an icon” (151). She concludes that the FRM (the Indo-Lilliputian rebels) and their leader, Babur, “resemble no one so much as the fundamentalists who enacted, in Rushdie’s oft-expressed view, a politicized appropriation of The Satanic Verses completely analogous to what the FRM do to Malik’s [Solanka’s] works” (151). 

As Rushdie reflected in his account of a visit to India in 2000, reviewers and politicians “all write scripts for me, and I get trapped inside their fantasies” (Step Across 191). This fear of being “concealed behind a false self,” a fear that this “Other may succeed in obliterating” him (Imaginary Homelands 405, 406), is what may account for Rushdie’s own fury at the appropriations of his work, something that he has sought to fictionalize and exorcize in this novel. In the course of this book Solanka has to come to terms with the fact that others will inevitably commandeer his personal creations, that every successful author meets his death as readers convert his work to their text. I am of course citing Barthes who insists that part of this appropriation by the reader entails “playing the Text as one plays a game” as well as “playing the Text in the musical sense of the term” (162). Playing with others’ texts (including the Koran) is precisely what Rushdie did in the first place when he wrote The Satanic Verses. Verbal play is what has marked his work from the linguistic exuberance of Midnight’s Children onwards. Play is what he used to counter the totalizing myths of religion and politics in The Satanic Verses—and what became a reason for issuing the fatwa. In his 1990 essay, “Is Nothing Sacred?” he declared himself a member of the postmodern world of play when he wrote that the “rejection of totalized explanations is the modern condition,” and that “the acceptance . . . that reality and morality are not givens but imperfect human constructs, is the point from which fiction begins” (Imaginary Homelands 422). The fact that he goes on to cite Lyotard’s La Condition Postmoderne confirms that by “modern” here he means postmodern.

But the form of postmodernism that Rushdie employs in Fury to portray the author-figure caught in the maelstrom of the postmodern world is not so much that propounded by Lyotard. It comes much closer to the playfulness of Baudrillard’s world of simulation. Baudrillard himself claims that the postmodern itself falls within his definition of simulation (Baudrilard Live 158). In Simulacra and Simulation Baudrillard traces simulation back to feudal society when the image “is the reflection of a profound reality.” Over time it next “masks and perverts a profound reality,” “masks the absence of a profound reality,” and finally “bears no relation to any reality whatever; it is its own pure simulacrum” (16-17). In his postmodern world there is no pure reality. There are only simulacra, mediated ways of perceiving it. Such a world, he maintains, produces “nostalgia,” “a plethora of myths of origin and of signs of reality” (Simulacra 6). Fury simultaneously forces the artist-figure to face the inevitability that his work, itself a simulacrum, will enter a world of simulacra in which it loses any connection to its originator’s intended signifieds, while reducing the readings, interpretations and appropriations of the work to the same status in a world of simulation. Where Rushdie in The Satanic Verses appeared to claim superiority for the novel over other discourses seeking to impose their truths on others, in Fury he has relinquished this claim, which in fact counters the spirit of relativity that he sees at the core of the postmodern mind. Rushdie sets his narrative at the turn of the new millennium, in what he calls in a covert homage to Baudrillard, “this age of simulacra and counterfeits,” of “[p]hony experience that feels so good that you actually prefer it to the real thing” (232). I am not suggesting that Rushdie is intimately acquainted with Baudrillard’s theories. Madelena Gonzalez appears to take this position when she claims that “the novel is complicit with Baudrillard’s simulacra and simulation,” which tends to make it “a passive manifestation of the postmodern movement” (194). What I am arguing is that he is making use of a popularized version of Baudrillard’s ideas for his own different purposes.

One of those purposes is to comment in fictional form on the nature of the postmodern world of which he is so much a part and to which his novels have contributed, but which has also been responsible for the many ways in which his work has been misunderstood. Some reviewers attacked the novel because they took it to be an essentially realist narrative which only resorts to magic realism in chapter 12, “The Coming of the Puppet Kings.” For instance, reviewing Fury for the Observer, Adam Mars-Jones called this chapter “eight pages of pure, confident fabulation, that is the highlight of an otherwise awkwardly managed novel.” However, once one acknowledges that the entire novel is non-realist much of that presumed awkwardness evaporates; or rather it metamorphoses into verbal play of a high order at times. James Wood is representative of what happens when reviewers assume they are reading a narrative “nimbused by a dirty cloud of reality.” Citing such neologisms as Rushdie’s allusion to the presidential election campaign fought in 2000 between “Gush” and “Bore” (Fury 6), Wood dismisses references like this as a “bare recording of social facts” constituting  “weightless volume of reference,” “a cartoonish and inauthentic reality” (32-3). Yet the inversion of the initial letters cleverly obfuscates the separate political identities of the two contestants, as well as suggesting characteristics pertaining to each (Gore did tend to sound boring and Bush was gushing in his electoral wooing of the voters). Rushdie is offering postmodern play and is being misread as a realist cataloging trivia instead.

Other reviewers similarly charged Rushdie with cluttering the novel with the instantly forgettable trivia of American culture in the year 2000. Brooke Allen denounces Rushdie’s “overkill” in Fury, with its “pop-culture references he has never attempted to edit” (138). But. like Baudrillard, Rushdie is simultaneously celebrating and deprecating the undifferentiated bricolage of trivia and significant events which constitute postmodern culture. “Fury is immediately obsolete,” James Wood pronounced (33). But so is much of the flotsam of postmodern culture. How else can one describe that culture but by evoking its quickly forgotten products as well as its more memorable events? New York is the center of this mélange for both men. “New York completely took me over,” Rushdie told an interviewer; what he specially likes about it is that it’s a place “where it’s everybody’s culture” (D3). Whether or not Rushdie had read Baudrillard’s America (1988), there is a congruity between the two writers’ response to the city. For Baudrillard New York is “the centre of the world,” but “an artificial centrality” (America 14, 15). Fury also celebrates New York as the epitome of America, “a greater deity” than the classical gods, while simultaneously undermining the compliment by calling it “a city of half-truths and echoes that somehow dominates the earth” (44). Just as New York is the epitome of fury for Rushdie (“everywhere you looked . . . the fury was in the air” [123]), so for Baudrillard New York’s “violence is the very violence of the way of life” (America 18). The city is a living contradiction, Baudrillard, concludes, “from sublime verticality to decay on the ground,” a result of “the mixing of races and empires” (America 21). Rushdie’s portrayal of New York is equally oxymoronic: it is “in the highest hour of its hybrid, omnivorous power” (44), a city that “boiled with money” (3).

 New York also represents for Rushdie the new frontier of the twenty-first century. “It’s a city whose culture is constructed by immigrants,” Rushdie told Davia Nelson. Because “it’s everybody’s culture’ (Rushdie, Interview with Steffens D3), “[i]t lets you be part of that process of continual construction” (Rushdie, Interview with Nelson 28). Like Rushdie, Solanka is an immigrant to New York. But Solanka wants to be devoured by the “great devourer” (69). He wants omnivorous America to eat him and give him peace (44). As Rushdie explained in 1985, immigrants are radically new kinds of humans, “people who root themselves in ideas rather than places.” He adds, “To see things plainly, you have to cross a frontier” (Imaginary Homelands 124-5). In the title essay of Step Across This Line (2002) Rushdie explored this image of the new frontier and America, something he had already fictionally interrogated in Fury. Starting from the his assertion that to “cross a frontier is to be transformed” (Step Across 353), he confronts the problem that now that America’s physical frontier has been pushed to the Pacific, “America is still battling to understand its new, post-frontier self.” He even argues that “this new, permeable post-frontier is the distinguishing feature of our times” (Step Across 365), is effectively the essence of the postmodern. Rushdie has always defended the need to cross frontiers, “not to be contained or defined by anybody else’s idea of where a line is drawn” (Step Across 373).

In a footnote earlier in the collection Rushdie identifies the problem facing the new millennium as “the inequitable distribution of global resources” (Step Across 269). In an interview promoting Fury, Rushdie said:

    “I think there is something to be written about what happens when you’ve got everything and nobody else has got anything. It changes the idea of frontier. . . . Suddenly, the frontier is a wall that’s meant to keep people out . . . And the idea that this extraordinary way of life should depend on that wall is, well, a real problem . . .” (Rushdie, Steffens D3)

Solanka expresses a similar opinion. “America insulted the rest of the planet, thought Malik Solanka in his old-fashioned way, by treating such bounty with the shoulder-shrugging casualness of the inequitably wealthy” (6). Yet Rushdie undercuts the authority of Solanka’s narrative stance by calling him old-fashioned. The novel is questioning and problematizing the issue, not offering any kind of solution. Solanka repeatedly uses a metaphor for New York that Baudrillard had also used when he called the city “the gentle hell of the Roman Empire in its decline” (America 17). In Fury New York parallels the late Roman Empire: “In New York, too, there were circuses as well as bread” (6). As Anshuman Mondal has noted, Fury and The Ground Beneath Her Feet show “the relocation of Rushdie’s imaginative geography away from the Indian subcontinent” (169). Since 1999 Rushdie’s focus has been on globalization and on the center of global media and communications, America, the new imperial power. Later a crucial passage identifies what makes New Yorkers and Solanka so filled with fury:  “might these new Romans have forgotten what and how to value, or had they never known? . . . Was nobody in all this bustling endeavor and material plenitude engaged, any longer, on the deep quarry-work of the mind and the heart?” (87). Unquestionably a central theme of the novel is “the mechanization of the human” (182), the idea that in postmodern America “the language of the heart was being lost” (183-4), and this was what “made people mad,” “excess not of commodities but of their dashed and thwarted hopes” (184). What Solanka calls “excessive postmodern rapidity” has “outstripped the heart’s ability to respond” (228). In “Boom America” where “human expectations were at their highest levels in human history, and so, therefore were human disappointments,” Solanka hears everywhere the unanswered question “is this all there is?” (184).

But it is important to recognize that this theme takes the form of an unanswered question. Solanka’s fury is occasioned by a postmodern city in which the frontier is not simply one between rich and poor, but between the representation of reality and simulacra. He is intimately bound up in this counterfeit culture, being a maker of dolls and then of the digitalized Puppet Kings. Fury plays with simulacra that come to assume the status of the real, and the way it plays is to use non-realist fictional modes to evoke an equally unreal world. Mila might well be addressing the implied reader as much as Solanka when she tells him, “you need to learn how to play. Serious play, that’s my thing” (179). Once one starts to read this novel as serious play, the objections of the critics come to seem beside the point. When Caroline Moore charges that Neela is no more than a “cartoon character” (13), when David Abrams claims that the “cast of characters . . . are as much puppets as they are people,” or when Michiko Kakutani dismisses Solanka as a “strangely synthetic character” (“Mr. Rushdie” 31), they are closer to the truth than they intended, in that Rushdie meant them to be part caricatures, meant to create confusion between the reality status of puppet-makers and puppets. In a postmodern world we are all partly constructs of its culture composed of digitalized messages and images.

Neela claims that she feels “most alive” in the electronic world of cyber space, a space in which everything is reduced to virtual reality (179). She further admits that the “compartmentalization of herself into ‘form’ and ‘content’ was a useful fiction” (205). If we use fictions to produce the self, why shouldn’t the novelist show such fictions at work within his fiction? When Neela describes herself as a “disembodied entity living behind the eyes of this extraordinary alien, her body” (204), why criticize Rushdie for his non-realist portrayal of this character? Why do reviewers try to impose on novelists like Rushdie an artificial frontier between the real and the unreal? They consider it acceptable for him to use so-called magic realism in chapter 12 (after all, hasn’t Rushdie signaled a departure from his “realist” narrative by the use of a different type-face?). But they refuse to recognize that the entire book hovers between realist (or rather, pseudo-realist) and non-realist modes of narration. In a 2005 interview Rushdie distinguished between the realist novel, which assumes that the writer and his readers “share a description of the world,” and non-realist fiction, which is “a more questioning tradition, a tradition that does not take the world for granted.” He concludes that the non-realist form “is less exhausted, and perhaps more relevant today” (Interview with Enright 560).

Solanka is meant to be as much a puppet manipulated on Rushdie’s strings as are the dolls and puppets to which Solanka gives artificial life. He is presented as an actant (as the narratologist A.J. Greimas called characters to emphasize their purely functional nature within the narrative). He is a walking contradiction: “a sanyasi [an ascetic] with a duplex and credit card”, he exhibits an “oxymoronic nature” (82). He is constructed like a figure of speech, which is wholly appropriate for one who speaks the narrative and occupies a purely linguistic status. Rushdie invents a plot that increasingly confuses the distinction between puppet maker and his creations. In his past Solanka has already endured the experience of his dolls, especially Little Brain, “turning before his eyes into the kind of monster[s] of tawdry celebrity he most profoundly abhorred” (98). In New York he reads about the murder of fashionable young women who “wanted to be doll-like, to cross the frontier and look like toys” (74). Having “conspired in their dehumanization,” they are representative of contemporary America’s loss of heart or soul. Their murderers fittingly wear Disney costumes when they kill them (130). But when Solanka comes to create his cyber creatures, the Puppet Kings, he enters a postmodern world of pure simulation. The puppets are modeled on himself (Kronos, Dollmaker puppet), Neela (Kronos’s love Zameen, the Goddess of Victory puppet), and so on. The imaginary land they inhabit, Baburia, is modeled on Lilliput-Blefuscu which is a thinly disguised Fiji about which Rushdie had written an article for the New York Times in June 2000 (cf. Step Across 299-301). Immersed in his fiction, Solanka becomes “deliriously entranced by the shadow-play possibilities . . . of the two sets of doubles, the encounters between ‘real’ and ‘real,’ ‘real’ and ‘double,’ ‘double’ and ‘double,’ which blissfully demonstrated the dissolution of the frontiers between the categories” (187).

Rushdie skillfully stages the rapid breakdown of the distinction between the world Solanka creates and the contemporary political conflict in Lilliput-Blefuscu. Because he incorporates everything happening to and around him into his narrative, “The Coming of the Puppet Kings,” Solanka finds that “[r]eal life had started obeying the dictates of fiction” (170). “Everything’s a copy, an echo of the past,” Solanka reflects (142). But next the copy takes on a life of its own and subsumes its original that was itself only a copy in the first place. However at the climax of the novel Solanka’s puppets “burst out of their cages and take to the streets” (225). First they are brought to life by actors dressed as his characters making celebrity appearances. Within Solanka’s narrative the Dollmaker and other puppets rebel against Kronos’s control. Next rebel Indo-Lillies raid toy stores in Lilliput-Blefuscu selling masks of the leading Puppet Kings and the rebel leaders wear them when they attack government forces. Solanka realizes that this constituted “no less than a third ‘revolt of the living dolls” (226-7). When Solanka flies to Lilliput-Blefuscu in search of Neela who has gone there to support the rebellion, he is confronted by a giant cardboard representation of himself, that is of Babur dressed in a Kronos mask (modeled on Solanka). Solanka becomes comically confused by the way “as time passed, he had come to resemble his creation more and more” (235). He is duly arrested as a counterfeit of the rebel commander. “Here in the Theater of Masks the original, the man with no mask, was perceived as the mask’s imitator: the creation was real while the creator was counterfeit” (239). Solanka has arrived in a world of pure simulation.

The frontier that Solanka crosses is not just one between reality and simulation; it is also one between the real and its representation in art. Sarah Brouillette claims that in his fiction from The Ground Beneath Her Feet on Rushdie has moved from “a general attention to the politics of nation-formation . . . to a more solipsistic interest in the status of authorship and origins within the field of cultural production for a global market” (140). To the extent that this gives the impression that he has abandoned his interest in the political for the cultural and the aesthetic, it is misleading. Back in 1985 Rushdie described “postmodernist critique” as that which “seeks to separate the text from the world,” and he goes on to reject this notion that “writers should not meddle in public affairs” (Reder 74). Doesn’t Fury reach its climax in a thinly disguised Fiji in political turmoil? Lilliput-Blefuscu might be a country attempting to counter images discouraging its main industry, tourism, with counter-images, but the rebellion ends with the intervention of the new imperial power, America, which gives the government forces enough weaponry to put down the rebellion. At the same time the rebellion in Lilliput-Blefuscu parallels the internal psychological rebellion witnessed in the novel’s many representative Americans, and, as Rodney Stephens argues, the decline of the Rijk (the nation of the Puppet Kings) “becomes a tale of America’s eclipse”--or, I would say, its potential eclipse (350). The world of simulation might enter the world of politics, but it is only in the realm of art and literature that postmodern confusion continues to the end of the novel. Nevertheless, according to Rushdie, “[a]ll art is an argument about the world,” which gives it a “moral dimension” (Rushdie, Interview with Enright 558, 560).

As Boyd Tonkin writes, “Solanka's doll-making also represents fiction itself: the unreal reality that leaks out into the world” (Rev.). Just as Rushdie defends fiction by arguing that both newspapers and novels alike “provide versions of the world” (Step Across 131), so Solanka sees his creations as being as real as his fellow humans: he “thought of [dolls] as people” (95). This is because, as Solanka realizes, we humans “were our stories” (51). One of the most worrying parts of Solanka’s back-story is his finding himself holding a knife over his sleeping wife. “The knife was his story now, and he had come to America to write it. No! In despair to unwrite it” (79). In this novel living a story is made to appear the same as writing (or rewriting) a story. In his quest for oblivion Solanka chooses New York because there he feels “crowded out by other people’s stories;” it is “a city that was in the middle of a story which didn’t need him as a character” (89). As Cécile Leonard remarks when focusing on the noise generated by New York, “The struggle of voices becomes the subject of the narrative and the narrator embodies the very fight he has to go through to make sense of it” (103). Rushdie plays throughout the book with this conceit that to live is to create stories of oneself, and to tell stories is to live. Solanka sees and describes his life as a narrative work in progress. “The story you finished,” he reflects, “was perhaps never the one you began” (86). The same could be true for the novelist. Solanka sees his life as shaped like fiction or drama, referring to his arrival in Lilliput-Blefuscu as his life “arriving . . . at its final act” (235), and finding that its streets “were his biography” (246). In his narrative of the Puppet Kings Solanka describes “a long dispute between [Kronos and the Mogul] on the nature of life itself—life as created by a biological act, and life as brought into being by the imagination and skill of the living. Was life ‘natural,’ or could the ‘unnatural’ be said to be alive?” (188-9). In a scene reminiscent of the fatwa issued against Rushdie, the Mogol threatens Kronos with death if he doesn’t abandon his defense of the world of the imagination (189).

But Solanka defends his own artistic invention: “The ransacking of the world’s storehouse of old stories and ancient histories was entirely legitimate,” he decides. “Transmutation was all” (190-91). This is Rushdie’s surreptitious way of foregrounding while defending his extensive use of another literary device especially cultivated by postmodern culture – intertextuality. Critics and reviewers alike have commented on Rushdie’s numerous references to other works of literature as well as numerous allusions to postmodern cultural products. Many accuse him of introducing these allusions to parade his knowledge of the American scene at the turn of the new millennium. Once again their skewered biographical reading of Fury blinds them to his serious narrative use of such intertexts. Take for example the surreal scene in Solanka’s bedroom when he is visited by a vengeful Eddie knife in hand. This of course is in itself a reference to Solanka’s back-story when he similarly held a knife over his recumbent wife, as well as to an incident in London when a “flash young black kid” threatened him with a knife (229). Eddie’s first utterance is to acknowledge that he knows he is repeating a scene found in at least three movies he recalls – A Shot in the Dark, Knife in the Head, and Polanski’s Knife in the Water. Solanka concludes that because “daily life . . . just numbed and anesthetized people,” “the experience on offer in the movie theaters now felt more real than what was available in the world outside” (230-31). This intertext then contributes to the novel’s ongoing confusion between the real and the simulated by suggesting that “for Eddie, his movie-hoodlum riffs possessed more authenticity than any more ‘natural’ pattern of speech . . . at his disposal” (231). The scene progresses into a spoof appearance of the three Furies from Greek myth in the persons of Solanka's ex-wife and the two current women in his life.  Reviewers such as Erica Wagner in The Times and Caroline Moore in the Sunday Telegraph, assuming Fury to be a realist work, criticized Rushdie for staging the unlikely arrival from London of Solanka’s abandoned wife in his New York bedroom in the middle of the night. But the improbability of the simultaneous appearance of all three women is surely intended to draw attention to the staged and fictional nature of not just this episode, but of the novel in its entirety. The Furies that pursue Solanka are intended to evoke, according to Rushdie, “the genuine anger that exists in the world today,” the way that  “many people today define themselves by their anger” (Interview with Enright 562).

One could devote an entire essay to the intertexts in Fury. All of them contribute to the fabricated nature of Rushdie’s fiction; they all draw attention to his use of fiction as serious play. Justyna Deszcz, for instance, spends a short paragraph showing how “Fury features numerous fairy-tale intertextualities and allusions” (par. 11). Among other instances she cites Rushdie’s allusions to Prince Charming and the toad, Peter Pan and Captain Hook, characters from Disney’s animated movies and from 2001, and to Swift’s imaginary islands of Lilliput and Blefuscu in the first book of Gulliver’s Travels. Rushdie’s use of Swift’s fantasy geography serves to draw attention to the way the Lilliput-Blefescuans (Fijians) stand diminished in economic stature in the eyes of the principal global power, America, just as the pigmy citizens of Swift’s two islands are diminished in moral stature in Gulliver’s eyes. Where Swift mocks his Lilliputians’ long-standing dispute concerning which end of an egg should be cut open (an allusion to the differences between Protestants and Catholics), Rushdie uses the same difference over which end of the egg should be cut to ridicule the differences over land ownership and use that divides the indigenous “Elbees” (Lilliput-Blefuscuans) from the Indo-Lillies (157-8). In another intertext much commented on by reviewers Rushdie cites Yeats’s poem, “The Second Coming,” to compare Solanka’s Puppet Kings to Yeats’s rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem to inaugurate a new century of violence and anarchy (225). Through this intertext the new millennium is characterized in Fury as one where simulacra (puppets) replace the real.

“All books,” Rushdie told an interviewer, “to an extent, come from other books. As well as from life” (Interview with Richards). The purpose of most of the intertexts found in Fury is to remind the reader of this fact – that fiction comes from both other fictions and from life that is itself partly constructed from the fictions we make up of our past. The novel fittingly ends intertextually when Solanka attempts to catch his son’s attention by bouncing higher and higher on a bouncy castle on Hampstead Heath. The intertext is the epigraph in Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, an extract from a poem by D’Invilliers, a fictional character in Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise. D’Invilliers is a pseudonym for Fitzgerald as well as being partly modeled on his friend, the poet John Peale Bishop. The fictitious poem reads:

 Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;

   If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,

 Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,

   I must have you!”

Rushdie has carefully prepared for this final moment in Fury. First Solanka consoles himself at the thought that he might fail to exorcize the furies pursuing him by recalling The Great Gatsby: “After all, Jay Gatsby, the highest bouncer of them all, failed too in the end, but lived out before he crashed, that brilliant, brittle, gold-hatted, exemplary American life” (82). Next Solanka recalls his son in a habitual moment from the past – bouncing on his parents’ bed: “’Look at me,’ he’d cry . . . ‘I’m bouncing very well! I’m bouncing higher and higher!’” (105). Finally in the last paragraph of the book Solanka, “in spite of the  . . . the lack of a golden hat,” shouts out to his son: “‘Look at me, Asmaan! I’m bouncing very well! I’m bouncing higher and higher!’” (259). Rushdie has Solanka echo not just his son’s words, but those of Fitzgerald who is citing the words of a non-existent author. The intertextual finale triumphantly celebrates the non-realist nature of fiction and its postmodern use of pastiche, so appropriate in an age of simulation.

Works Cited

  • Abrams, David. “Author Salman Rushdie Says No More Autobiographical Characters.” International Herald Tribune
    11 Feb. 2008. 24 Mar. 2008
    “Mr. Rushdie Comes to America.” January Magazine 1 Apr. 2008
  • Allen, Brooke. Rev. of Fury, by Salman Rushdie. Atlantic Monthly Sep. 2001: 138.
  • Barthes, Roland. Image – Music – Text. Trans. Stephen Heath.  New York: Hill & Wang, 1977.
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Copyright 2008 Brian Finney