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Even if his protagonists are fathered by history, they are engendered and sustained by women. In this paper, I propose to first study the feminine as a focal point of genesis, in other words, the feminine as a synonym tor origin, whether it is biological, territorial or national and then the typology of women portrayed by Rushdie.
Rushdie being the master of ambivalence, the feminine is never separate from the masculine in his novels. I shall, therefore devote, some attention to the masculine in women and the feminine in man and the union of the two as seen by Rushdie. Rushdie has from the beginning accustomed us to a pragmatic stand. We can make as noisy a complaint about the world as it is humanly possible 2. The placing of Aurora in this lineage enables him also to focus on the personality of Aurora who combines a sharp tongue with great beauty.
Aurora is a talented artist. To recover this painting Moraes Zogoiby means unlucky in Arabic undertakes a perilous transglobal journey to Spain where he confronts Vasco and discovers to his horror that his mother had been murdered by his own father.
The oedipal undertones of this episode are obvious. What is interesting to note is the difficulty that the son has in forming an image of his mother and fixing it and the not too negligible role paid by the father in adding to these difficulties p.
Moraes is constantly tormented by the question — Was she a saint or a whore 5? Fethi Ben Slama in his book Une fiction troublante has theorized this stand as one of divided origin 6. The narrators tries his hand at this delicate task. He only succeeds in suggesting the act through the rhythm rather than describing the unnameable through words. Yet the whole narrative seems to be a desperate attempt to reach this mythical location, call it Benengeli, Mooristan, Moorusalem, Palimpstine.
Caught between her artistic urges and her maternal instinct, his mother wills it. Nevertheless, she chooses to breast feed him unlike her three daughters who have had to make do with feeding bottles. In the different sketches and portraits she draws of him, he is sometimes her child, sometimes her lover, sometimes her father. These paintings are for the narrator a means to prove the existence of mutual mother-child longings. As luck would have it, Moraes falls in love with a Hindu woman and an art student, Uma Saraswati.
The power struggle between the mother and his beloved is equated by the narrator to the cold war between America and Russia or the clash between the white queen and the black queen in a chess game. At a crucial point in life when he has to grow up by replacing the mother as the loved object through a truly objectal relationship, he is not lucky enough to meet the right person. His name contains his fortune after all, for Uma cheats him and tries to murder him before she falls into her own trap and dies.
Though there is illustrious Arab blood in the family, that is to say, that of the last Sultan of Grenada, Boabdil, his paternal grandmother Flory Zogoiby is a die-hard with regard to religion and makes her son who has married a Christian heiress execute a bond Shylock style that in return for the money she lends him to bail him out of his business mishaps, he will offer his son to her to be brought up as a Jew.
Her own husband runs away from her dominating presence. Eventually she becomes mad and dies in a bizarre fire accident.
But her ghost comes to protect her son from dying in a heart attack during a family outing in the Elephanta caves. Muslim mothers do not seem to tolerate weakness in men. They take over and take charge, so to say, of family as well as business responsibilities.
Then, comes, of course, the Hindu mother embodied in the avenging figure of Kali p. Aurora seems to be a composite of all these, in spite of her commitment to secularism. She is possessive and protective about her son. Yet she is merciful towards her son, dismissing his handicap as a mere nothing. At the same time, Moraes perceives her as a cruel and devouring mother, comparing her rearing of her four children to eating a four course meal p.
Bombay born Rushdie was sent to a public school in Rubgy by his Kashmiri parents who were anglophiles. Young Rushdie seems to have missed his mother a lot. In a characteristic denial of this fact, in the novel it is Aurora who is portrayed as motherless. This is a fact that brings him closer to Kipling who was born in Bombay too and was sent away by his English parents to Southsea for what was to be a miserable experience. Rushdie himself warns us against this pitfall by joking on the fictional nature of biographies. Besides, we must not forget that in Rushdie, each figure has its literal, symbolic and allegorical dimensions.
Let us now explore the symbolic and allegorical meaning of Aurora. The energetic Aurora symbolizes secular and independent India just as the matriarchal Epifania, the dying empire. What makes Aurora special is that she is Aurora bombayalis p. She is the incarnation of the cosmopolitan and polymorphous spirit of Bombay. The triumphal dance of Aurora in her cheap floral print skirt p. Rushdie most certainl y is of Bombay 10 and its narrator.
He sings a paean to Bombay :. Bombay was central, had been from the moment of its creation : the bastard child of a Portuguese-English wedding and yet the most Indian of Indian cities. In Bombay all India met and merged. In Bombay too, all India met what was not India, what came across the black waters to flow into our veins. Bombay was central ; all rivers flowed into its human sea.
India was personified by the peasants in the anthropomorphic figure of Bharat Mata which Nehru found unpalatable 11though Lady Liberty in the US and Marianne in France are women figures too. The Muslim socialist Mehboob Khan made a movie in called Mother India played by the famous actress Nargis in which Bharat Mata was personified in the figure of a suffering peasant woman who murders her own son who has swayed away from the right path. The image of the nation as a mother figure is so entrenched in the Indian psyche that not even the mega bollywood industry was not able to erase it and install a Father India.
All that it could invent was a Mr. India, a made-in-India imitation Bond p. First of all women are attentive listeners and as such participate in the writing of the novel. The narrator addresses them directly more often than his male readers. Women here are initiators such as Dilly Ormuz and lovers like Uma. They are divine like Mary and regal like Queen Isabella of Spain. They are beauty queens like Nadia Wadia and stars like Sri Devi.
They are saints like Sister Floreas or prostitutes like the temple girls that Abraham supplies the Bombay underworld. They are militants like Philomena and art critics like Zeenat Vakil. In this list of their negative qualities, one can add that they can be ugly and barren like Carmen, foolish and sick like Ina, deceitful like Uma or vampires like the lesbian Larios sisters. Even if they are life givers, they are death-wishers too.
Compared to this galaxy of feminine figures, the portraits of men are relatively few in the novel. Besides, they really do not match the brilliance and the variety of traits displayed by women. It is the women characters who are representative of the culture of Bombay which combines high vitality with linguistic verve and a cosmopolitan excitement.
Her propensity to be a man does not seem to be circumstantial but innate, for sexuall y she is a hunter. Belle is not the first woman transformed into man that we come across in Rushdie. Arjumand Harappa, a daughter-who-should-have-been-a-son modelled on Benazir Bhutto in Shame is called by the narrator as Virgin Iron Pants. In fact, in the mystic tradition of Islam, a perfect woman is called the Man of God Vasco is a symbol of the masculine in women and the feminine in man for he is a genuine fifty-fifty bisexual p.
The adjective fifty-fifty sends us back to Hindu mythology where Shiva is represented in his hermaphrodite Ardhanariswara form as a half-female and half male body.
In order to meet Vasco in Benengeli, the narrator is obliged to disguise himself as a Spanish woman. Besides the exchange of roles, another way of ending the gender war is, of course, love. The narrator offers a theory of the heterogeneous love between men and women as the basis of all democracies. For an Indian reader, this point of view which exalts the couple seems to be very close to that of Tantric buddhism which represents its defenders of the faith y i — d a m always in union with their shakti.
Their language struck me as being coarse even bordering on the vulgar. It also reminds us of the splashing of waves on the shores of Bombay, for elsewhere Rushdie personifies the ocean as mother p. Uma too speaks a younger and more fashionable version of Bombay English.
Above all, the women are prone to curse. Flory Zagoiby too hurls a curse on all the moors p. Aurora too curses heavily. On the one hand, cursing helps women to vent out their rage. On the other, women seem to compensate for the lack of the power of the fist Moraes is, for instance, gets trained as a wrestler by the watchman with the power of their sharp tongue.
By being able to curse, it is as if women alone have the ability to invoke an occult power which will intervene on their behalf. The verbal war between men and women is a Shakespearean theme to which Rushdie often returns. An act of war is almost always an act of love in Rushdie. On the ideological level, it tries to put forward what Rushdie calls a secular definition of transcendence. In other words, it advocates art as the third principle that mediates between the material and spiritual worlds. He seems to say that heaven and hell are not out there, but within us.
Depending on how men and women relate to each other, earth can be a paradise or pandemonium. For some people like him, it tends to be Edenicinfernal. Stock, Paris,p. He may have inherited this artistic trend from Islamic art. Lattes, Paris,p. Check if your institution has already acquired this book: authentification to OpenEdition Freemium for Books. You can suggest to your institution to acquire one or more ebooks published on OpenEdition Books. Do not hesitate to give them our contact information: OpenEdition - Freemium Department access openedition.
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