Politici de integrare a migranţilor

Rushdie The ‘Translated Man’1

[„Al.I. Cuza” University of Iași]

We are miners and jewellers, truth-tellers and liars, jesters and commanders, mongrels and bastards, parents and lovers, architects and demolition men. The creative spirit, of its very nature, resists frontiers and limiting points, denies the authority of censors and taboos.
Salman Rushdie, Declaration of independence for those without frontiers

The fascination of a journey is not only in the spaces, shapes and colours – the places you take in – but also in the number of personal ‘times’ you recover. The older I grow, the stronger my impression that these journeys occur simultaneously in time and space.
Mircea Eliade, Încercarea labirintului


This paper is an approach to Salman Rushdie, his life and his writing as essentially shaped by migration, which makes him feel a ‘translated man.’ In this respect, Rushdie is emblematic of the migrant writer. I argue that the shift from exile to migrancy is indicative of the migrant writers’ significantly new perception of their own cultural location as interstitial and hybrid, a condition explained by cultural theorist Homi Bhaba.‘Moving across the planet’ in this ‘translation’, Rushdie and other migrant, hyphenated and hybrid writers have access to a number of worlds. This access gives them a ‘double vision’, translating their uncertainty, inquisitiveness and obliqueness, which they impart to their characters that have various experiences of migration. The conclusion is that this ‘in-betweenness’ may be seen as the essential condition of humanity, which is, according to Andrei Pleşu, ‘a species of the interval.’

Keywords: hybridity; translation; migration/migrancy; places of the mind; dream/nightmare; culture


Homi Bhaba argues that „it is the trope of our times to locate the question of culture in the realm of the beyond.” He continues to say that „our existence today is marked by a tenebrous sense of survival, living on the borderlines of the ‘present’, for which there seems to be no proper name other than the current and controversial shiftiness of the prefix ‘post’: postmodernism, postcolonialism, postfeminism.” Bhaba, a migrant and descendant from migrants himself, born into a Parsi family from Mumbai (former Bombay), India, who spent his childhood, adolescence and early youth in India, then moved to Britain and then to the US, where he is the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language, and the Director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University, is an outstanding cultural theorist who coined key concepts, such as hybridity, mimicry, difference, ambivalence, which define postcolonialism and migration.

In 1994, when he wrote The Location of Culture, Bhaba was speaking about a ‘fin de siècle’ when „we find ourselves in the moment of transit where space and time cross to produce complex figures of difference and identity, past and present, inside and outside, inclusion and exclusion. For there is a sense of disorientation, a disturbance of direction, in the ‘beyond’: an exploratory, restless movement caught so well in the French rendition of the words au-delà - here and there, on all sides, fort/da, hither and thither, back and forth.’”2 Bhaba, a hybrid caught in this ‘moment of transit’, applies a careful scrutiny of what he calls our ‘border lives, which implies not only living on borders but across them, transgressing them.

Since the 1980s some exiled postcolonial writers have reconfigured their identity by rejecting the status of exile and embracing that of migrant instead. Indian-born American writer Bharati Mukherjee and Indian-born-British-now-living-in-America writer Salman Rushdie prefer the term ‘(im)migrant’ to describe both their literary production and their personal experience of transculturation. Likewise, the second generation of Caribbean writers who are settling in the US rather than in their ‘homeland’ are no longer associated with exile. Moreover, they no longer write of their ‘displacement’ as obsessively as the previous generation.

The shift from exile to migrancy is indicative of these writers’ significantly new perception of their own cultural location as interstitial and hybrid. In his book of essays Imaginary Homelands, Rushdie argues that there is a wide variety of England’s Indian writers. Some are Pakistani, others Bangladeshi, others West, or East, or South African. He accounts for the very word ‘Indian’ as „getting to be a pretty scattered concept.”3 The spectrum of the concept includes „political exiles, first-generation migrants, affluent expatriates /…/, naturalized Britons, and people born here [in Britain] who may never have laid eyes on the subcontinent.”4 What Rushdie means is not so much the incapacity of the concept to apply across these categories as the fact that the cultural location of these people is neither Britain nor the subcontinent but a hybrid space spanned by their imagination. Relying on the etymological meaning of the word ‘translation,’ which comes from the Latin for ‘bearing across,’ Rushdie situates himself and all these categories of writers in this border-crossing space: „Having been borne across the world, we are translated men.”5

What Rushdie wrote in Imaginary Homelands is an echo of Shame, a novel in which the author Salman Rushdie intrudes into the fictional narrative and declares that he is a translated man. The intruding author of Shame considers that he is fortunate to have insider access to a number of worlds. At the same time, he admits that while something is lost there certainly are gains in this process of translation, and therefore everything he writes relates to this cultural challenge.

Translation, like metaphor, is a journey. It is the territory covered by the journey, a space between here and there, neither here nor there. Moving in and out of language, culture, and place, or rather across them, the translated man comes into a space of hybridity, disjunctions, cleavages and fissures, which is bridged over by translation and metaphor. Rushdie’s condition of ‘translated man’ implies self-translation. Any translated text is a mirror of the original text. Rushdie’s texts multiply mirrors, and the writer translates as much as he lets himself translated by the languages he speaks.

Homi Bhaba argues that Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses „to remind us that the truest eye may now belong to the migrant’s double vision.”6 Indeed, ‘double vision’ is a phrase that typifies the insider/outsider’s perspective from which hybrid migrants, ‘translated men’ like Rushdie look at the world and at themselves through their characters. Rushdie calls it ‘double perspective’, which results in ‘stereoscopic vision.’7 In Imaginary Homelands, the writer contends that ‘cultural displacement’ has forced migrant writers „to accept the provisional nature of all truths, all certainties,”8 which is why they may have been compelled to adopt the experimental techniques forced by modernism, and lately by postmodernism, upon them. Indeed, it may be argued that the story of the migrant writers who have to offer this ‘stereoscopic vision’ „in place of ‘whole sight’ started in the early 20th century with such restless travellers as James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, and others, and continued in the late 20th and early 21st century with hybrid and hyphenated writers like Salman Rushdie, Chinese-American writer Maxine Hong Kingston, Japanese-English writer Kazuo Ishiguro, Czech-naturalized French writer Milan Kundera, South African writer now living in Australia J. M. Coetzee, French-American writer of Jewish origin Raymond Federman, and many others.

Despite the eerie taste his novels of magic realism may give to the reader largely on account of this ‘double vision’, Rushdie celebrates hybridity and ‘cross-pollination,’ a word he coins when he explains that after all writers have always been international citizens feeding on various cultures. He calls writers ‘literary migrants,’ and the examples he gives are those of Borges, an Argentine writer who declared he was influenced by the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, and Heinrich Böll, a German writer who acknowledged the influence of Irish literature upon his work. In this respect Rushdie believes that „it is perhaps one of the more pleasant freedoms of the literary migrant to be able to choose his parents.” Rushdie may certainly fill in a very long list of those ‘parents,’ but he mentions just a few, selecting them ‘half consciously.’ His selected list of ‘parents’ spans both the globe and the centuries: they are Gogol, Cervantes, Kafka, Melville, Machado de Assis. Being so culturally diverse, the list is also linguistically mosaicked, „a polyglot family tree, against which I measure myself, and to which I would be honoured to belong.”9

Rushdie does not care to belong to a geopolitical space because he never committed himself to one. Moreover, he resents the idea of classifying culture according to geopolitical criteria. The title and argument of one of the essays in Imaginary Homelands is „’Commonwealth Literature Does Not Exist’.” Colouring his discourse in the tone of sparkling irony and humour that are now his brand, Rushdie warns his readers about „the folly to contain writers inside passports.”10 He is annoyed by the tag ‘Indian-born British writer’ which was invented to explain him. The ‘folly’ of it is that such tags are never accurate, since the geopolitical map itself is not unchangeable: borders appear and disappear, and any space may become an interstice. Therefore, one’s origin and belonging may be problematic, as Rushdie’s certainly is. He was born in Bombay (now known as Mumbai, though Rushdie never calls the city by this name). Some of his books deal with a country which was divided when he was born, one is set in a paradoxical ‘city visible but unseen’, which is London, one is set in New York. His latest novel The Enchantress of Florence plays on the tension between travelling and staying put, though characters are in a permanent quest and an endless transit between the hallucinatory city of Sikri, the heart of the Mughal empire in India, the enticing city of Florence, and „a world of fantasy which men were still dreaming into being”11 in the 16th century, i.e. America. Rushdie himself moved from Bombay to Britain, and from Britain to the US, feeling that each of these places are ‘home,’ though none has been a permanent abode for him.

The only ‘frontiers’ Rushdie acknowledges, at least when it comes to writers, „are neither political nor linguistic but imaginative.”12 In his address to the International Parliament of Writers (February 1994), entitled „A Declaration of Independence”, Rushdie sums up the philosophy that underpins his life and his writing. For Rushdie, who was elected its first president, „writers are citizens of many countries: the finite and frontiered country of observable reality and everyday life, the boundless kingdom of the imagination, the half-lost land of memory, the federations of the heart which are both hot and cold, the united states of the mind (calm and turbulent, broad and narrow, ordered and deranged), the celestial and infernal nations of desire, and - perhaps the most important of all our habitations - the unfettered republic of the tongue.”13

The unfettered republic of the tongue’ is a metaphor that ideally sets the artist into a territory which is borderless and free. Being a blueprint of the writers’ imagination, this territory is neither space-bound nor time-bound. If there be any space there, that is a projection of the mind, and if there be any time, that is eternity. It is these countries that Rushdie claims for the International Parliament of Writers, whose 300 members that launched an appeal in reaction to the increase of writers being assassinated in Algeria include Toni Morrison, Susan Sontag and Gunter Grass. In his address, Rusdie sets the political power of governments in contrast to the spiritual grasp of these countries which „comprise a territory far greater than that governed by any worldly power.”14

The ‘greatness’ of this territory lies in its endurance and in its spiritual value. While artists are vulnerable, while their lives may be made wretched or may even be ended by various powers, art survives. Rushdie argues that art endures because „the creative spirit, of its very nature, resists frontiers and limiting points, denies the authority of censors and taboos.” That is why „the art of literature requires, as an essential condition, that the writer be free to move between his many countries as he chooses, needing no passport or visa, making what he will of them and of himself.”15

Since ancient times, exile and migrancy have always been the bitter price artists had to pay in order to preserve the integrity of their souls. Sometimes exile was forced upon them, some other times it was the artists’ choice - the only chance they had to be free. In his „Declaration of Independence” Rushdie invokes the wretchedness of Ovid’s exile, speaking at the same time about the triumph of his poetry. Another case he invokes is that of Mandelstam, a Russian poet and essayist born in Warsaw, arrested by Stalin’s government and sent into internal exile with his wife, then arrested again and sent to a camp in Siberia, where he died the same year at a transit camp.

Old as it might be, migration is a phenomenon that shaped the culture of the 20th century and its aftermath, the 21st century on a large scale, irrevocably and irreversibly. In other words, without migration the culture of the last one hundred years or so would not be what it is today: a culture of transit, of the interval, of hybridity, of doubts and uncertainty about roots, identity, loyalty, belonging and location. Sometimes the self feels devastatingly tugged between cultures, torn apart, sometimes it feels challenged, exhilarated by the richness and dynamism of it, while some other times the self may feel divided between bitterness and fascination with its hybrid condition. Rushdie accounts for it in Imaginary Homelands when he writes: „The migrations of the fifties and sixties happened. ‘We are. We are here.’ And we are not willing to be excluded from any part of our heritage; which heritage includes both a Bradford-born Indian kid’s right to be treated as a full member of British society, and also the right of any member of this post-diaspora community to draw on its roots for its art, just as all the world’s community of displaced writers has always done.” Rushdie’s examples are as much the writers as the places of their origin, which they permanently turned to, wrote about, recreated in their art, those places which became in other words the places ‘of their mind.’16 Rushdie writes: „I’m thinking, for instance, of Grass’s Danzig-become-Gdansk, of Joyce’s abandoned Dublin, of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Maxine Hong Kingston and Milan Kundera and many others. It’s a long list.”17 The list is so long, new names add to it all the time that it can never be complete.

To the mind of Mircea Eliade, who belongs to this category of ‘translated men’ celebrated by Rushdie, the emblematic figure, indeed „not only the prototype of the modern man, but also of the man looking forward into the future” is Ulysses, because „he is the type of the restless traveller.” To Eliade’s account, Ulysses’ journey, which inflamed the spirit and shaped the life of all these restless travellers, „is a journey towards the centre, towards Ithaca, in other words towards himself.” Eliade believes that „there will always be a Ulysses in any of us; like him we look for our selves, hoping to find that, and then, of course, returning to our country, our home, we find ourselves again.”18

Finding oneself again by returning home may be problematic for Rushdie’s characters, most of which share the writer’s travelling restlessness. Rushdie’s characters have various experiences of migration. The motto to his controversial novel The Satanic Verses plays on the trope of migration not just as an essential condition of the 20th century modern individual and society, but as a universal timeless condition of humanity, with Biblical roots. The prefacing passage is taken from Daniel Defoe’s The History of the Devil, which portrays Satan as „a vagabond” „without any fixed place, or space, allowed him to rest the sole of his foot upon.”19

Saladin Chamcha and Gibreel Farishta – the two key characters in The Satanic Verses -are just two hypostases of the migrant. The novel opens with the two characters „tumbling from the heavens”20 in London, while Gibreel asks himself who he is and who else is there. Defying any notion of verisimilitude, Gibreel sings, „translating the old song into English /…/,’These trousers English, if you please. On my head, red Russian hat; my heart’s Indian for all that.’”21 This funny song translates Gibreel’s sense of his own ‘mongrel self,’ which Rushdie glorifies in each and every novel he writes. Meanwhile, Mr. Saladin Chamcha, ever the proper Englishman and the perfect ‘translated man’, „appalled by the noises emanating from Gibreel Farishta’s mouth, fought back with verses of his own.”22

After the fall, embracing Farishta against his will, Saladin has an eerie vision of cosmic metamorphosis, which is a hyperbolic translation of his own hybridity: „Hybrid cloud-creatures pressed in upon them, gigantic flowers with human breasts dangling from fleshy stalks, winged cats, centaurs, and Chamcha in his semi-consciousness was seized by the notion that he, too, had acquired the quality of cloudiness, becoming metamorphic, hybrid, as if he were growing into the person whose head nested now between his legs and whose legs were wrapped around his long, patrician neck.”23 This contorted physical embrace of two hybrids fallen out of the sky is charged with symbolism. The two migrants touching the British soil in this twisted position is a germinal image which twists the whole world inside out, also turning it upside down: this twist sets the perspective the reader has to adopt throughout the novel, if anything in it is to make sense. The sense itself is twisted: realistic verisimilitude does not hold in the magic realist world of the novel, which is to say that realism itself, though not lost, is undermined and challenged.

Homi Bhaba pointed out that migration feels „like an event in a dream dreamt by another. The migrant’s intentionality is permeated by historical necessities of which neither he nor anybody he meets is aware. That is why it is as if his life were dreamt by another.”24 As far as language is concerned, the migrants are often visited by the frustrating sense that the words in the foreign language are not theirs. In the Rosa Diamond section of The Satanic Verses,Saladin Chamcha has a strange experience where the terrifying sense of nightmare is coupled with the frustrating sense of the foreignness of language, uncanny setting, insecure identity, and amnesia. Saladin feels that he has „fallen out of the sky into some wrongness, some other place, not England or perhaps not-England, some counterfeit zone, rotten borough, altered state.” Considering for a moment that it might be hell, he eventually decides it is „a transit lounge.”25 „Looking at himself into the mirror at his altered face, Chamcha attempts to remind himself of himself.”26 He would like to re-assure himself of his own solidity in the most solid English way of reason. Despite all these efforts, Saladin is visited by perverse philosophical thoughts and scenarios that if he were to telephone his wife to tell her that he is not dead, the person answering the phone would not recognize his name. He does dial the nine numbers, without knowing the time because there is no clock in the room and his wristwatch has disappeared, but a man’s voice answers, and Saladin hangs up on the excuse of wrong number. This reminds him of a drama production seen in Bombay based on an English original, a suggestive instance of translation, but he is not sure of the author. The original script is altered in the Indian production, where the man returns and finds his wife is married to another man. Unable to understand the situation, the long absent husband puts it down to a bout of amnesia and announces that he, too, must surely have re-married, but now he seems to have forgotten what has happened during the years of his disappearance. He goes off to ask the police to trace his new wife, though he is not sure about her existence. The strangeness of these scenarios, which blur the boundary between illusion/fiction and reality, increases Saladin’s sense of the unfamiliar. In a typical reaction of the ‘mimic man’, he blames ‘all Indians’ for that. Ironically, it is at this moment that the police arrives to arrest him.

Chamcha’s experiences suggest the migrant’s discomfort and insecurity. All his nightmares are bizarre episodes related to the perils of losing his nicely made British accent or carefully fabricated sense of belonging to the culture and civilization he admires. On the plane to London, while he returns from home, he falls asleep, has a strange dream, and wakes up having „found his speech unaccountably metamorphosed into the Bombay lilt he had so diligently (and so long ago!) unmade.” This incident is seen as a nasty regression in time. Both time and space plot in the ‘transmogrification’ of his „vowels and vocab.” Finding every aspect of the experience unnatural, Chamcha thinks to himself that this is „an unnatural journey; a denial of time; a revolt against history; the whole thing was bound to be a disaster.”27 However, in the last section of the book he returns home to attend his father’s funeral. Arrived there, Chamcha meditates to what has made him what he is and acknowledges that „of the things of the mind, he had most loved the protean inexhaustible culture of the English-speaking peoples” and that „he knew ‘all that was good and living within him’ to have been ‘made, shaped and quickened’ by his encounter with this islet of sensibility, surrounded by the cool sense of the sea.”28 He also broods that he loves London, „preferring it to the city of his birth or to any other” because „its conglomerate nature”29 mirrors his own. Despite all this, he is determined to stay home because he probably feels that his position is untenable in London, a decision which might look puzzling and is probably meant to remain unexplained.

Gibreel Farishta, on the other hand, dreams of transforming London itself. Instead of fitting in, as a migrant is expected to, he decides to ‘fix’ London to suit him. As his name suggests, his hovering high over London looks like that of an archangel whose mission is to transform and clarify. His journey fits the scenario of the return of the repressed. His attitude stands in sharp contrast to Saladin’s. Unlike Saladin, the trouble he finds is not with himself, but with the English. Because he finds that the trouble with the English is their weather, he is determined to tropicalize London. Gibreel’s fantastic plan meant to brighten up everything in London from taste and attitude to flora and fauna stirs piles of laughter in the reader and comes from Rushdie’s inherited Bombay sense of humour: copious and restless. However, Saladin’s messianic zest eventually comes to an end.

For Shailja Sharma the key of Rushdie’s relation to British minorities and immigrants is class. She argues that „while Rushdie’s literary and no doubt, political sympathies lie with British minorities and immigrants, his class position allows him choices that they might not have.” One such choice is his move to New York after the fatwa. Sharma goes on to say that „this allows him gestures of solidarity but not solidarity itself. When the Rush-die affair broke, it was certainly the perception that Rushdie was not one of them that exposed him to the charge of being unrepresentative of the immigrant community - a charge repeated on many occasions by Muslim scholars and anti-Rushdie spokespeople.”30

The problem of Rusdie being or not being accepted as ‘one of them’ may be an altogether different story, but the fact is that Rushdie writes about the insecure yet challenging condition of hybridity, and his stories are about an apparently never ending journey from one country ‘of the mind’ to another.

The Moor’s Last Sigh, which is in many respects a sequel to The Satanic Verses, is the story of the hybridity of a family, an individual and a whole nation. The Moor, who is the protagonist of the regressive story, is a hybrid. His father is a south-Indian Jew, and there are hints that he might be a descendant of Boabdil, the last Moorish sultan. His mother, born into a Christian spice-trading family, claims illegitimate descent from Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese navigator who brought European trade and colonialism to India. These conflicting - coalescing lines of ancestry may be too much for Moraes’ body, which grows unstoppably, getting the Moor at the size of a megalopolis. As a reflection of the novel itself, in which Rushdie re-creates an India of his mind, the Moor is re-created and reflected by his mother’s paintings of him. Her ‘body’ of work is the Moor’s own body, which is also – in its megalopolis size - Bombay. Thus the Moor’s body becomes a hyperbolic ekphrasis: „And above it all, in the palace, you.”31 Weaving her vision around the Moor „in his hybrid fortress,” Aurora unfolds his autobiography, which is at the same time „an attempt to create a romantic myth of the plural, hybrid nation; she was using Arab Spain to re-imagine India, and this land-sea-scape in which the land could be fluid and the sea stone-dry was her metaphor – idealised? sentimental? probably – of the present, and the future, that she hoped would evolve.”32

The city of Bombay itself epitomizes the hybridity of the nation: ”Bombay was central, had been so 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 Indias met and merged. In Bombay, too, all-India met what-was-not-India, what came across the black water to flow into our veins. Everything north of Bombay was North India, everything south of it was the South. To the east lay India’s East and to the west, the world’s West. Bombay was central; all rivers flowed into its human sea. It was an ocean of stories; we were all its narrators, and everybody talked at once.”33 Cultural hybridity and narrative polyphony are a perfect match in Rushdie’s novels, which are always ‘oceans of stories’ told in more than one voice speaking in unison.

In the last section of the novel, the Moor flies to Spain and dies there. His journey by plane gives him that uncomfortable sense of the unfamiliar, unsettling his perception of time and location. The uncanny experiences he has on the first flight may be put down to the suspended nowhere where they happen: the plane, a hetero chronotope which Rushdie frequently chooses as an insecure setting for the weird experiences of his hybrid characters. Thus, on his plane to Madrid, the Moor wonders whether he is travelling to the country of the dead. Reassured by the flight attendant that many passengers feel this way, he meets a woman with whom he has a brief sexual intercourse right there on the plane. Then he changes planes at Madrid, and the memory of his strange experiences on the transcontinental flight fade away. Landing at Benengeli, his last destination, the Moor rediscovers his feeling of strangeness and feels dizzy. He has the eerie feeling that he hasn’t quite arrived, or not all of him. Alternatively, he suspects that the place he has arrived in is not quite the right place. As a matter of fact, there is no one or right or secure place for the Moor or for Rushdie’s characters for that matter.

Malik Solanka, the protagonist of Rushdie’s New York novel Fury and largely the persona of Rushdie himself, has come to America full of fury, thinking: „To the devil with this classical mishmash /…/. For a greater deity was all around him: America, in the highest hour of its hybrid, omnivorous power. America, to which he had come to erase himself. To be free of attachment and so also of anger, fear and pain.” Solanka conjures the hybrid deity: „Eat me, America, and give me peace.”34

Animated by his ‘double vision’, Rushdie shifts his critique from East to West in Fury. Solanka confesses that he has come to New York „in ambivalence, in extremis, and in unrealistic hope,” and what he finds there is a place marked by ‘disintegration’ in a „time of public hedonism and private fear.”35 He realizes that although he was seduced by America, at the same time he opposes America, and what he opposes in America „he must also attack in himself” because America promises what it eternally withholds, and because it typifies a rather worrying global spirit: „Everyone was an American now, or at least Americanized: Indians, Iranians, Uzbeks, Japanese, Lilliputians, all. America was the world’s playing field, its rule book, umpire and ball.” The double perspective allows the angry migrant to articulate his ‘stereoscopic vision’ which holds one country or one continent at a time under fierce scrutiny, and in this particular novel it is America and Americanism’s turn to be looked straight in the eye for what they are: „Even anti-Americanism was Americanism in disguise, conceding, as it did, that America was the only game in town and the matter of America the only business at hand.”36

For a change, Rushdie set his latest novel The Enchantress of Florence in the 16th century, when the modern was starting to take shape in the world and America was just „a world of fantasy which men were still dreaming into being.”37 Qara Köz, the protagonist of the novel who is alternatively called Lady Black Eyes, Angelica and Angelique, names which sum up the light and dark side of her ambiguous self, is, like most of the ambivalent characters in the novel, a migrant. In this novel, Rushdie plays upon the tension between travelling and staying put. Irrespective of which of these two impulses they embody, all the characters prove to be figments of imagination. Jodah, Akbar’s invented wife looks more ‘real’ than his ‘real’ wives, though there can be no certainty that any of the places in the enchanting geography of the novel is ‘real’, or that any character is ‘real’.

The Enchantress weaves a yarn of stories and traces a web of complicated journeys, moving readers back and forth from Italy to India to America. Akbar the Mughal emperor, a descendant of Genghis Khan, is a warrior fighting his wars away from home, periodically returning home to eventually lose home – a whole empire. Argalia the Turk leaves home – Italy – while very young, to return home and die there. Even Ago Vespucci, the cousin of Amerigo, who travels, but reluctantly, has to leave Europe-Italy-Florence for America. Qara Köz finds that „dreaming of finding her way back to her point of origin, of being rejoined to that earlier self, she was lost for ever.”38 Having ‘burned her boats’ both in the East and in Europe, Qara Köz decides that it’s high time she journeyed across the ocean to America, the place dreamed „into being.” Her network of journeys suggests that diasporic identity, of which she is the effigy in the novel, can often draw much more on the experience of ‘dreaming’ one’s home, looking forward to it, than on looking backward in a fixation to a ’homeland’.

Any Rushdie text is a celebration of hybridity, pluralism, and what Rushdie himself calls ‘unrootedness,’ a postcolonial version of Foucault’s heterotopology, which in postcolonial terms is called liminality. Like his characters, Rushdie believes that to cross borders means to be transformed. This transformation is very similar to the transformation effected by art. Borders are, after all, fictions, products of the human mind, just like countries and communities. Rushdie would rather live and create across borders than inside them. What defines a migrant writer like him is translation, which is a movement across and beyond spaces.

In an interview Rushdie declares that he feels „more allied to cities than countries.” He sees himself „a Bombay boy more than an Indian,” he feels at home in London, where he spent most of his life, and now he remembers falling in love with downtown Manhattan when he was very young. He has befriended very many people in New York, his home at present.39 In Imaginary Homelands Rushdie writes: „To be a Bombayite (and afterwards a Londoner) was also to fall in love with the metropolis. The city as reality and as a metaphor is at the heart of all my work. ‘The modern city,’ says a character in The Satanic Verses, ‘is the locus classicus of incompatible realities.’”40 Indeed, Rushdie’s cities are as hybrid as his characters, which is why both the author and his fictional projections are essentially urban, fascinated with the protean and multifarious space of the city, be it Bombay, London or New York.

This in-betweennessof the migrant may be read in a metaphorical key as the essential condition of humanity that is always manifested through culture. In Minima moralia Andrei Pleşu argues that „humanity is a species of the interval: it is neither under the power of instinct, which sorts out things with the simplicity of nature, nor under the incidence of the sacred, which also sorts out things in a simple manner, with the simplicity of grace. Humanity is in an intermediate state, it is in between. It broke with instinct, but it is not yet in a consecrated space. In this equivocal situation, nothing represents it better than culture. Culture is the most adequate way of surviving in the interval situation; it is the best way of waiting for a solution which you do not yet have close at hand.”41


Homi Bhaba, The Location of Culture, Routledge, 1994, available at http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/bhabha/location1.html accessed on October 26, 2011.
Mircea Eliade, Încercarea labirintului, (Cluj Napoca: Dacia, 1990).
Andrei Pleşu, Minima moralia. Elemente pentru o etică a intervalului, Ediţia a doua, (Humanitas, 1994).
Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, (London: Viking, 1988).
Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, Essays and Criticism 1981 – 1991, (Penguin Books, 1992).
Salman Rushdie, The Moor’s Last Sigh, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1995).
Salman Rushdie, Shame, (Picador, 2000).
Salman Rushdie, Fury (Vintage, 2002).
Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence, (London: Vintage Books, 2009).
Interview with Salman Rushdie by Vibhuti Patel, available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704638304575636763279031150.html. accessed on October 26, 2011.
Shailja Sharma, „Salman Rushdie: The Ambivalence of Migrancy” available at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0403/is_4_47/ai_91653352/ accessed on October 18, 2011.



1 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This work was supported by the strategic grant POSDRU/ 89/1.5/S/62259, Project „Applied social, human and political sciences” co-financed by the European social fund within the Sectorial Operational Program Human Resources Development 2007 -2013.
2 Homi Bhaba, Introduction to The Location of Culture, Routledge, 1994, available at http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/bhabha/location1.html accessed on October 26, 2011.
3 Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, Essays and Criticism 1981 – 1991, (Penguin Books, 1992), 17.
4 Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, 17.
5 Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, 17.
6 Bhaba, Introduction to The Location of Culture, Routledge, 1994, available at http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/bhabha/location1.html accessed on October 26, 2011.
7 Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, 19.
8 Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, 12.
9 Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, 21.
10 Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, 67.
11 Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence, (Vintage Books, London, 2009), 418.
12 Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, 69.
13 Salman Rushdie, „Declaration of independence for those without frontiers” in The Independent, Monday, 14 February 1994 available online at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/declaration-of-independence-for-those-without-frontiers-1394056.html accessed on October 26, 2011.
14 Salman Rushdie, „Declaration of independence for those without frontiers” in The Independent, Monday, 14 February 1994 available online at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/declaration-of-independence-for-those-without-frontiers-1394056.html accessed on October 26, 2011.
15 Salman Rushdie, „Declaration of independence for those without frontiers” in The Independent, Monday, 14 February 1994 available online at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/declaration-of-independence-for-those-without-frontiers-1394056.html accessed on October 26, 2011.
16 Rushdie argues that he and writers like him, „exiles or emigrants or expatriates” who left their home places for a long time and who „are haunted by some sense of loss, some urge to reclaim, to look back, even at the risk of being mutated into pillars of salt,” are animated by a „Proustian ambition” to write novels of memory and about memory, „in short, create fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones, imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind.” (Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, 10).
For Mircea Eliade, who adds to the list of Rushdie’s migrants, „any homeland is a sacred geography. For the one who left it, one’s city of childhood and adolescence always becomes a mythical city.” For the Romanian writer, „Bucharest is the centre of inexhaustible mythology.” (Mircea Eliade, Încercarea labirintului, (Cluj Napoca: Editura Dacia, 1990), 34, my translation). Bombay is a similar ‘centre’ in Rushdie’s novel The Moor’s Last Sigh.
It is revealing and interesting that Irish poet Seamus Heany notices that 20th century English poets, what Heany calls „the poets of the mother culture” (Ted Hughes, Geoffrey Hill and Philip Larkin) stretch their imagination to create their „Englands of the mind.” Heany argues that they „are now possessed of that defensive love of their territory which was once shared only by those poets whom we might call colonial – Yeats, MacDiarmid, Carlos Williams.” Their desire to preserve their Anglo-Saxon stock as a confirmation of ancestry and identity signals these poets’ sense that their Englishness is threatened. (Seamus Heany, „Englands of the Mind” in Literature in the Modern World, Critical Essays and Documents Edited by Dennis Walder, (OUP, 1990), 251.
17 Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, 15.
18 Mircea Eliade, Încercarea labirintului, (Cluj Napoca: Editura Dacia, 1990), 85, my translation.
19 Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, (Viking, 1988).
20 Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, 3.
21 Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, 5.
22 Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, 5-6.
23 Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, 6-7.
24 Bhaba, The Location of Culture available at http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/bhabha/location1.html accessed on October 26, 2011.
25 Rushdie, Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, 132.
26 Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, 135.
27 Rushdie,The Satanic Verses, 34.
28 Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, 398.
29 Rushdie, The Satanic Verses, 398.
30 Shailja Sharma, „Salman Rushdie: The Ambivalence of Migrancy” available at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0403/is_4_47/ai_91653352/ accessed on October 18, 2011.
31 Rushdie, The Moor’s Last Sigh, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1995), 226.
32 Rushdie, The Moor, 227.
33 Rushdie, The Moor, 350.
34 Salman Rushdie, Fury (Vintage, 2002), 44.
35 Rushdie, Fury, 86.
36 Rushdie, Fury, 86.
37 Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence, (London: Vintage Books, 2009), 418.
38 Salman Rushdie, The Enchantress of Florence, (London: Vintage Books, 2009), 418.
39 Interview with Salman Rushdie by Vibhuti Patel, available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704638304575636763279031150.html accessed on October 26, 2011.
40 Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands, 404.
413 Andrei Pleşu, Minima moralia. Elemente pentru o etică a intervalului, Ediţia a doua, (Humanitas, 1994), 107-108, my translation.

DANA BĂDULESCU – Postdoctoral researcher, grantee of the Postdoctoral Programme Project “Applied social, human and political sciences. A programme of postdoctoral research training and scholarships in the field of human and political sciences”.




Sfera Politicii