Fantastical, magical and mythical gods

2011-01-19 00:00

REVIEWER debate around this clever little book centres to an extent on whether esteemed storyteller Salman Rushdie needed to resort to computer game imagery to carry his latest tale about a boy’s quest to save the life of his storyteller father, Rashid Khalifa, who has unexpectedly fallen into death-like sleep.

Rushdie catapults his 12-year-old protagonist, Luka, into the fantastical and extremely busy Magical World peopled by mythical gods as well as some more contemporary characters. In his quest to steal the Fire of Life which burns on the top of the Mountain of Know-ledge, Luka is guided by a three-digit counter­ in his field of vision to reflect his virtual­ lives.

Luka is involved in a game, yes, but at stake is the real life of Luka’s storyteller father. And the future of stories themselves.

Is Rushdie trying too hard to captivate his younger readership which, like Luka, has grown up “in an age in which an almost infinite number of parallel realities had begun to be sold as toys”? I don’t think so.

In a world where the Wii has become household furniture­, and misgivings about the effect of technology on children­ reaches panic proportions, Rushdie’s narrative props reflect a certain reality, but not uncritically.

He reminds us that whatever form of expression it takes, the human imagination­ will not be denied, that “Man is the Storytelling Animal and that in stories are his identity, his meaning and his lifeblood”.

This book comes 20 years after Rushdie produced Haroun and the Sea of Stories as a gift for his first son and shortly after the fatwa that was declared against Rushdie for his Satanic­ Verses. Luka and the Fire of Life is a gift for his younger son and comes at a different political moment.

But the argument for storytelling — in whatever guise — lives on in this entertaining book, which is likely to appeal to children and adults  alike.

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