Introduction to Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Introduction to Rushdie’s
Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Life of Salman Rushdie
• Born in Bombay, India
in 1947
• Educated in the
English tradition,
including Cambridge
• 1980 he published his
second novel,
Midnight’s Children,
which received the
Booker Prize
Satanic Verses
• 1988, he published in Great Britain his novel,
The Satanic Verses; a magical realism novel
about two persons who miraculously survive a
bomb which detonates when their plane is at
30,000 feet.
• His novel angered British Muslims because of
his depictions of Mohammed; they asked the
British government to ban the book but their
request was denied
A Crisis
• In response to requests
made by angry Muslims.
The Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini of Iran issued a
decree calling for the
death of Rushdie and all
those associated with the
publication of his book
Satanic Verses
• Ayatollah is a religious
title in Shi’i Islam
• The decree Khomeini issued is called a fatwa
• A fatwa is a judgement rendered by a mufti or
cleric. A mufti's authority derives in part from
receiving the equivalent of a doctorate from a
college or madrasas. Each madrasas is allied
with one of the four Islamic jurist traditions or
• The fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini
declared that the author of Satanic Verses as
well as all publishers madhur el dam, "those
whose blood must be shed." He further asked a
all devout Muslims to execute these persons.
Rushdie’s Peril
• In London, Rushdie was taken under the protection of
the British Secret Service. The threats of his situation
were not exaggerated. In 1991, a Japanese translator of
the novel was stabbed to death and an Italian translator
was stabbed. In 1993, a Norwegian publisher was
attacked. President Clinton greeted Rushdie November
24, 1993 when Rushdie went to the United States to give
a keynote address.
• In September 1998, the Iranian government rescinded
the fatwa; however, the fatwa had been issued by the
Ayatollah Khomeini who had immense personal authority
and in the eyes of some Muslims only a cleric with
equivalent authority can rescind the fatwa against
Haroun and the Sea of Stories
• Rushdie published this book in 1990,
which was the second year of his
• He dedicated the novel to his son Zafar,
from his first marriage; Zafar was 10 years
old at the time.
• The light hearted, hopeful novel grew out
of stories Rushdie told his son.
Big Ideas in Haroun
• The importance of art, all art – verbal,
plastic, dramatic, musical
• The importance of free speech
• The child’s quest to right a wrong
• The child’s recognition of the fallibility of
• The instability of language and meaning
The Narrative Structure of Haroun
• A quest to solve a problem
• A series of embedded journeys to magical,
imaginary lands
• A climactic war between opposites
• The hero’s introduction to helpers and
Haroun and The 1001 Nights
• This novel has close ties with The 1001 Arabian
• The hero’s name is Haroun; his father’s name is
Rashid; the family’s last name is Khalifa
• A major character in The 1001 Nights is Caliph
Harun al-Rashid, who appears first in the 640th
night; he is a curious man who wants to
understand the motivations of certain persons
and thus listens to their stories.
• The narrator of the Tales from
the Arabian Nights was the
wife of the cruel King Shahryar
who had killed 330 wives in
order to preserve his honor
• To save other women from this
fate, Shahrazad volunteered to
marry the king
• She had a trick to save herself;
every night she told a story so
compelling that when morning
came and the story was not
over, the king would spare her
life in order to here the rest of
the story the next night
Shahrazad & Rushdie
• Threatened with death for unjustified
• Uses art to create an escape from reality
and death
• Both are defined by their art
• What other comparisons can you think of?
And The Wizard of Oz
• Rushdie saw the film when he was a 10-year-old
boy and only later read Baum’s books
• He wrote an essay on the film and analyzed its
elements which made it a iconic landmark
• He writes, “But of all movies, the one that helped
me most as I tried to find the right voice for
Haroun was The Wizard of Oz. The film’s
influence is there in the text, plain to see. In
Haroun’s companions there are clear echoes of
the friends who danced with Dorothy down the
Yellow Brick Road.”