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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2004
The key to understanding "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" is to look at the context during which it was written. Salman Rushdie was in hiding, and on the run, after a fatwa had been placed on his head for writing the Satanic Verses. He was away from his wife and child (the latter for whom the book was written).
Essentially, "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" is a story about censorship. The protagonist participates in a war between the forces of speech and the forces of silence. There are two events which precipitate this war: 1) Princess Batcheet, of the land of storytellers (Gup), is kidnapped by the armies of the land of silence (Chup), and 2) the Ocean of the Streams of Stories, the source of all the stories in the world, is poisoned by the ruler of Chup.
The people of Gup are faced with a major decision. They only have resources to fight one battle and the question is often asked: "What is more important? The Story? Or the Storyteller?" Is the story more important than the ability to tell it and the person who is communicating it?
What is even more poignant in this tale is that Rushdie has made the Princess an unlikable character: she is ugly, has a screechy voice, and makes improper, invaluable, or disrespectful comments when she speaks. Rushdie was Princess Batcheet at the time this book was written. The price on his head was placed over improper, invaluable, or disrespectful comments (as viewed by some populations in the world) he had written in the Satanic Verses.
In the end, both the person and the stories are saved and Rushdie makes his crucial point: one could not exist without the other. Even though the princess is disliked, she is saved because all ideas must have the chance to be expressed- even ideas that have been deemed "bad" or "dangerous". Censorship kills the story and will eventually kill mankind.
Rushdie illustrates that freedom of speech is integral to the survival and evolution of our human culture. In a time when our world is becoming increasingly paranoid about expression and is enacting stricter laws to regulate the dissemination of ideas (perfect example: the fallout over Janet Jackson's Superbowl appearance), Rushdie's "Haroun and the Sea of Stories" stands out as a beacon to those who believe in freedom. This is such an inspirational book for children, and adults, to read. Rushdie is a man who risked his life to share his thoughts with the world- and he lived to tell a story about it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2004
I had to read this book for a humanities lit class. I found myself really enjoying it. It is a really excellent book. It kind of made me feel like a little kid. It is such a fantasy story, but it isn't written for kids. It was quite inspirational too, it made me feel like everything would be ok. I have recomended this book to two other people, they loved it too. I don't want to tell you any of the plot because it suprises you as you read it, but it is a really good book. One that I would recomend to anyone who asks what to read.
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on December 17, 2003
This is a tale for all kinds of public. It sure is for children but to teach them in the most attractive way imaginable what grown-ups will understand at once. Society is divided between the people who want to be happy and the leaders who want to control them into unhappiness because unhappiness makes people controllable. Hence the fight of a child and his father to restore happiness in the world, and happiness comes from stories, tales, sagas, and all other imaginative adventures that help people be free in their minds and then strong enough to impose their freedom in society. In other words it is a tool to make people strong and satisfied. Of course one could see an allusion to the moslem world and the dark forces who try to control the minds of the people in that part of the world. But it is a universal story too because it is not much more different in our own part of the world where politicians are just comptrollers in chief of our spirits and brains and imaginations and creativities for their own selfish interest. Brilliant and to be read by all those who believe there is a possible world beyond the world of the narrow and selfcentered and egocentric and bureaucratic interest of the few who use the many to satisfy their greed for power, money and cannibalistic domination.
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on April 13, 2003
This is the first Rushdie I have ever read. I had no idea what I was missing. Blending fantasy, science fiction, and satire in a visually stunning landscape, he gives us a blue-bearded Water Genie named Iff, a Hoopoe named Butt, and a range of people, places, and events governed by P2C2E (Processes Too Complicated To Explain).
Haroun bitterly asks his storyteller father, "What's the use of stories that aren't even true?" To compensate for this offense, he embarks on a fairytale journey where he learns how precious, rare, and powerful the human imagination is. The plot is similar to the movie The Never Ending Story, coupled with the literary traditions of Alice in Wonderland, the Phantom Tollbooth, and Willy Wonka.
The book was diverting enough to read on the bus yet underlying its entertainment value is a deadly serious subject. A boy's mother has just left him; his father has fallen from grace; the world is weeping and warring; and the little boy, Haroun, must decide "to be or not to be." He can bring peace to the planet with his powers of imagination. Can you?
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on March 11, 2003
The book I read was Haroun and the Sea of Stories. It was written by Salman Rushidie. The main characters in the book were Rashid Khalif(The Shaw of Blaw), Haroun Khalif, Iff, Butt the Hoope, Khattam Shud, Mali the Gardener, Bagha and Goody the Plentimaw fish, Prince Bob, Princess Batcheat, The Chupwalas and Blabbermouth. The book was very simple and I like Rushdie's style of writing. It flowed very smoothly. What I found quite appealing was how sometimes the sentences would rhyme, for example "All this bad taste! Too much dirt! Swimming in the ocean starts to hurt! Call me Bagha, this is Goopy, excuse our rudeness we feel rather droopy. Eyes fell rheumy! Throat feels sore! When were better, we'll talk some more. (Pg. 85) The use of humor, allusions, and satire throughout the book kept my attention for instances. "In it was a young woman with long, long hair with a circlet of gold and singing, please excuse, the ugliest soundest singing I have ever heard. In addition her teeth her nose..." (Pg. 102) I assume he was implying that her singing was as ugly she was .
In my opinion the theme of the book is "Stand up for what you believe in no matter what it takes." Ever since Haroun found out that his dad had lost his story telling powers, he never gave up on finding ways to make him get his powers back. He used extreme measures to retrieve the story telling powers for his father, like fighting a war for people he had just met because the Chupwalas were the ones who were polluting the sea of stories. He also fought this war so Iff the Water Jeannie would turn back on the story telling water and Rashid could tell his stories once again. Being a person who believes in the principle of chasing after your dreams and what you believe in, applaud Haroun for his actions. I think the author did an excellent job in portraying the theme of this book. I could relate and identify with Haroun because I would have done the same thing and would have made some of the same choices. Such as the choice to split up, Haroun took the shadow Khattam Shud and Rashid took the real one.
I would undoubtedly recommend this book. This charming masterpiece has the potential to be a timeless classic. It's a book for anyone who loves a good story. From the very beginning it pulls the reader in and engages them in the story. There is never a dull spot in this story it's funny and there's a battle between good and evil. What more could a reader want. I would recommend this book to readers from ages 14 and up, it's written in such simple terms anyone would understand it.
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on December 18, 2002
This was the first Rushdie book that I have read, but I am very impressed. He has an amazing knack for storytelling. It was evident that he had a plan in mind when he began writing the book rather than just letting the story meander without purpose like some authors are prone to do. This is the story of a boy named Haroun who tries to help his father, a storyteller, regain his ability to tell stories. His father had always told him that his storytelling abilities came from something called the "Sea of Stories". Haroun was surpised to find that this was, in fact a real sea located on the earth's elusive 2nd moon. Haroun travels there and is acquainted with magnificent characters such as the Water Genie, the flying mechanical bird the Hoopoe, the Shadow Warrior (who's shadow has a personality of it's own), Pages that look like pages. The book wouldn't be complete without a villain: Kattam Shud. It's the age-old story of good versus evil with a new twist. It's also a fanciful explanation of where good stories come from and how good stories get tainted. The book is quick-paced and can be read in 3 to 4 short sittings. It's not so much suspenseful as it is refreshing and enjoyable. However, why does Rushdie use apostrophes instead of quotation marks during dialogue?
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on December 13, 2002
Haroun's father, a storyteller, loses his ability to tell stories. For years, Haroun's father has told him that the wonderful stories came from drinking water from "the Sea of Stories". A faucet for this water (invisible to the naked eye) is installed exactly 6 inches above the basin of the sink. However, this seemed to be yet another fanciful story. Upon a chance run-in with his father's Water Genie, Haroun finds that the "Sea of Stories" does actually exist on the earth's second moon (that has eluded detection by being very fast). He goes on an amazing adventure to this second moon in search of a way to restore his father's ability to tell stories. This moon is full of colorful characters like the Shadow Warrior (who's shadow has a personality of it's own), the flying Hoopoe, Pages who are actually shaped like pages, and an ugly princess with a doting fiancé. And the story wouldn't be complete without a villain: Khattam-Shud. The story that Rushdie tells is the classic story of good versus evil (with a refreshing twist). It's a story about stories. The book is tightly crafted; everything has meaning. This was the first Rushdie book that I have read, and I vow to read more. He writes with beautiful simple prose. Although not suspenseful, this book was highly readable. It is pleasurable for it's simplicity and well-told story. It can easily be read in 3 to 4 short sittings. HAROUN & THE SEA OF STORIES is destined to be a classic.
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on July 3, 2002
"Haroun" was truly delightful and imaginitive, filled with witty puns and odd characters, plus loads of humor. Its warm-hearted, quirky, fun tone reminded me of Norton Juster's "The Phantom Tollbooth." I especially enjoyed the (hilarious at times) diction, choice of words, and imagery that made Haroun and his companions-- Iff the Water Genie, the Plentimaw fishes, and Mali the floating gardener, among others-- come alive, however strange they may have been. The intertwined storylines seem like many age-old tales spun together, (figuratively, in much the same fashion as the book's fantastic Streams of Story where stories are 'stored,' mingling and bubbling and twisting to create new), yet it is all refreshingly different and exciting! I was also surprised at the depth of interesting symbolism far transcending the normal good vs. evil and superficially-seeming wordplay. This is definitely a wonderful story, whether you would like to make exciting connections and revelations about symbolic theory, or are just in the mood for a bit of energizing light reading.
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on July 24, 2001
This delightful story becomes indomitable when you consider it was written while the author was in seclusion, constantly moved from one dwelling to another by British security in order to protect him from assassins.
In 1989, THE SATANIC VERSES came out and was answered with riots in several countries and a death sentence by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who was then the spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rushdie spent several years in hiding. His marriage did not survive, and in the separation and divorce, Rushdie (an unwilling hermit) lost contact with his young son, Zafar. This novel, his first novel after SATANIC VERSES, is dedicated to his son.
The story is about a celebrated storyteller ("the shah of blah") who loses his talent for improvising stories when his wife leaves him. Haroun, his son, is unwillingly pulled into an adventure involving an arduous journey to the sea of stories to vanquish a powerful enemy and reclaim his father's gift of gab.
What is the force of evil in this story? Silence. An enforced silence. The quashing of language, fantasy, satire - even the truth itself. Something Rushdie was experiencing in an episode much darker and more terrifying than any of the events in this joyful fable.
There are plenty of allegories and light-hearted commentary woven into the tapestry. The braying and strident Princess Batcheat is a bit much to put up with - as are the people we must sometimes defend on principles such as freedom of expression.
Written beautifully, with a masterful feel for language punning in English and Hindustani. Try reading it out loud. This is suitable for the young dreamers in your family, but that is not to underestimate the maturity of this work. It could only have come out of Rushdie's experience at that time, an incomprehensible event with severe personal costs. Out of that sadness, he opened his mouth and something joyful and indomitable appeared.
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on January 16, 2001
Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a wonderful fairytale, an adventure with depth. If I had been old enough to have children of my own, or had younger brothers and sisters, I would've read it to them. At the same time I have recommended the book to my English teacher to let people of my own age (18) read it as a part of their English studies, and to my English-studying grandmother. As a child can see it as a cool adventure, an adult can see its depth, and that is what is so great about it, everybody has got something to find. Many children's books gives little or nothing to the adult reader, but Haroun really does. Unfortunately, the Swedish translation is quite bad, and I fear other translations are too, as it is a hard book to translate. But even if English isn't your mother language, give Haroun a try, follow him to the moon of Kahani, help him saving the Sea of Stories and see the sad city turn happy. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is not a book that leaves you as you put it back on the shelf, Haroun will follow you home...
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