From one of the leading literary figures of our time, a gripping international tale of love and revenge, and the ancient and modern conflicts from which they spring.
Los Angeles, 1991. Ambassador Maximilian Ophuls, one of the makers of the modern world, is murdered in broad daylight on his illegitimate daughter India's doorstep, slaughtered by a knife wielded by his Kashmiri Muslim driver, a mysterious figure who calls himself Shalimar the clown. The dead man is a charismatic World War Two Resistance hero, a man of formidable intellectual ability, a former US ambassador to India and subsequently America's counter-terrorism chief. The murder looks at first like a political assassination, but turns out to be passionately personal.
This is the story of Max Ophuls, his killer and his daughter -- and of a fourth character, the woman who links them, whose story finally explains them all. It is an epic narrative that moves from California to Kashmir, from Nazi-occupied Europe to the world of modern terrorism. Along the way there is kindness, and magic capable of producing miracles; there is also war -- ugly, unavoidable and seemingly interminable. And there is always love, gained and lost, uncommonly beautiful and mortally dangerous.
Everything is unsettled. Everything is connected. Lives are uprooted, names keep changing -- nothing is permanent. The story of anywhere is also the story of everywhere else. Spanning the globe and darting through history, Rushdie's narrative captures the heart of the reader and the spirit of a troubled age. "The second portent came on the morning of the murder, when Shalimar the driver approached Max Ophuls at breakfast, handed him his schedulecard for the day, and gave in his notice. The ambassador's drivers tended to be short-term appointees, inclined to move on to new adventures in pornography or hairdressing, and Max was inured to the cycle of acquisition and loss. This time, however, he was shaken, though he did not care to show it. He concentrated on his day's appointments, trying not to let the card shake. He knew Shalimar's real name. He knew the village he came from and the story of his life. He knew the intimate connection between his own scandalous past and this grave unscandalous man who never laughed in spite of the creased eyes that hinted at a happier past, this man with a gymnast's body and a tragedian's face who had slowly become more of a valet than a mere driver, a silent yet utterly solicitous body servant who understood what Max needed before he knew it himself, the lighted cigar that materialized just as he was reaching for the humidor, the right cuff-links that were laid out on his bed each morning with the perfect shirt, the ideal temperature for his bathwater, the right times to be absent as well as the correct moments to appear. The ambassador was carried back to his Strasbourgeois childhood years in a Belle Epoque mansion near the now-destroyed old synagogue, and found himself marvelling at the rebirth in this man from a distant mountain valley. . . .
--from Shalimar the Clownshow more