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Fathers & sons
Salman Rushdie is back - this time as an endearing fabulist who weaves several vivid stories into a brilliantly knit tale. The story of Luka and the Fire of Life takes off in the country of Alifbay where in the land of Kahani lives a gifted storyteller named Rashid Khalifa and his sons Haroun and Luka.
Rushdie had traversed that terrain before in Haroun and the Sea of Stories dedicated to his elder son Zafar, narrating the picturesque adventure of Rashid's elder son. The present offering, a gift for his younger son Milan, tells the story of Haroun's brother Luka, whose quest for the Fire of Life is necessitated by Rashid's sudden lapse into long and deep slumber.
Luka and the Fire of Life is about a 12-year-old boy's journey. As he travels towards his goal on a roller-coaster ride, he encounters the unusual and the scary. Using the features of a video game, the story's narrative embraces many levels, while getting extra lives and experiencing partial deaths become a reality. Luka and his companions must conquer fresh obstacles each time they need to go further. That includes confronting a gatekeeper after a riddle competition;going past the Ring of Fire and the Gate of Wisdom;and finally meeting the troika of Time, the guardians of the Fire.
As in all Rushdie novels, this book has numerous stunning passages, each created by the master architect who has word play and allusions, and who sashays into the World of Magic with ease. Children will be mesmerised by the experience of Luka and Bear the Dog and Dog the Bear among others. But Rushdie addresses the perceptive adult too as when Rashid, a juggler of thoughts and stories, warns, "Knowledge is both a delight and a minefield;both a liberation and a trap. "
Who has created the world through which Luka journeys? If that is revealed, the thrill of discovery shall disappear. Interesting, however, is the way Rushdie refers to other magical worlds such as Narnia and Middle-earth and Wonderland in a speech by Luka. Memories flood the reader's mind, the author's desire to see his worlds figuring in that line-up being amply clear.
Characterisation isn't Rushdie's middle name, and especially so in his mediocre works. But in Luka, which is definitely among his more enjoyable efforts, the author gives us the unforgettable character of Nobodaddy, an enigma who shares Rashid's appearance and inhabits an intriguing twilight zone. When his identity unfolds - slowly, unsteadily - so does Rushdie's masterstroke that plays a big role in ensuring the unwavering attention of the reader.
Coining interesting names is a wellknown Rushdian ploy. In Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Rushdie introduces Rashid as the man known as the Ocean of Notions among his admirers and the Shah of Blah among his critics. In this book, a ruthless circus ringmaster is named Captain Aag;the city of dreams is Khwab;the Cloud Fortress is Baadal-garh.
Rushdie, whose literary skills make him the greatest novelist from our part of the world writing in English, comes up with yet another display of hypnotic creativity. It is a beautiful tale, meant to be read once, and then again. Luka will live with us for a long time. Just like Haroun.
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