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Quichotte

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In a tour-de-force that is both an homage to an immortal work of literature and a modern masterpiece about the quest for love and family, Booker Prize-winning, internationally bestselling author Salman Rushdie has created a dazzling Don Quixote for the modern age.

Inspired by the Cervantes classic, Sam DuChamp, mediocre writer of spy thrillers, creates Quichotte, a courtly, addled salesman obsessed with television, who falls in impossible love with a TV star. Together with his (imaginary) son Sancho, Quichotte sets off on a picaresque quest across America to prove worthy of her hand, gallantly braving the tragicomic perils of an age where “Anything-Can-Happen”. Meanwhile his creator, in a midlife crisis, has equally urgent challenges of his own.

Just as Cervantes wrote Don Quixote to satirise the culture of his time, Rushdie takes the reader on a wild ride through a country on the verge of moral and spiritual collapse. And with the kind of storytelling magic that is the hallmark of his work, the fully realised lives of DuChamp and Quichotte intertwine in a profoundly human quest for love and a wickedly entertaining portrait of an age in which fact is so often indiscernible from fiction.

393 pages, Paperback

First published August 29, 2019

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,495 reviews
Profile Image for Kevin Ansbro.
Author 5 books1,399 followers
March 1, 2020
"This is my quest,
to follow that star.
No matter how hopeless,
no matter how far."

Impossible Dream, Man of La Mancha



Anyone who has read my reviews (you crazy fools) will know that Sir Salman Rushdie has long been one of my literary heroes and that I feel he has lost his magic touch of late (we wants it, we needs it, nasty hobbitses!)

Happily, this devil-may-care, genre-bending, post-modernist fable marks a welcome return to form. That said, Rushdie has never quite been able to summon the artistry that guided him to write Midnight's Children
In a present-day twist to de Cervantes' Don Quixote, our bewildered anti-hero is one Ismail Smile, an Indian chap with retreating mental powers who binge-watches 'Housewives From Wherever' and any other daytime crap that takes his fancy.
Inspired by 'The Bachelorette' TV show, his Quixotic quest (some might call it stalking) is to zealously pursue a beautiful television personality - namely Miss Salma R, daughter of a former Bollywood actress - with whom he is unwholesomely infatuated. So he reinvents himself as Quichotte, the gallant knight in pursuit of her Grail.
The magical realism that brought Rushdie fame comes to the fore when Quichotte wishes upon a meteor shower and Hey Presto! a fifteen-year-old monochrome-skinned boy (his Sancho Panza) materialises in his car.

Rushdie has long been one of the most accomplished writers on the planet and not only is it business as usual, his wascally wabbit wambunctiousness is also still evident. It's true that he requires of the reader a high degree of concentration, incorporating elements of the parodic, of satire and pastiche. My own feeling is that he is perhaps trying too hard and has become a little too self-indulgent.
To add to all of the cleverness swashing around, we discover that this is actually a story within a story (a mise en abyme), written by Indian author, Sam duChamp (Rushdie himself, one would assume). Salman is one of the few highbrow authors who is also fluent in emoji-speak; an Oscar Wilde for the fake news/Carpool Karaoke/Twitflix generation.

Let it be said that the concept is out-of-this-world genius and that this is a reality TV/scholarly/social commentary dreamscape of a novel – the likes of which I've never seen before.
Although Mr Rushdie is one of my literary gods and greatest influences, I found his exuberant wordplay and pop culture references to be so bountiful that, on this occasion, it stemmed the flow slightly, making for a sluggish read.

I missed the irreverent, impish humour that bejewelled the pages of Midnight's Children but applaud the great man for creating his own unique brand of literature (just as Cervantes did all those centuries ago). Even at the grand age of 72, Salman is still pushing the boundaries and I conclude that even though he's no longer firing on all cylinders, the irrepressible word-tickler has conjured a sophisticated-yet-playful novel that outshines most of this year's humdrum offerings

In his own words, Rushdie seeks to encompass the multiplicity of human life. He has certainly achieved that goal!
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68.1k followers
June 11, 2020
The New Normal

There are very few privileged stories left; all have become fair game for deconstruction and dismissal. Religious stories have self-destructed through their over-ripe pretensions to factualness. Political stories have all resolved themselves into the one story of the strong suppressing the weak. Business stories have shown themselves to be mere variations on themes of greed and self-aggrandisement. The professional stories of folk like doctors and lawyers and accountants have decayed into sterile formulae with which to justify any behaviour. Love stories have degenerated into tales of obsessive desire. As a consequence “Anything can happen. Here can be there, then can be now, up can be down, truth can be lies. Everything’s slip-sliding around and there’s nothing to hold on to. The whole thing has come apart at the seams.”

This is the new normal: “The true story is there’s no true story anymore.“ The “Great Instability” Rushdie’s Elon Musk-figure calls it. “There’s no true anymore that anyone can agree on.” And that takes some getting used to. We have “become so accustomed to wearing its masks that it has grown blind to what lies beneath.” Scratch away the thin veneer of language and it becomes impossible to rationalise the irrational. The creepy-crawlies that lie beneath language are disconcerting until we get used to them. As Quichotte’s Sancho says watching America fly by his Greyhound window: “We are scary as shit.”

Life is more reliable, less stressful with stories that are shared and stable, stories that we can believe in. At least life is better for some of us. Not necessarily for most of us. But for those who matter, that is, for the traditional story-tellers, the authorised raconteurs of our civilisation who have been telling stories of their own superiority since Isaac and his mother briefed against Ishmael and his. Fixed stories create peace only to the extent they also create injustice. Language is the principal tool 0f injustice. It keeps the powerful in power and lets them feel justified in their power,

Quichotte is about what happens, at least temporarily, when the stories that have been taken for granted bite the dust of history. Racism becomes respectable. Intellectuals tout anti-intellectual rubbish. Thuggishness is the universal virtue of people in power. The elite can be identified by their consistently bad taste in literature. In general, the real is indistinguishable from the unreal. The real becomes so unreal that it cannot be understood:
“Normal is unreal people, mostly rich unreal people, having sex with rappers and basketball players and thinking of their unreal family as a real-world brand, like Pepsi or Drano or Ford. Zap. News channels. Normal is guns and the normal America that really wants to be great again. “Then there’s another normal if your skin color is the wrong color and another if you’re educated and another if you think education is brainwashing and there’s an America that believes in vaccines for kids and another that says that’s a con trick and everything one normal believes is a lie to another normal and they’re all on TV depending where you look, so, yeah, it’s confusing.”


Trump and OxyContin and TV game shows and incompetent politicians are not the causes of the loss of privileged stories. They are the consequences of not knowing how to live without them. “The Age of Anything-Can-Happen” provokes people to find something solid, that is to say, a good story, to hang on to. Everyone scurries around trying to find and defend theirs as the best, the only one, that others should adopt. In a sort of literary panic “A whole nation might jump off a cliff like swarming lemmings... Countries fall apart as well as their citizens.”

For the moment we’re “living now in a postreality continuum.” We see “Perfectly okay people, people who were our neighbors and our staff and with whom our kids went to school, turning into mastodons overnight!” Factual argumentation is a lost art: “Once one has turned into a mastodon he is utterly impervious to good sense.” In a sense, language itself has been surpassed: “the surreal, and even the absurd, now potentially offer the most accurate descriptors of real life.”

Rushdie has an interesting suggestion about where to look for salvation from obsessively competing stories and their inhumane consequences. He wants us to look to the people who know about living contentedly with contrary stories in their heads as a matter of course, the people who know that what they present to the world is a persona, a mask, which is a technique for survival, not something essential to themselves. He wants us to take note of “we, the broken people!—may be the best mirrors of our times,... we migrants.” Refugees are the future.

Of the many literary allusions in Quichotte, I think the one to John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer is central. Manhattan Transfer was a stop on the rail line from Philadelphia to New York City before the tunnel was built connecting New Jersey to Penn Station. Passengers disembarked and took the ferry to Manhattan. Dos Passos considers many of these passengers for what they actually were: internal migrants, refugees really, from America itself. These re-vitalised the city with their openness to the stories it had to tell. Migrants, wherever they are from always have the same question: “Do we belong here?” This uncertainty is what sets them on the path on which new stories can emerge.

And this question is shared not just among migrants but also with the old, who have seen it all before and recognise the stories for what they are: “In old age one becomes detached from the dominant ideas of one’s time. The present, with its arguments, its quarreling ideas, is revealed as fleeting and unreal.” In addition, who knows the difference between stories and the reality they refer to better than an author, particularly an ageing author who knows “the Author’s life was a fake, just like his book.”

Quichotte, like the original 0n which it is modelled, is a story about stories - all of them necessary, none of them true. Even very good authors, perhaps because they are very good authors, tend toward confusion so that, like the Don of Cervantes, Rushdie’s fictional author “on some days has difficulty remembering which history was his own and which Quichotte’s.” But the author, like the migrant learns to live with this confusion rather than impose his solution to it on the rest of us.

So Quichotte is the new kind of privileged story, privileged not because it is more true but because it includes so many other stories. Just as does the story of Don Quixote, an older new story. Both are reminders that no story tells it all, isn’t it.
Profile Image for Marchpane.
293 reviews2,130 followers
October 9, 2019
Quichotte is Salman Rushdie’s ode to Don Quixote and a playful take on the current state of the Western World. Enjoyment is by no means guaranteed and will likely depend on:

1. Your tolerance for chaotic, picaresque, hyper-verbal, pastiche, metafictional Pomo carry-on. Vertiginous literariness can be delicious or pestiferous, depending on your point of view.

2. How realistic you like your fiction. Quichotte’s fabulism pays homage to Cervantes, Arthur C Clarke’s sci fi, and films like Being John Malkovich and Stranger Than Fiction, among others. It’s the Age-of-Anything-Can-Happen, so it does, and that includes people metamorphosing into mastodons.

3. How well rested/irritable you happen to be when reading - these characters can be irritating it must be said! Plus, the nested narratives are tricky to follow. Caffeine may assist.

4. How much Rushdie you have read previous to this. For me that’s only two books, so I can’t tell you if he’s retreading old ground here. But I can say Quichotte hits its marks in a way that 2017’s The Golden House did not.

5. Whether you appreciate it when authors explain their tricks rather than letting the reader make their own connections (or indeed, whether you like tricksiness and/or authorial intrusions generally).

6. Your level of familiarity with the source material? Having never read Don Quixote, I can’t really comment on that. It’s possible I missed out on some references/allusions/gags but I never felt like things were going over my head. As far as I can tell, this is a very loose take on the original.

So, your mileage may vary... but I found Quichotte to be a bombastic, frenetic, fantastical, philosophical, zeitgeisty, exhausting, treat. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,606 reviews24.8k followers
May 10, 2020
Rushdie's Booker nominated tragi-comic Quichotte is a reinterpretation of the traditional classic Don Quixote for our chaotic, challenging and troubled contemporary realities, a satire with its political and social commentary. A mediocrity of a writer, Sam Duchamps/Brother, is the creator and author of Quichotte (Ismail Smile), who is a travelling salesman of Indian origin in the United States who gets fired. Quichotte, is a trash reality TV obsessive, so much so that his brain has turned to mush with the consequent mental health issues that arise. His deranged and delusional mind becomes focused on a beautiful TV hostess, the bi-polar, opiate addicted, Miss Salma R., with whom he falls in 'love'. Determined to prove that he is worthy of her hand, he embarks on a picaresque quest across America, conjuring a mutinous son, Sancho, as his companion.

In a strangely optimistic and hopeful narrative, with elements of magical realism, Rushdie turns out to be outrageously entertaining, with the kind of bonkers smarts to blend and inundate us with a huge array of high and low brow culture and literary references, so heavily laden and coming from seemingly every direction possible. He draws on numerous sources for the novel, such as classic 1950s science fiction, philosophy, myths and legends, to elucidate our messed up world of political populism, cult of celebrity and fame, rampant racism, migrant experiences, guns, opiate addiction social media, and more. In our sadly all too real world, where fact and fiction is virtually indistinguishable, the unrealistic adventures of Quichotte, where anything can happen and does, fits right into this melting pot of madness and unreality of the times that we live in.

Rushdie adroitly connects and merges Quichotte's story with that of Sam Duchamps in this fun, accessible, riveting and enjoyable tragi-comic read. Many thanks to Random House Vintage.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,976 followers
August 2, 2019
Oh my goodness.

Okay, so you fans of Midnight's Children, behold... Rushdie has gone off the deep end with the sublime, the meta, the satire, and especially the meta. Did I mention meta? I mean, META, BABY.

Yes, yes, this is a modern take and full homage to the Cervantes classic, but it's a hell of a lot more than just that. For one, our Quichotte is a self-made man in all the best ways like Quixote, but instead of going overboard with Chivalry, we see the full age of tv sitcoms, reality tv, and even SF shows. And yet, this is only a small fraction of the book, itself.

Say what? Yeah. He's practically a minor character in comparison with the author who creates him or the Med Salesman who takes on the role, the far-off maiden who becomes the quest (and I love her own story, huge,) or the sister of the author who must be reconciled. And let's not even start getting into Sancho, the imaginary son of Quichotte who has his own quest to become fully-FULLY real, a-la Pinnochio, Jimmy Cricket, and the Blue Fairy. :)

It's CRAZY, yo! And it is FAR from being a simple satire. After all, we have alternate realities, the end of the world, a moral and ethical decay that is purely American, while flavoring all the waters with Hindu culture in grand Rushdie style.

Is it a mess, too? Yes. But gloriously so. As in, let's just put ALL the crazy on the table here and tie it together with all-too-real interpersonal quests and redemptions and seeking love, whether fixing estrangement between siblings, sons, or yourself. It's also heart-rending, not crazy at all, and subtle. And sweet. Right before it gets crazy cool.

A lot of these kinds of novels often bounce off me. Modern, Avante-Garde, meta for meta sake, too clever by half. But this one has a spark in it that spoke to me. Sometimes I was on the verge of saying 3 stars, then sometimes 4, then back to 3, and then things come together brilliantly and I'm right there with an enthusiastic 5. So what am I saying?

Be patient. It's wild but worth it. :)
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
October 4, 2019
A new fictional Quichotte, fighting the "errorists" of contemporary America, as imagined by the master of chaos (contained by narrative flexibility) - that is almost too much to bear!

A Dulcinea who is a television star suffering from opioid addiction, a Sancho in an identity crisis deriving from his late invention and his overbearingly quixotic father, a Cervantes divided between the high art of storytelling and the low art of moneymaking, the windmills of errorist reality - as spread by Fox(es), ...

What more can you possibly ask?

The strange thing about Rushdie is that he can actually pull off the feat of copying an Old Master's plot and characters and still create a new classic, with a fictional right of its own. Either the world has grown more quixotic - especially for Sancho-style people who like reality and fiction to be separate - or the topic has always been (and will always be) on the table.

FACT IS, now it is harder than ever to tell fact and fiction apart, so we might just as well search truth in Quichotte's quest for love in an increasingly meaningless cacophony to the sound of the looney tunes.

FICTION IS, the best remedy for the times and places we frequent!

So whether you are real or imagined, please join us in the quixotic quest to make novelists fiction writers again! They deserve the realm of unreasonable, unrealistic plots and characters as their professional domain, and politicians and corporations of all kinds should honestly go back to straightforward boringness!
Profile Image for Seemita.
180 reviews1,589 followers
October 13, 2019
Stories beget stories. And amid nauseating realities, they are probably our only vehicle to a meaningful sail.
There are people who need to impose a shape upon the shapelessness of life.
And so, a Quichotte upon a Sam DuChamp, a Sancho over a Marcel DuChamp, a Human Trampoline over a Sister (DuChamp) – well, fictional characters to mirror the real characters including the author who is penning ‘Quichotte’. That’s right. A book within a book. A journey within a journey.

This book, as you know by now, is heavily (and lightly) drawn from Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's magnum opus, 'Don Quixote'. And so, like the original, it chronicles the journey of the eponymous central character and his companion, Sancho and unlike the original, the two buddies turn father and son/ sister here – Quichotte and Sancho on a long, wide road trip to meet ‘the Beloved’, Miss Salma R and their creator, Sam, estranged in present from Marcel and his sister, longing to bury the hatchet before it is sunset.

The appeal of this book lied in doing the near impossible – making the two parallel tales meet . In such absolute command is the storyteller that to this reader, the foursome appeared to be members of an intriguing maze that refused to let go of any member despite them tottering into each other’s turf. Each character came blazing with such a demeanour and lingo of his own, interspersed with value systems, that I was forced to take sides and allow biases to rear their heads.
Beyond that, there’s only madness, aka getting religion. I have no intention of going crazy or getting religion.

… detachment is the key to survival. Obsession destroys the possessed.
In immensely rapturous and hubbub tones, Quichotte and Sancho epitomized the generational shifts and filial urgency without the melodrama. In near opposite fashion, Sam DuChamp’s discovery of his son and his penance towards his sister was filtered across monochromatic chapters that befit a lost, egoistic man in his late 50s.

Infusing the conversations with the scent of old Bombay and 90s’ America, the bane of today’s religious bigotry and calamitous science, the changing couture of courting and companionship across last two decades or more, the ambiguous modern-day chicanery of nihilism and radicalism, the vicious bite of political degradation across the world and irrational need for social media validation, the heartening sameness of life-driving emotions, Sir Rushdie spins a yarn so wide, so minute and so deliciously intoxicating that I smiled, hurrahed, sobbed, chuckled, guffawed, slumped without a care for the time and place.
Life had become a series of vanishing photographs, posted every day, gone the next. One had no story any more. Character, narrative, history, were all dead. Only the flat caricature of the instant remained and that was what one was judged by.
And almost like a tribute to his penmanship, akin to his’ to the great Cervantes, I read him at airports and flights, at beaches and hotel rooms, in different cities and time periods, in chaotic and serene joints. And must I say, Sir Rushdie was, clearly, one helluva helmsman.


P.S. Odyssey and Moby Dick, among others, make guest appearances and reaffirm my faith that stories are, after all, interconnected.

--

Also on my website.
Profile Image for Betsy.
75 reviews67 followers
September 5, 2019
Patience pays off...

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not always the most patient reader.


This time, I'm glad I took others' advice and hung in there!



Quichotte was my first Rushdie novel, and it's true what people say about his style taking some getting used to. In this case, the chapters switch point of view, and each character's voice is written in a slightly different style.

The other thing that took patience was waiting for the different threads of the story to come together. At first, I was confused because I couldn't see how the pieces we're introduced to would finally become a cohesive story.

At the 20-25% mark (four or five chapters), things started to come together.



I got used to Rushdie's style, and I realized that although the narration was in third person, sentence construction often reflected characters' mental states. (I don't think his style's for everyone, but it works well in telling this story.) Finally, the entire complex tale came together beautifully.

I'm not one to regularly re-read books, but Quichotte might just make my re-read list. Like another reviewer noted, I think things might come together for me even better the second time around. (If I do, I may revisit this review.)

Four stars, and if you do decide to embark on reading Quichotte, make sure you're in the mindset to be patient :)



Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with a DRC of this novel, which will be available for purchase on September 3rd.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews869 followers
December 8, 2020
Salman Rushdie's 'Quichotte' reroutes a legendary journey through the 21st century - The Boston Globe

“America, what happened to your optimism, your new frontiers, your simple Rockwell dreams? I'm plunging into your night, America, pushing myself deep into your heart like a knife, but the blade of my weapon is hope.”

Salmon Rushdie's Quichotte takes up where Miguel de Cervantes left off some four hundred plus years ago. Our Indian-American hero goes on a quest to earn the love of Salma R across an opiod-strewn modern America he sees through the lens of daytime television and pop culture. Along the way, he dreams Sancho into existence as a son born in Wyoming near Devil's Tower. All things seem possible. (I like how Wyoming is part of this hopeful, but damaged America). All creation, including this progeny and all the fictions that our hero ever constructed take shape around him during his quest. It took me some time to really feel engaged, but it is well worth working through. Quichotte is an engaging and darkly biting novel full of humor and insight. 4.25 stars
Profile Image for Meike.
1,518 reviews2,466 followers
September 3, 2019
Now Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019
Much like I Am Sovereign (the novel I would have longlisted instead), this is a book about writing and the connection between fiction and how we narrate our own lives: Facing his past, Indian-born crime writer Sam DuChamp feels like a failure. Estranged from his family, he tries to righten his wrongs and starts to craft a re-telling of - you guessed it - Don Quixote with which he not only aims to create something more meaningful than his previous second-rate crime novels, but that he also uses to reflect and ponder his own journey towards (hopefully) betterment as it is happening. And isn't our quest to give our lives meaning and to find happiness a quixotic endeavor and sometimes even a fight against windmills?

So the premise of the book is pretty great, but I had some issues with the execution. To illustrate them, let's dive into the plot of Sam's novel which, in Rushdie's novel (already confused? we're just getting started! :-)), is just as important as the storyline about Sam: In alternating chapters, we hear about what happens in Sam's life and how he fictionalizes it in his book. Sam's Quichotte is an Indian-born former pharma salesman who embarks on a quest to win the heart of TV personality Salma R (no kidding). As he is childless, but dreams of having a son, he simply wishes one into being: Voilà, Sancho, his new travel companion. Together, they cross the United States, and they as well as Sam get confronted with all kinds of timely phenomena: Racism, gun violence, the opioid epidemic, media culture, cyber terrorism, you name it - plus the timeless topic of family relations.

This approach has a very broad scope, so the individual topics presented are never explored in-depth - their treatment is often rather superficial, the themes show up like flashlights. Together with the fragmented structure, filled to the brim with narrative ideas, reading the book can sometimes feel like Rushdie is constantly throwing ideas (but smart ideas!) at his readers while keeping them busy putting together the pieces - it's not really immersive. This is a mash-up, a collage of a novel, that also indulges in presenting us with numerous pastiches of other literary works like Rhinocéros or The Conference of the Birds (Rushdie names his literary inspirations in his acknowledgements).

Bottom line: This is not a bad book, and I found the take-down in the New York Times to be rather vicious and unfair, but it does have some flaws. So while I applaud this year's Booker panel for longlisting so many timely and political novels, "Quichotte" doesn't look like shortlist material to me. (Update: Of course it got shortlisted, to my dismay! :-))
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
630 reviews382 followers
July 17, 2020
This book is so bombastic, strange, and resplendent with expansive and meandering prose that I was pretty taken aback by how quickly it captured me. Usually this type of freewheeling ride kicks me off the train pretty early. The last Rushdie book I read, Midnight's Children , was taxing and I didn't seem to appreciate what people the world over seem to have loved. After a four year hiatus, I was compelled to test out Rushdie's latest after it landed on the Booker Shortlist for 2019 and I read its first few pages.

Rushdie definitely seems to have a style--long lists, repetition, and digression are his M.O.--but Quichotte almost instantly captured me in a way that Midnight's Children never did. The eponymous lead's absurd quest to win the love of, effectively, a fictional Indian Oprah, seemed like it was going to go in some interesting and hopefully hilarious directions. Though the book is undoubtedly a riot with its lambasting of North American culture, it is also a wild ride that went in directions I would never had expected.

I don't want to give too much away, but the book blends satire with the absurd, only to move into fable that gives way to sci-fi, that gives way to alternate reality fantasy, and a hearty helping of meta-textual narrative. It's a book that tries to be a little bit of everything and, in my opinion, does a pretty excellent job of it. Perhaps it's because the book starts with such a silly concept, but Rushdie's slow erasing at the edges of reality works super well and I was entirely swept away by his narrative. I felt like Rushdie was working through some cultural neuroses with humour and some passages felt borderline therapeutic.

Guys and gals, this book is absolutely bananas. It handles race in America, the opioid epidemic, our collective addiction to glowing entertainment rectangles, love, family, what it means to be a person, and does it all with an attention-deficit style that moves surprisingly quickly. Quichotte took me by surprise and is up there with some of the best books I've read of the year. I don't quite know if it'll work as well in a decade (the pot boils over with modern pop culture references that can be both exciting and obnoxious), but boy does it work well now.

I think you should read it!
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,777 reviews1,263 followers
May 7, 2020
Re-read ahead of my brief opportunity to ask the author about his book on BBC’s Front Row.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m00...

He talked about wanting to take on the destructive, mind-numbing junk culture of his time just as Cervantes had gone to war with the junk culture of his own age. He said he was trying to write about impossible, obsessional love, father-son relationships, sibling quarrels and, yes, unforgivable things: about Indian immigration, racism towards them, crooks among them; about cyber-spies, science fiction, the intertwining of fictional and “real” realities, the death of the author, the end of the world. He told her he wanted to incorporate elements of the parodic, and of satire and pastiche …. And it’s about opioid addiction, too he added.


Now shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize.

See also my other review for further notes on the book from a public interview Rushdie gave on the day of the book's publication

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

In 2002 Salman Rushdie as part of a group of 100 of the World’s best authors voted Cervantes “Don Quixote” as the greatest novel of all time.

In Guardian interview in 2018 (https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...) Rushdie revealed that he was re-reading the novel – the emphasis is mine

“I now find myself about halfway through the first book of Don Quixote, in the terrific Edith Grossman translation. This is proving to be a more complicated encounter. On the one hand, the characters of Quixote and Sancho Panza are as beautifully realised as I remember them, and the idea of a man determinedly seeing the world according to his own vision, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, feels strikingly contemporary. On the other hand, how many more times are the Knight of the Dolorous Countenance and Sancho going to get beaten up and left in pain in various roadside ditches? The “greatest novel ever written” – I voted for it myself once – turns out to be just a little bit repetitive.”


And Don Quixote forms the obvious inspiration for this novel – a man who has read so many chivalric romances that he loses his mind and is unable to distinguish the world they portray from reality, and a tale which starts, in perhaps the most famous line in Spanish literature “Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember” is replaced by the opening

“There once lived, at a series of temporary addresses across the United States of America, a travelling man of Indian origins, advancing years, and retreating mental powers, who on account of his love for mindless television … has suffered a peculiar form of brain damage as a result”


After a very lengthy Rushdie-style list of examples of this mindless television (not exactly the only list to appear in the book) we are then told

“As a consequence of his near total preoccupation with the material offered up to him … he feel victim to that increasingly prevalent psychological disorder in which the boundary between truth and lies became smudged and indistinct ….. and began to think of himself as a natural citizen (and potential inhabitant) of that imaginary world beyond the screen”


And our link to the original is established with cable TV substituting for the chivalric romances. (together with a fairly unsubtle allusion – not the last – to current politics and Fake News)

Our character – Ismail Smile (Smile itself an Anglicization of Ismail) is a travelling salesman for the family owned Pharma conglomerate (Smile Pharma) which has recently made it big due to the development of an under the tongue method for delivering powerful opioids, as well as an aggressive sales approach towards incentivising doctors to take a rather relaxed approach to prescribing the drug for those not suffering from unbearable cancer related pain.

Ismail himself is estranged from his activist Sister – the Human Trampoline (https://genius.com/Paul-simon-gracela...) .

Ismail is obsessed with a Bollywood actress turned US television chat show star – Miss Salma R, and decides to set off on a quest to prove himself worthy of her love, not before renaming himself Quichotte after listening to his favourite recording – Jules Massanet’s “Don Quichotte” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Qui...) which he is told is “Only loosely based on the great Masterpiece of Cervantes … [Like] you’re a little loosely based yourself”.

Wiki lists a main change from the original as being that the “the simple farm girl Aldonza (Dulcinea) of the original novel becomes the more sophisticated Dulcinée, a flirtatious local beauty inspiring the infatuated old man's exploits” – which more fits the Miss Salma R character (whose background we learn more about in the third chapter – as well as learning of her present day addition to prescription drugs, an addiction which ends up drawing her to the Smile company).

Quichotte as an aside being pronouned key-SHOT (https://www.urbandictionary.com/defin...) – another link to the abuse of drugs.

Just as Don Quixote took much more of a meta-fictional turn in its second part, so this book takes a metafictional turn in its second chapter – the first chapter we learn was written by Brother – an Indian now living in the US who writes Five Eyes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Eyes) based spy fiction under the pen name of Sam DuChamp.

Brother is alienated from his Sister (a prominent human rights lawyer in London – who we learn about starting in the fourth chapter including her near miss as speaker of the House of Lords, her cross-dressing High Court judge husband and her cancer) and his Son (who we later find is a hacker).

Quichotte himself in a later chapter imagines a son – Sancho – who quickly becomes more real (aided by an Italian cricket and blue fairy straight from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinocch...) and increasingly we and Brother realise that much of Quichotte’s life is a fictionalised reimagining of Brother’s life.

Other inspirations for the book, explicitly acknowledged by Rushdie at the end but which are worth, like I did, reading in advance are two classic science fiction short stories - https://www.gutenberg.org/files/51193... - a story which is referenced perhaps a little too much in the novel, with simultaneously the novel’s summary rather spoiling the delight of the short story and the short story itself rather obviously telegraphing the novel’s end and https://urbigenous.net/library/nine_b... which is nicely appropriated for Quichotte’s quest (as his fictional universe only exists to sustain his quest).

Quichotte himself bases his quest around the Seven Valleys in
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Con... and his increasingly surreal story includes a detour to the town of Berenger, not terribly subtly named after the protagonist of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhinoce... - a play Rushdie had already referenced in ““Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” and which in this 1985 Granta article https://granta.com/on-gunter-grass/ Rushdie references (alongside “Tin Drum”, Tristram Shandy, Eisenstin, Borges, Ted Hughes Crow poems) as giving him “permission to be the sort of writer” he had “it in himself to be”.

And the lack of subtlety transfers to the events in Berenger as the town’s inhabitants revert to Mastadon status, and just to make sure we get the picture we are much later told

“maybe they said something about our growing dehumanization, about how as a species, we, or some of us, might be losing our moral compass and becoming, simultaneously, creatures out of a barbaric, pre-human, long-toothed past, and also monsters tormenting the human present.”


A final inspiration (not acknowledged) seems to be a science fiction series Rushdie was widely announced to be developing a few years ago – which seems to have gone nowhere – but which he said was a “kind of a parallel world story, in which it was our earth and another variation of it, and they somehow come into contact with each other” – Rushdie referred to the series in interviews on “Golden House” and mused it was “interesting preparatory work for the way [that] book turned out.”

The influences here are clearer with another main character Evel Cent being a Elon Musk type visionary who suddenly announces that the world (Quichotte’s one) is being destroyed and that the only hope is a portal he is building allowing escape to a parallel earth, something Quichotte and his talking gun (yes really) seek to find.

The above is a vastly simplified version of the book’s crude topical commentary and its bizarre plot. It is also a vastly shortened version of the copious references to classic and popular culture it contains.

If at any stage during the book’s writing Rushdie felt he had taken any aspect (the lack of political subtlety, the surreal nature of the happenings, the randomness of the plot, the levels of allusion) to excess – then rather than drawing back and adding more foundations on which to build his often teetering edifice, Rushdie clearly chose to add yet another layer.

But for all its sprawling complexity it is also a book which is very explicit in what it is trying to achieve - Rushdie frequently literally putting words into his characters mouths to explain what is happening.

The opening quote is an example or later when criticised by his Son about what he has really achieved

He told the young man about the mastodons, and his indebtedness to Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. “So many great writers have guided me along the way” he said, and mentioned, further, Cervantes and Arthur C Clarke. “Is that okay to do” asked “That kind of borrowing?”. He had replied by quoting Newton, who said he had been able to see further because he was standing on the shoulders of giants. Son looked doubtful “Yeah but Newton would up discovering gravity” he said, unkindly “You haven’t got anywhere close to that”


Brother responds

“I think it’s legitimate for a work of art made in the present time to say, we are being crippled by the culture we have made, by its popular elements above all …. And by stupidity and ignorance and bigotry”


Rushdie is an author that can infuriate some people with the pretentiousness of his prose, or exhilarate and entertain some people with his imagination of his writing; often the same readers, in the same book, sometimes in the same page. On most of his books I find myself trying to work out where on the infuriation/exhilaration scale I have landed – and here I was very much at the exhilaration end.

I have heard this describes as a mess of a book, one that is inspired by rather elitist viewpoint, as well as drawing on tradition.

But traditional, elitist messes can, depending on your tastes, be extremely enjoyable, for example

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eton_mess

And this book was most definitely to my literary taste.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,896 reviews1,927 followers
October 13, 2019
This book came back to the library the MOMENT I came in to return books yesterday! My library's copy, that is; the system has lots of holds but I used my trump card: I, your local patron, want to read it. They gave it to me. Heh.

But seriously, Sir Salman, Quit. Trying. So. Hard!
He devoured morning shows, daytime shows, late-night talk shows, soaps, situation comedies, Lifetime Movies, hospital dramas, police series, vampire and zombie serials, the dramas of housewives from Atlanta, New Jersey, Beverly Hills and New York, the romances and quarrels of hotel-fortune princesses and self-styled shahs, the cavortings of individuals made famous by happy nudities, the fifteen minutes of fame accorded to young persons with large social media followings on account of their plastic-surgery acquisition of a third breast or their post-rib-removal figures that mimicked the impossible shape of the Mattel company’s Barbie doll, or even, more simply, their ability to catch giant carp in picturesque settings while wearing only the tiniest of string bikinis; as well as singing competitions, cooking competitions, competitions for business propositions, competitions for business apprenticeships, competitions between remote-controlled monster vehicles, fashion competitions, competitions for the affections of both bachelors and bachelorettes, baseball games, basketball games, football games, wrestling bouts, kickboxing bouts, extreme sports programming and, of course, beauty contests.

Oh dear god. No. No more. Stop with the multiple list items.

And here's the burden of the refrain, the point of the joke:
Systems of thought, and their antitheses as well, are merely codifications of what we think we know. When we begin to abandon them, we open ourselves to the immensity of the universe, and therefore also to immense possibilities, including the possibility of the impossible.

There. I read this book for you and brought back the best bit. Thank me with gift cards.
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,256 reviews49 followers
August 29, 2019
Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2019

I am in two minds about what to say about this one. On one level it is (as Rushdie usually is) an entertaining read with a lot of interesting allusions, but overall I don't feel it is one of his best works, and too much of it feels like Rushdie by numbers (quite literally in the case of the many place names immediately followed by their populations).

Rushdie has created a novel within a novel - more than half of the book is his update on Don Quixote (or perhaps more accurately Massenet's Don Quichotte), transplanted to 21st century America, with an Indian Quichotte who shares much of Rushdie's cultural background. Around this he has wrapped the story of its writer (another near self-parody) who is a hack writer of spy novels, who conceives the Quichotte plot as a means to help re-establish a relationship with his estranged sister. As always with Rushdie there is no shortage of ideas or sub-plots, and the Quichotte story in particular visits some very surreal places, for example a chapter based on Ionesco's Rhinoceros and an apocalyptic sci-fi element that gains significance towards the end.

Many of the comic details are inspired, but overall I felt it failed to coalesce, and by Rushdie's high standards it disappointed me a little. Rushdie has not been shortlisted for the Booker since The Moor's Last Sigh in 1995, and this is definitely not his best book since then, so I think others deserve it more.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,347 reviews4,863 followers
November 12, 2021


Salman Rushdie's book Quicotte (pronounced key-shot) is an homage to the tragicomic literary hero Don Quixote. In Miguel de Cervantes' novel 'Don Quixote de La Mancha', published in 1605, a middle-aged Spanish gentleman named Alonso Quixano becomes addled after reading too many heroic romances. Quixano dubs himself Don Quixote and - taking up sword and lance - embarks on a crusade to help the poor and destroy the wicked.



Don Quixote acquires a sidekick named Sancho Panza who accompanies him on his quest, and they have a series of adventures - including fighting windmills (that Don Quixote thinks are giants). During his crusade, Don Quixote falls in love with a peasant woman named Dulcinea, whom he thinks of as his princess.



In Quichotte, an Indian-American gentleman named Ismail Smile works as a sales representative for his cousin's American pharmaceutical company, called Smile Pharmaceuticals. Ismail travels around the southwest United States, stays in cheap motels, and gorges himself on television, including 'daytime talk shows; late-night talk shows; soaps; situation comedies; hospital dramas; police series; vampire and zombie serials; housewives from Atlanta, New Jersey, Beverly Hills, and New York; singing competitions; cooking competition; business competitions; competition for the affection of bachelors and bachelorettes; baseball games; basketball games; football games; etc.



All this befuddles Ismail's mind, and he falls in love with a beautiful New York television host named Salma R, whom he's never met.



Ismail also starts to behave oddly with customers, so his employer/cousin Dr. R.K. Smile fires him, but provides a nice severance package.

Ismail is now free to pursue Salma R. Thus he renames himself Quichotte and embarks on a cross-country journey to prove he's worthy of her love. Quichotte magics up a teenage son named Sancho to accompany him, and Sancho - who's a phantom at first - becomes a real boy with the help of an Italian cricket called Grillo Parlante (aka Jiminy).



Quichotte keeps Salma R informed about his quest by way of letters, starting with this missive:

"My dear Miss Salma R,

With this note I introduce myself to you. With this hand I declare my love. In time to come as I move ever closer you will come to see that I am true and that you must be mine. You are my Grail and this is my quest. I bow my head before your beauty. I am and will ever remain your knight.

Sent by a smile,
Quichotte

This is followed by more notes, which alarm Salma R, who 'has a bad feeling about them.'

We soon learn that Quichotte is not a real person. He's the main character in a book by an Indian writer called Brother.



Brother, who's been publishing mediocre spy novels under the pen name Sam Duchamp, decides to try his hand at innovative fiction.....and he starts with the tale of "lunatic Quichotte and his doomed pursuit of the gorgeous Miss Salma R."

As Duchamp's fictional story takes shape, it's clear that Quichotte strongly resembles Brother. Both Brother and Quichotte are Bombay-born Indian-American men with physical ailments: Brother has a bad back and Quichotte has a bad leg. Both Brother and Quichotte have successful sisters who survived cancer and are estranged from their brothers, who did them wrong. And both Brother and Quichotte have sons who march to different drummers: Brother's son ran off and got involved in shady internet activities; and Quichotte's son sprang from his imagination. The story alternates back and forth between Quichotte's fictional quest and Brother's actual memories, so we learn a great deal about both characters.

The novel is a rambling affair that touches on myriad concerns of the current era. Brother (who I assume is a proxy for Rushdie) explains that, with his book, he was "wanting to take on the destructive mind-numbing junk culture of his time just as Cervantes had gone to war with the junk culture of his own age;



He was trying also to write about impossible obsessional love, father-son relationships, sibling quarrels, and yes....unforgivable things;



About Indian immigrants, racism toward them, crooks among them;



About cyberspies, science fiction, the intertwining of fictional and real realities; and the end of the world."



Duchamp also wanted to "incorporate elements of the parodic, and of satire, and pastiche", and to write "about opioid addiction too; the American opioid epidemic and the scams associated with it."



Rushdie accomplishes all this this by delving into the history of his characters as well as their ambitions, motivations, behavior, relationships, thoughts, activities, and so on. For example, Dr. R. K. Smile has become a pharma billionaire thanks to the development of a sub-lingual Fentanyl spray called InSmile, which is 100 times stronger than morphine. Dr. Smile got the inspiration for marketing InSmile during a visit to Bombay, where he came across a business card that read, "Are you alcoholic? We can help. Call this number for liquor home delivery."

Hence InSmile is now shipped to every city, town, village, and hamlet in the United States, where it makes a substantial contribution to the opioid epidemic.



In fact Salma R, who's bipolar and a proponent of electroconvulsive therapy, is a pharmaceutical addict who's trying to acquire a bounteous supply of InSmile. This is what eventually connects her to Quichotte, who has access to the drug.

Other noteworthy characters are Brother's parents - who had successful businesses in India; Brother's and Quichotte's sisters and their significant others - one of whom is a male judge who dresses in evening gowns and heels at home; Brother's pedophile grandfather; Dr. Smile's ambitious social climber wife, called Happy; Salma R's mother and grandmother - both of whom were famous actresses; Salma R's staff - who enable her drug addiction; scientist Evel Sent, who's built a portal to an alternative Earth; and more.



A good part of the book focuses on Quichotte and Sancho's road trip across the country, from the southwest United States to New York, where Quichotte hopes to meet and woo Salma R. Like their 17th century predecessors, Quixote and his Sancho have many memorable experiences. For instance:

- Quixote and Sancho camp at Lake Capote in Colorado, and take out a map to plot their journey. A stocky young white woman - suspicious of the map - approaches and says, "Where are your turbans and beards? You shave your faces and take off the headgear to fool us? You look shifty to me. You up to something. You can dress yourself out of J Crew but you don't fool me." The following kerfuffle with campers gets Quixote and Sancho ejected from the campgrounds.



- In Billy's Diner in Tulsa, a confrontation with fellow diners results in slurs like: "F**k you. Get out of my country and go back to your broke bigoted America hating desert shitholes. We're gonna nuke you all" and "Where did you hide your turbans and f**king beards?"



- Quichotte and Sancho stop at a New Jersey Motor Inn, where the owner wants to examine their ears, noses, and teeth before allowing them to check in. It seems that people in town are spontaneously morphing into mastodons....and wreaking havoc to their surroundings.



There's plenty more going on in the novel. Among other things, both Brother and Quichotte attempt to make amends with their respective sisters, which sheds light on the women's grievances; Brother meets his son after many years, and tries to coax him onto the right path; and Quichotte has a memorable interaction with Salma R.

I got a kick out of the novel's innumerable references to popular culture, which are liberally sprinkled throughout the book. It makes me smile to think of Salman Rushdie plonked in front of the television or computer, or trolling the streets, making copious notes.


Salman Rushdie

If you like literary novels, you'd probably enjoy this book, which is long-listed for the 2019 Booker prize.

You can follow my reveiws at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Ron Charles.
1,035 reviews48.5k followers
September 3, 2019
A homage to the wide-ranging wit and vision of Cervantes’s early-17th-century tale, “Quichotte” attempts to bring a similarly wry eye to the culture and politics of the early 21st century. So long as you can hum “The Impossible Dream,” you’ll catch the broad parallels between these two stories. Cervantes immortalized an old Spanish nobleman who goes mad from reading chivalric romances; Rushdie presents a worn-out pharmaceutical salesman from India who goes mad from watching TV.

An inability to distinguish truth from fiction is not usually a handicap for a drug company rep, but as the novel begins, Rushdie’s quixotic hero is forced into retirement. No matter. He nurses one great passion: He’s insanely obsessed with an Oprah-like talk-show star named Salma R. “He had eschewed all thoughts of love for what seemed like an eternity,” Rushdie writes, “until Miss Salma R reawakened feelings and desires in his breast which he had thought he had suppressed or even destroyed.” Freed from the encumbrances of his job, he adopts the name Quichotte, starts mailing Salma R beautifully handwritten love letters and begins driving across America in his old gunmetal gray Chevy Cruze to. . . .

To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...
Profile Image for Doug.
1,989 reviews705 followers
August 25, 2019
4.5, rounded up.

I can't really claim to have been much of a Rushdie fan before this, since the only other work of his I've read is his magnum opus, Midnight's Children, which I marginally enjoyed, but felt was a bit beyond my ken, since my knowledge of the Indian politics it satirized is marginal, at best. And I feared that, having never read Cervantes' original, I might be likewise at sea with this modern update/homage. And there may indeed have been minor connections I didn't make, but I never really felt I was missing the larger picture - and there WERE other connections I was proud to have worked out (e.g., the town in which Rushdie relates his own version of Ionesco's Rhinocéros is called Berenger - which is the name of the protagonist in the original play itself!)

But there were also a few times I felt a bit adrift, and couldn't see exactly what was going on, or how the author was going to make all the pieces fit - with his usual melding of the mundane, satirical jabs at present day politics, and the fantastical/surreal elements, which didn't really work for me in his earlier effort. Luckily, as I read this on a Kindle version, I was able to use the search feature (FREQUENTLY) to backtrack and figure out where I was. This is NOT the easy read I anticipated.

However, all is forgiven, as Rushdie really does a beautiful job of bringing all the elements together, and amazingly sticks the landing in a way that is both astonishing and unpredictable. And even though I often don't like long-winded, winding sentences that stretch on for half a page, the author rarely made it difficult to parse out the meaning of his sentences - any re-reading of them I did merely to enjoy again the sheer beauty and dazzling joy of his prose stylings. Eminently worthy of its Booker longlisting, I am fairly confident it will also make the shortlist - and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Rushdie gets another win to put beside the two he's already amassed for Midnight's.

PS... a few days after finishing the book, I happened upon the documentary 'Lost in La Mancha' about Terry Gilliam's first failed attempt to film 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' ... and in the extras is a conversation between Gilliam and Rushdie that touches on Quixote - and may very well have been the impetus for Rushdie's own work. Worth checking out - the Quixote discussion comes about 40 minutes into the hour long conversation, so fast forward if that's all you are interested in!) .

My sincere thanks to Netgalley and Random House for providing an ARC of this book prior to publication, in exchange for this honest review.
Profile Image for switterbug (Betsey).
830 reviews767 followers
June 26, 2019
Rushdie isn’t for everyone. He’s expansive, hyper-verbal, exuberant, urbane, and frequently absurdist. But he's generous, if flamboyant. A solid Salman novel, like this one, is also tender and sublime; he locates the reader sweet spot and delivers a potent, exquisite and heartfelt denouement. QUICHOTTE is speculative fiction designed as a picaresque and earnest tromp for true love. All the masks are off at the end and you are face to face with what we do to be our authentic selves, warts and all, and what it is to love through our fears.

Quichotte is like Quixote, but contemporary, and meta- meta- and apocalyptic. Although it took around 80 pages to fully engage—there’s a lot of learned and obscure references that were initially off-putting, but gradually forms a coherent and wonderful beast of an epic journey.

An older and single, childless man, originally from Bombay, is in love from afar with Ms. Salma R, a huge celebrity and media darling, a beautiful woman of Indian heritage living in NYC. Ismail Smile is a pharmaceutical salesman. He has reinvented himself as Quichotte. There’s also the story within the story of Sam DuChamp, the writer of spy fiction who invented Quichotte (also known as Brother), and Quichotte has an estranged Sister, an accomplished attorney also living in NYC, also known as HT, or Human Trampoline (don't’ ask, just read the book!).

Quichotte understands that he must resolve the unfinished business with Sister in order to deserve Ms. Salma R.’s love. They had an emotional fallout many decades ago, and they haven’t spoken since. Quichotte also creates a phantom (teenage) son by chasing down many meteor showers and snapping seven wishbones at precisely the right time. Now he has his real, imaginary Sancho to accompany him on his quest. “…I estimate that you’re telling the reader that the surreal, and even the absurd, now potentially offer the most accurate descriptors of real life.”

Quichotte’s and Sancho’s adventurous quest has many branches, loops, sidetracks, and trespasses along the way. (DuChamp has an estranged relationship with his son, and is trying to work out his own personal demons through his story, not to mention a little conflict with secret forces in the government). If all this sounds like too much of too much, don’t worry—Rushdie is the soulful, talented brainiac that will put it all together.

Salman’s characters grow and grow, and grow on you, and through all the droll, absurdist, metaphysical, technological and media-savvy embellishments, he will eventually shatter your heart and bring you to your knees. In the meantime, every page has little and large profundities that add to the mystique of the novel.

“…Love itself, the purity of the grand essential phenomenon…the heart of the heart of the heart, the eye of the storm, the driving force of all human and much animal nature, and therefore of life itself…Love as Being…For love is without reason…it comes without a rational explanation and lives on when there is no reason for it to survive.”

Rushdie covers so many concepts and subjects that at times I thought my head would explode (in a good way). Family, love, life, death, technology, ethnicity, religion, the opioid crisis—even mastodons. Yes, mastodons! The tale is a colossal, victorious glob of transcendent goo. He is the ultimate writer of our times—thoughtful, provocative, magical, and self-actual. Unreal and real, the consummate writer, a legend, like Quichotte or Quixote.

“Maybe this was the human condition, to live inside fictions created by untruths…”

This will surely be my #1 book of the year! 5 stars is just not enough.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,334 reviews118 followers
October 24, 2019
Booker Prize Longlist 2019. Rushdie has jammed a lot in his latest novel—a LOT! This modern retelling of the Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote story includes Rushdie’s trademark magical realism, but it goes well beyond that. The point-of-view and action moves frenetically from one scene to next, requiring a high degree of concentration by the reader. Along the way, Rushdie bombards the reader with philosophical musings and literary references ranging from Jiminy Cricket (Pinocchio); The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe; to Moby Dick. But that’s not all, the author also peppers his tale with cultural references that include Candy Crush, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and popular social media memes.

This story-within-a-story follows Quichotte, who loses his job as a pharmaceutical salesman due to his delusional obsession with Miss Salma R—a TV host. Quichotte is definitely ‘cra-cra’! He seems to have ‘fried his brain’ by watching television non-stop. Indeed, some of Rushdie’s own scenes seem to have been borrowed from stereotypical television melodrama. Quichotte longs for a son, and creates one by wishing upon a meteor shower. The result is Sancho—who provides a delightful counterpoint to Quichotte.

The second narrative follows the author of the Quichotte story. Sam du Champ typically writes spy novels, but his sales have waned to a dribble. He has been estranged from both his sister and his son for years.

Most of Rushdie’s characters are dealing with some sort of illness—cancer, stroke, opioid addiction, and more. And so is Rushdie’s America! The country is suffering from racism, the opioid crisis, and post-truth fake news. What will heal these ills? Rushdie suggests it is love and language! Enjoy!
Profile Image for Faith.
1,849 reviews520 followers
September 6, 2019
Towards the end of this book, one of the characters describes his goals for a book he is writing. The description fits Rashdie’s multiple intentions for this book. “... to take on the destructive, mind-numbing junk culture of his time just as Cervantes had gone to war with the junk culture of his own age. He said he was trying also to write about impossible, obsessional love, father-son relationships, sibling quarrels, and yes, unforgivable things; about Indian immigrants, racism towards them, crooks among them; about cyber-spies, science fiction, the intertwining of fictional and ‘real’ realities, the death of the author, the end of the world. He told her he wanted to incorporate elements of the parodic, and of satire and pastiche.” “And it’s about opioid addiction, too, he added.” All of those elements are present in this big, rambling, entertaining mess of a book.

The narrator of this book is Sam DuChamp, an Indian-American writer of spy fiction. He’s called Brother in the book, as he has been since his childhood in Bombay. Brother is writing a retelling of “Don Quixote” (which I haven’t read although I have seen dramatizations). His book also parallels his own life in many ways. In the book within the book, Ismail Smiles is an elderly pharmaceutical salesman who is infatuated with the TV personality Salma R. He adopts the name Quichotte to correspond with Selma R as he keeps her apprised of the progress of his quests to prove himself worthy of his beloved. Quichotte adopts a “son” (think Pinocchio) who travels with him. Brother’s reason for writing Quichotte’s story is that: “Such broken families may be our best available lenses through which to view this broken world. And inside the broken families are broken people, broken by loss, poverty, maltreatment, failure, age, sickness, pain, and hatred, yet trying in spite of it all to cling on to hope and love, and these broken people — we, the broken people! — may be the best mirrors of our times, shining shards that reflect the truth,
wherever we travel, wherever we land, wherever we remain. “

You’re either going to like Rashdie’s writing style or it will drive you crazy with sentences like this: “Yes, he had forgotten them, placing them in a lead-lined casket of forgetting far beneath the bed of the remembering ocean within him, an unmarked sarcophagus impenetrable even by the X-ray vision of a Superman, and along with them he had buried the man he had been then, and the things he had done, the failures, the failures, the failures.” I happen to enjoy his style, although this book was occasionally too insane for me. He almost lost me with the people turning into mastodons. Also, switching back and forth between Brother and Quichotte was sometimes confusing. Meditations on immigration policy, aging and opioids were on point; including how opioid manufacturers launder their names by making arts donations that are not so much charity as they are branding. I would not have guessed that Rushdie spent so much time watching old TV shows and reading science fiction. But there are a lot of references to these and other aspects of pop culture. He must be a whiz at trivia contests.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Jolanta (knygupe).
826 reviews181 followers
January 19, 2020

Šiek tiek prisibijojau atsiverst šią 2019-ųjų metų Bookerio trumpojo sąrašo nominantę. Maza ką - o jei nepatiks. O aš autoriui esu neabejinga ir tokie sukrėtimai manęs nevilioja. O va, pasirodė, kad be reikalo nerimavau. 

Tai šiuolaikiška Cervantes'o Don Quixote versija, žėrinti rašdišku magiškuoju realizmu. Gaila, nesu skaičiusi Cervantes'o , tad, be abejo, būsiu nepagavusi visų aliuzijų į šią ispaniškąją klasikinę satyrą. Salman Rushdie Quichotte - tai mūsų laikų satyra.  Žinoma, daugiausia čia kliūva Jungtinėms Valstijoms, Britanijai. Bet iš esmės - mums visiems.

Quichotte (tarti: kišot) - suvargėlis, keliaujantis vaistų prekeivis, nakvojantis moteliuose ir vakarus leidžiantis prieš TV ekraną, kur "sutinka" ir įsimyli savo Dulsineja - TV Show žvaigždę Salmą R. Motelyje apsireiškia (iš kūno ir kraujo) ir jo ilgai išsvajotas įsivaizduotas sūnus Sancho. Taip prasideda Quichotte kelionė per Amerika pas savo mylimąją...Ir jis be abejonės įsitikinęs, kad Salma R. jį taip pat pamils, nes juk Amerika - svajonių šalis, kur visi troškimai pildosi.

Romane visko žiauriai daug. Užuominų, sąsajų,  temų, potemių, metaforų, veikėjų transformacijų, patys veikėjai vadinami skirtingais vardais... Pavyzdžiui, Quichotte veikia ir savo "tikruoju" vardu - Smile, dar kitur - jis tiesiog Brolis, o gal jis ir rašytojas (kuris ir rašo visą šią istoriją, slapyvardžiu Sam DuChamp). ‎Žodžiu, nervus tai patampys mažumėlę. Smagi jungtis čia yra ir su Carlo Colledi Pinokiu- sūnus Sancho,  Svirplys - prabylantis angliškai su itališku akcentu (va čia buvo audio versijos privalumas), duodantis vertingų patarimų ir šiek tiek grynųjų.
Temos: realybė-iliuzija, rasizmas, emigracija, ginklų kontrolė, narkotiniai vaistai, tevų-vaikų santykiai, kaltės-atleidimo motyvas, kelias-gyvenimas... Žodžiu, nepasimesti, susigaudyti, sekti tas gijas (bent jau iš pradžių) buvo nelengva. Tuolab, kad klausiausi audio knygos. Ir prisipažįstu, kad sprendimas nelabai vykes. Nors įgarsinta ir tobulai, bet tiesiog nespėji su Rushdie. Beje, pas jį,  kaip ir Olgos Tokarczuk knygoje Varyk savo arklą per mirusiųjų kaulus, daug žodžiu iš didžiosios raidės. Tad užsisakiau ir laukiu spausdintos knygos. Dar paskaitinėsiu. 
Šiaip jau, drąsiai rekomenduoju ją skaityti. Nebėra čia to rytų kvapo (jei ką tai erzino) iš pirmųjų jo romanų (man, beje, labiausiai patikusių), bet atsirado puikaus humoro, sąmojo, šių dienų aktualijų.  Patiko, kad iki pat paskutinio sakinio Rushdie pasakojimas nepaliovė būti įdomus. O kas gali būti geriau?
Profile Image for Eric Anderson.
666 reviews3,236 followers
September 17, 2019
I was really looking forward to this novel as the subject matter intrigued me and I’ve been wanting to read more by Rushdie, but I ended up feeling mostly negative towards it. “Quichotte” is Rushdie’s modern day version of ‘Don Quixote’ and primarily concerns Ismail Smile (who dubs himself Quichotte.) He travels across the US on a foolhardy romantic quest to woo Salma R, a famous television personality. In the process he surveys how fiction has become fact and many facts are treated as fiction in this modern day America. This exposes the absurdity of this state of being and captures the tragi-comic position we’re now in while especially highlighting the contentious issues of gun control laws and a corrupt pharmaceutical industry. A certain character muses at one point, “America, what happened to your optimism, your new frontiers, your simple Rockwell dreams?” The novel is justifiably preoccupied with this doleful question.

If the novel had been confined to Ismail’s episodic tales I believe I’d have found this a much more satisfying and pleasurable read. However, Rushdie soon adds a meta-fictional layer where we learn that Ismail’s story is being written by another character named Sam DuChamp, a writer of spy thrillers who is trying out a new kind of novel. This creates another layer which begs the questions: are we writing our own stories or are our stories writing us? What happens when the stories we tell ourselves become both our mental and physical reality? While these narrative gymnastics might be good in concept they felt misjudged and too confusing to me. In addition, the stories of many other characters and sub-plots proliferate throughout the novel such as that of Sam’s sister, a famous London lawyer who has reached a pivotal point in her life. In itself her story is an interesting one but it felt swallowed by the grander self-conscious narrative being constructed. This results in all these tales feeling so over controlled (and sometimes contrived) that I seldom felt any emotional engagement.

Read my full review of Quichotte by Salman Rushdie on LonesomeReader
Profile Image for Rakhi Dalal.
208 reviews1,432 followers
October 14, 2019
How often is it that you come across a novel that overwhelms you in a manner indescribable, that leaves you with a nostalgia for the past and an ache for the future? I don’t remember having read anything other than A Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez that has left me as dazzled as this opus by Sir Rushdie has.

I am left stunned by the sheer magnitude this novel encompasses. A homage to Don Quixote by great Cervantes, Quichotte is a parody of our times. A dreaded apocalypse brought about by a climate change, the dominance of right, internet frenzy, racism, ugly face of capitalism...you name it and it is there. It seems like everything that’s going wrong in the world finds a place in this work.

This book has as many layers to it as a reader can imagine. Very obviously, it’s the tale of Quichotte, fashioned after Don Quixote, who sets in search of his love Ms. Salma R. But then it’s a tale written by one Sam Du Champ, who is also on a quest - a story within a story. But can we say it is a story within a story within a story? For the whole time I was reading this, I was thinking it has to do something with the author himself. But what could it be exactly?

Sam and Quichotte are both from Bombay in India, as is Rushdie. Whereas Quichotte is looking for Salma, Sam is looking for love of his son and forgiveness of his sister, but what is the master looking for? Which quest is he on?

Quichotte unites with Salma at the end to escape from the apocalypse to supposedly an earth like planet through a portal Mayflower whose allusion to the ship which transported Pilgrims from Plymouth to New World cannot be ignored. Also, Quichotte traverses seven valleys to reach to Ms. Salma and sees his journey as something which will end with the world ending. For Sam, the author of Quichotte, the end culminates into the merging of fact and fiction, the convening of two stories, perhaps the wayfaring from one world to the next.

It would be preposterous to say anything of the aim of the author himself. For as great novelist as Sir Rushdie, one can only assume that his pen was wielded to perhaps assert the unavoidable transience that humankind is bound to take but also that it is possible to have that impossible dream of making things right while on the threshold of life itself.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

PS: Thanks to Penguin India and Vivek Tejuja for the review copy.
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,431 reviews2,511 followers
May 11, 2020
He talked about wanting to take on the destructive, mind-numbing junk culture of his time just as Cervantes had gone to war with the junk culture of his own age. He said he was trying also to write about impossible, obsessional love, father-son relationships, sibling quarrels, and yes, unforgiveable things; about Indian immigrants, racism towards them, crooks among them; about cyber-spies, science fiction, the intertwining of fictional and 'real' realities, the death of the author, the end of the world. He told her he wanted to incorporate elements of the parodic, and of satire and pastiche.
Nothing very ambitious, then, she said.
And it's about opioid addition, too, he added.

Thus the fictional Author, also known as Brother, to Sister - and the dizzying parallels as this also sums up Rushdie's vast and meta fantasia of a novel. Only it doesn't explain why I loved this so much: it's not just that I adored the deep structural intertextuality but that, unlike The Golden House which I also enjoyed immensely, there's real heart here.

Ultimately, this is a book about love and reconciliation, about the healing of divisions and the possibility of forging a new future. Foolish? Maybe. But isn't that precisely the power of Quichotte - his foolish innocence and optimism?

Of course, this is also a text that is full of Rushdie's flamboyant excess, exuberance and inventiveness. It's not subtle (the mastodons - ha!) but it is, I would suggest, more coherent than many of the reviews I've read claim. Fragmentation, the book asserts, is a (the?) post-modern condition: from the unfinished contingency of literary form to the breakdown of monolithic master-narratives, to the diasporas of so many communities, voluntary or not, and the more local and personal breaks within family relations. How could a book dealing in all these fissures be anything other than fractured itself?

Importantly, then, at moving moments Rushdie's book brings unity to the broken: an author creates a character who invents a son who then Jiminy Cricket turns into a 'real, live boy' (Pinocchio, in case you're scratching your head) but then the author himself is given back his own relationship with his estranged son. Brothers and sisters are reunited in a nod to, surely, Twelfth Night, name-checked earlier in the book.

In a series of dizzying moves, Rushdie zooms between reception theory, a sly Barthesian conclusion as the fictional author realises that his book knows more about him than he might expect, and all manner of meta tricks. But all that, for me, is merely the icing: the substance of the cake is far more grounded even as it is the stuff of dreams: 'it was the time of miracles, [...] their broken love remade. If that could be true then everything was possible. It was, as Quichotte reminded him, the Age of Anything-Can-Happen.'
Profile Image for Neil.
1,007 reviews638 followers
September 3, 2019
He talked about wanting to take on the destructive, mind-numbing junk culture of his time just as Cervantes had gone to war with the junk culture of his own age. He said he was trying also to write about impossible, obsessional love, father–son relationships, sibling quarrels, and yes, unforgivable things; about Indian immigrants, racism toward them, crooks among them; about cyber-spies, science fiction, the intertwining of fictional and ‘real’ realities, the death of the author, the end of the world. He told her he wanted to incorporate elements of the parodic, and of satire and pastiche.

Nothing very ambitious, then, she said.

And it’s about opioid addiction, too, he added.


The overall experience of reading this book was like skating out of control over the surface of something much, much deeper. I have to acknowledge that I did not care for the experience. As in the quote above, it felt to me as though Rushdie was covering a LOT of ground but never in a way that felt anything other than superficial.

Quichotte is a travelling salesman, a man of advancing years who, following an “Interior Event” has become addicted to TV and subsequently convinced that he is destined to be with Salma R (yes, really), a TV personality with whom he is obsessed. Like the original Don Quixote, who was maddened by reading too many tales of knights and their heroic acts, our Quichotte sets off to prove himself worth of Salma’s love.

But, wait! In Chapter 2 we learn that all this is just a story, a fiction being written by a relatively unknown, unsuccessful author who we know mostly as Brother. Once we have met Brother, the two stories interleave as Brother makes his own journey whilst attempting to finish his book. It rapidly becomes clear that Brother’s book is a fictionalised version of his own life.

(As an aside, having well over half your book written by a fictional author that you set up as being second rate and unsuccessful seems a risky strategy even for someone as established as Rushdie).

So, there are several layers and the stories reflect one another. It’s all very clever.

There are times when the writing is very frustrating. I reacted badly to the annoying use of the word “slash” over and over again in phrases such as ”as if there’s somebody under slash behind slash above the old man”. And there are several occasions where the text is at great pains to explain things to us in case we didn’t understand the illusion: ”The decay of the Earth in the novel would be a parallel to the decay – the environmental, political, social, moral decay – of the planet on which he lived.” - yes, I think we got that bit. And a page that lists over 40 different types of snoring? Is that really necessary?

I don’t think this is necessarily a bad book. I think it is just not a book for me. It is unusual for me to be looking for other things to do (like cleaning the windows or dusting the mantlepiece) when I could be reading, but that’s where I found myself whilst working through this book.

I’ll just move on, I think.
Profile Image for Paul Fulcher.
Author 2 books1,211 followers
August 27, 2019
“You know your stuff,” Sancho conceded in a grumbling voice. “I guess I’ll grant you that.”

“You lost me there,” Sancho shook his head. “But that’s okay.”


Cervantes Don Quixote is one of the greatest novels of all time, all the more brilliant for having been written over 400 years ago, in the early 17th century. Perhaps best known in popular culture for the eponymous mad knight, tilting at windmills, what really elevates the novel to true greatness is Part 2, published 10 years after the first, with its meta-fictional concept that the characters know they are, or more accurately were, the subject of a novel.

Salman Rushdie’s latest novel takes its inspiration from Cervantes masterpiece, although the name of the main character, and the more cultured target of his affections, come from Jules Massenet’s 1910 opera.

There once lived, at a series of temporary addresses across the United States of America, a travelling man of Indian origin, advancing years, and retreating mental powers, who had developed an unwholesome, because entirely one-sided, passion for a certain television personality, the beautiful, witty, and adored talk-show host Miss Salma R., whom he had never met: an infatuation that he characterized, quite inaccurately, as love. In the name of this so-called love, he christened himself Quichotte, for the opera “Don Quichotte,” and resolved to be his “beloved”’s knight-errant, to pursue her zealously right through the television screen into whatever exalted high-definition reality she and her kind inhabited, and, by deeds as well as by grace, to win her heart.

In Rushdie’s novel we are soon also into meta-fictional territory as it quickly becomes clear that Quichotte’s story is actually imagined by a writer, under the pseudonym Sam DuChamp, of not-as-popular-as-he’d-like spy fiction, called here (in Milkman like fashion) Brother. Of course, to the reader of this book, Brother himself is a figment of Rushdie’s imagination, and while he doesn’t take the meta-fiction to the level of invoking himself as a character, Rushdie does use Brother at times to quite explicitly explain what the novel is doing.

There is the usual heady mix of high-brow and popular culture references: perhaps only Rushdie, referring to past great quests for a lover, could refer to the Hindu epic Ramayana, Dante’s Divine Comedy and Super Mario Brothers in the same sentence. In an afterword and indeed explicitly during the novel itself, various key sources, from classic novels and operas and avant-garde plays, to sci-fi short stories and pop songs are acknowledged. As Brother tells his son (called, you guessed it, Son):

In the town he had reimagined as Berenger, New Jersey, he told the young man about the mastadons, and his indebtedness to Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. “So many great writers have guided me along the way,” he said, and mentioned, further, Cervantes and Arthur C Clarke. “Is that okay to do” Son asked “That kind of borrowing?” He had replied by quoting Newton, who said he had been able to see further because he was standing on the shoulders of giants. Son looked doubtful. “Yeah but Newton wound up discovering gravity” he said, unkindly “You haven’t got anywhere close to that.”

He tried to explain the picaresque tradition, its episodic nature, and how the episodes of such a work could encompass many manners, high and low, fabulist and commonplace, how it could be at once parodic and original, and so through its metamorphic roguery it could demonstrate and seek to encompass the multiplicity of human life.


The story is largely centred in the US (with a particular focus on the opioid epidemic) but takes in the UK and India (and ultimately other worlds). As again Rushdie has his authorial mouthpiece explain:

It may be argued that stories should not sprawl in this way, that they should be grounded in one place or the other, put down roots in the other or the one and flower in that singular soil; yet so many of today’s stories are and must be of this plural, sprawling kind, because a kind of nuclear fission has taken place in human lives and relations, families have been divided, millions upon millions of us have travelled to the four corners of the (admittedly spherical, and therefore cornerless) globe, whether by necessity or choice.

As the novel progresses, Rushdie ramps up the drama to deliberately farcical levels – imaginary sons, talking crickets borrowed from Pinocchio, a talking gun, and even the end of this world and travel to another dimension:

This whole performance about the end of the world has really been a way of talking about the imminent end of the Author?

One small disappointment was how relatively little the novel appears to draw on Cervantes original, given its heavy reliance on the other sources. The ending of the novel is borrowed completely from Katherine McLean’s short story ‘Pictures Don’t Lie’, and oddly Rushdie has one of his characters tell us about (aka spoil) the ending of that story, and hence his own, a few pages previously. But some more obvious opportunities to borrow from Cervantes – stories about a fake Quichotte for example – are not taken. In a novel where the story line is highly contrived, some more overlap wouldn't have been hard to work in.

Overall, Rushdie’s best since the 2000s (when he returned to his Midnight’s Children best with both Shalimar the Clown and The Enchantress of Florence), and perhaps the best of his more rambunctious novels. 4.5 stars and clear shortlist material for the Booker and a possible winner, although not my favourite on the list.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,902 reviews220 followers
August 4, 2019
This book is a satire of life in the 21st century, covering contemporary issues such as immigration, globalization, multi-culturalism, celebrity, politics, religion, social media, opioids, racism, stalking, cyber hacking, and much more. It includes many pop-culture references, literary allusions, and socio-political commentary. Rushdie employs the idea behind Don Quixote, but this book is very different in tone and content, more like a riff on a theme.

The plot revolves around an author, Sam DuChamps, writing a book about Ismail Smile, an older traveling salesman whose alias is Quichotte (key-SHOTT). Through Quichotte’s obsession with television, he notices and “falls in love” with Miss Salma R, an Oprah-like talk show host of eastern Indian descent. Quichotte and his imaginary “son,” Sancho, set off on a journey to win her, but first he must pass through seven valleys of trials and purifications. As he travels across America, he encounters racially motivated harassment, a scientist working on a portal to an alternate reality, various people involved in opioid distribution, and mastodons running amok. DuChamps’s life mirrors the book he is writing (sans mastodons) and the twin stories eventually converge into an extravaganza of action.

It takes quite a while for the story to ramp up, as there are many moving parts, lots of characters, and two sets of narratives. It is a thinking person’s book involving a complex structure, critique of the dumbing down of critical thought, psychological insights on human nature, and musings on space and time. Rushdie employs elements of the picaresque, the metaphysical, and the absurd to make a point about the deterioration of society. He sprinkles in bits of humor along the way. It takes place mostly in the US, with smaller segments in the UK and India. The beginning chapters jump quickly from one thing to the next and the different threads start coming together at about the half-way point. It started off as a not-so-pleasant experience but gained momentum and became riveting near the end. I appreciate the literary merit in this work and admired Rushdie’s virtuosity in assembling this intricate mix of genres (contemporary literature, fantasy, science fiction) and themes. It requires effort on the reader’s part, but the payoff is worth it.

I picked up this book based on the strength of Golden House, the only other book by Rushdie that I’ve read. This book is very different. I don’t think it will appeal to everyone, and I imagine it will generate extreme reactions, but if you appreciate a romp through the absurd, you may enjoy it.

I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via NetGalley. This book is scheduled for release on September 3, 2019.
Profile Image for Trudie.
526 reviews561 followers
September 30, 2019
4.5
My first experience with Rushdie and I was quite taken by this one. It’s a crazy, sprawling meta-fictional ride with a little sci-fi / absurdist bent. It does traverse a porous line between fantasy and reality. There are Mastodons as a kind of social metaphor, alongside stinging indictments of modern day America, Britain and India. This novel has such breadth and yet remains funny, propulsive and grandly risky. I loved it !
Profile Image for Ace.
433 reviews23 followers
August 23, 2019
Ok, I have not read Don Quixote and now I am pretty sure I don't want to.

I found this story dull, the language long winded and the characters ridiculous. I kept reminding myself that I was reading Rushdie (accomplished and successful), but that didn't help.

I didn't like Midnight's Children and now I can say I didn't like this either. I am removing the rest of his books from my TBR!
Profile Image for Erin Glover.
455 reviews34 followers
September 13, 2019
The only thing I knew about Rushdie yesterday was that something like 30 years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran put a curse on him after he published a book, and Rushdie went into hiding, fearing for his life. I had not thought of Salman Rushdie since then, until Quichotte made the short list for the Booker prize. I’m reading all the nominees, so I picked up his latest novel.

As I began reading Quichotte, I held no preconceived notions about Rushdie or his writing. I held him to no higher (or lower) standard than any other author. I mention this because since I finished the novel, I’ve read several Quichotte reviews noting or implying that the reviewer considered Rushdie’s previous body of work. These reviewers seemed to expect a lot from him due to his numerous accolades. Not true for me, though I realize I may be admitting I’m not as well-read as I should be.

Well I finished Quichotte and I can say I’m thrilled I’ve discovered Rushdie, realizing many other discovered him a long time ago. I found Quichotte nothing short of extraordinary. Rushdie deftly handles multiple universal themes such as love and death, as well as several politically-charged themes like opiate addiction, racial identity, racial discrimination, and assisted suicide. On top of that, sections of the novel are laugh out loud funny. I mean that literally. I thoroughly enjoyed every page.

In short, since other reviewers do a great job of describing the facts of the story, Quicotte is a modern-day Don Quixote. I haven’t read Don Quixote (I’m admitting, once again, I’m not as well-read as I should be. At least it’s on my shelf) but the author says as much in the acknowledgements. However, instead of fixating on romantic novels as Don Quixote does, Quichotte fixates on television shows, admitting he often can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Some of the TV references are absolutely hilarious. Some are before my time and I didn’t really “get it.”

He’s on a love quest for a famous TV personality, think Indian Oprah. He’s in love though he hasn’t met Salma. He doesn’t know at first that Salma is addicted to pain killers, but his part-time gig as a pharmaceutical representative will pay off as he tries to get close to her. He thinks of past loves and wonders if they were “all shadows”…[m]aybe they were all characters in TV shows.” And so the story takes off.

The fascinating part is how deftly Rushdie juggles several big themes all at once, adding ball after ball, and never dropping any of them. His big theme is of course love, but it’s broader than romantic love. “Love makes the other more important than you. And the other isn’t necessarily an individual. It can be a town, a community, a country. It can be a football team or a car.”

He addresses love of country by discussing the Indian diaspora in the US and Britain. The love between siblings is very important when considering if a slight is “forgivable”. “How angry was she with Brother still? Was the unforgivable thing in fact forgivable or at least forgettable?” These themes are universal. Most of us can relate to wondering if a sibling’s offense is forgivable and wondering if there are such things as unforgivable events.

Rushdie really shines as a juggler when addressing the American opiate crisis, in particular fentanyl. “Fentanyl, monarch of opioid country, little king of the hill, top of the heap, A Number One.” In a hilarious scene where Salma gets ready to try the super-sized opioid,
she prepared…as if Casanova himself were about to enter her boudoir. She bathed, she shaved, she perfumed herself, she used lotion that her skin might not be ashy, she wove a single braid into her hair and let the rest flow down over her shoulders…
By laughing, we keep from crying, even though Rushdie is on to something when he says, “These days the only way to experience joy was through chemistry.”

In another entertaining scene, Quichotte comes to Berenger, New Jersey (a fictional town that disappears after a couple of scenes) which is overrun by mastodons. I’m quite sure Rushdie picked mastodons and not some other prehistoric creature for a reason. They are giant elephants, the symbol of Republicans. Rushdie is commenting on the rise of the far right in the US, and not commenting favorably. The proof is in Rushdie’s wording.

The town may have been happy before, people “looked like they got along. But now we see that many were mastodons under the skin.” This is a reference to the surfacing of white supremacists in America. Before Trump, these “mastodons” hid. Now, they unabashedly march in US streets.

“Once one has turned into a mastodon, he is utterly impervious to good sense. The mastodons refuse to believe that they have turned into horrible, surrealistic mutants, and they become hostile and aggressive, they take their children out of school, and have contempt for education.” Sound familiar? The increase in home schooling by those on the far right? Charlottesville?

“Already perhaps, the mastodons are in the Lincoln Tunnel and then all will be lost, perhaps all has already been lost.” Will Trump be overthrown in the next election, or is he already in the Lincoln Tunnel?

“Mastodons are creatures from the faraway past…and I don’t think many of us, especially the younger people, are interested in a return to the Stone Age.” This is a reference to how the younger generation is embracing Democratic Socialist ideas, new ideas, and they don’t want to go back to conservative politics.

Finally, at the end, in a wonderful metaphor, an “immigrant”, after a difficult struggle, makes it into the parallel world (the US), only to have its hope turned to despair “in this new continuum inhabited by what to it were super-colossi, giant mastodons…”, i.e., giant Republicans who don’t want them in their country. Have I convinced you yet? Regardless, I admire Rushdie’s metaphors and the hidden layers of meaning throughout the story.

Thanks to Quichotte, I’m officially a Rushdie fan now. I want more.
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