Every time I read one of Rushdie's novels I come away enlightened and amazed, and certainly reading the literary masterpiece The Moor's Last Sigh is no exception.
Perhaps one of Rushdie's more accessible novels, the story follows a more conventional narrative, although to call anything Rushdie writes conventional is inaccurate. In this case the story follows a family history, that of the Zoigoby clan, which takes us into Jewish, Moorish, Spanish and Indian heritage, illuminating perfections and defects of the body, mind and spirit. There is very much a theme of isolation of spirit and intellect in this novel, of loneliness despite crowded and intimate environments. In conjunction with that Rushdie marries political unrest to to restless spirits, so that both microcosmic and macrocosmic time flow around and through each other, so that one has a sense of a ship tossed upon a boundless sea.
As always there is a fluid and adept use of language and phraseology that defies every literary convention, and in doing so creates breathtaking art. One comes away wanting to memorize phrases for their utter beauty and sagacity. But let it not be thought this is a novel only of high art, for certainly throughout the story Rushdie's irreverent and incisive wit prevail, so that at times I caught myself bursting into laughter.
I would have to say that if a person is new to Rushdie's work, The Moor's Last Sigh would be a perfect introduction.
Highly recommended, and certainly a novel that should be a staple in anyone's library.
on April 8, 2001
Anyone taken film rights? It should be a Hindi movie, that's for sure. Just with some added sophistication and mind madness! Salman Rusdie successfully keeps readers at the edge of their seats in this Bold and the Beautiful meets the Indian Brady Bunch family saga described entirely by the youngest member of the Zogioby CLAN if we can call it that. There are some things which are bizarre,such as the Moor's aging. But there are many descriptions and lines in the book that can touch any soul. It teaches that life should never be taken for granted, the Moor is the best example, he lived every year like they were two, and he had still accomplished so much in his short life. ONe of my favourite lines is "defeated love is still a treasure,and those who choose lovelessness have won no victory at all!" tells me to take risks in life, so not be so afraid of what bad might happen. to just LIVE. For those who enjoy a family story engulfed by love, jealousy, money, corruption, insanity and art this is the story for you. ENJOY!
on December 29, 2000
Salman Rushdie's chronicle of the da Gama-Zoigby merchant family wends its way from the 1492 expulsion, by Ferdinand and Isabella, of Moslems and Jews from Spain to modern India, where Hindu nationalists seek to define non Hindus out of India, back to Spain where the narrator is imprisoned by a mad Moor. It's two broadest themes seem to be: (1) that religious identity is not that important or, at least, should not be considered that important; and (2) that the modern age (1492 you will readily recall is the year that Columbus sailed) has been uniquely defined by such religious intolerance. One can obviously understand that a writer who is living under threat of death for blaspheming Mohammed would feel this way, however, he is wrong on both counts.
As to the first point, individuals are defined by their religious/moral beliefs and cultures are defined by the dominant religious/moral beliefs of their members. Mr. Rushdie seems to relish turning religious characters into evil caricatures; Abraham, for instance, is portrayed as the kind of evil Jewish criminal overlord that we would sooner expect to find in 1930's Nazi propaganda. He seems to believe that serious religious beliefs necessarily warp the soul & make believers evil. It's odd that this author who is so widely celebrated as a victim of religious intolerance, is himself so intolerant of others.
In fact, there's a weird sort of dissonance in the outrage we hear from Mr. Rushdie and his defenders. On the one hand, they loudly declare the importance of free expression and the right to broadcast ideas, no matter how objectionable. But on the other hand, they react in horror to the fact that ideas & speech have consequences. Mr. Rushdie, like a neo-Nazi or a flag burner or a Klansman, has a right to propound his ideas. But having spewed forth his hate speech, he should not expect to be immune from the violent reactions of those he attacks. Ideas have consequences. If you aren't willing to cope with the consequences, don't express your ideas. Along with the right to speak, comes the right to shut up.
As to the second point, The Moor did breath his final sigh at the start of the Modern Age, but Mr. Rushdie's focus on the expulsion of Jews and Moors from Spain is misplaced and his interpretation of that moment as being fundamentally about a birth of intolerance is inaccurate. We date the Modern Age (specifically The Renaissance) to this time period because, with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire, the Christian Church was forced back into the heart of Europe and brought forgotten texts and learning back West with it. Also, the Colombian voyages opened a New World & unleashed tremendous energies in Europe. But most importantly, it was during these years that Martin Luther's teachings and Guttenburg's printing press brought about a democratization of religion and learning. These were the really important causes of the Modern Age, the resurrection of Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella was more symptomatic of the general rise of Europe than causative of the Modern Age.
Moreover, far from leading to an age of intolerance, the opening of the New World, the birth of Protestantism and the widespread access to learning provided by the printing press, all had the effect of allowing for greater differences in religious beliefs. The press put religious texts into people's hands, Luther vindicated their right to read them & develop their own understandings of their meaning and the New World provided a safety valve for those who would previously have been destroyed as heretics, to flee & establish their own communities of like believers. Mr. Rushdie's attempt to square the circle and equate the rise of fundamentalist Islam and Hindu nationalism with the rise of Europe, is profoundly wrong.
Instead, these two spasms of intolerance are more readily comparable to the Inquisition. Against the great tide of the Reformation and Renaissance, the Catholic Church tried to interpose a breakwater of intolerant conformity, but it was doomed to failure. Similarly, fundamentalist Islam and nationalist Hinduism will ultimately be swamped by the tides of Protestantism, Capitalism and Democracy.
Mr. Rushdie should recognize that the forces of history are on his side, relax a little, and return to writing less portentous fictions like his Carrollesque Haroun and the Sea of Stories, to which, incidentally, his little word plays are better suited.
on December 17, 2000
I have read both 'Satanic Verses' and 'Midnight's Children in the past, adoring and recommending both to a host of friends and relatives. Rushdie has a way with words, and capturing the attention of the reader with his blend of magic realism and poetry.
So it was with this high opinion that I began one of his latest and less contriversal novels, and my soaring opinion of the man and his beautiful books only began to rise once I had completed this novel. There is no greater modern writer than Rushdie, perhaps with the exception of the magic realism master Marquez. It is evident in Rushdie's books that he feeds off Marquez, and he undoubtedly does so with his own fine balance of wit, humility and intellect, and this book is the finest example of Rushdie's continuing brillance against adversity and scrunity.
Rushdie indeed deserved the award for 'Booker of Bookers', however I wonder whether a better choice would have been the 'Moor's Last Sigh', which matches, if not overtakes 'Midnight's Children' in terms of enjoyment and brillance.
Wonderful, full and rich by an author who continues to astonish me and so many others.
on September 4, 2000
This was my fifth Rushdie book (after Midnight, Satanic, East and Haroun). I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. While Rushdie's prose is, as always, to be admired, I felt that some of the word play was a bit too simplistic this time around (for example, the obvious reference to the racist second line "catch a nigger by his toe" of the British verse by naming the four children Ina, Minnie, Mynah and Moor").
The story itself is staged like a bad Bollywood film. While the novel does feature some intriguing characters (such as the hilarious Helsing, the detective Dim Mento who seems straight out of a dime novel and the insane Ima) that are fun and gleefully cartoonish (even for Rushdie!), the lengthy family history reads like a retread of Midnight's Children. Whereas Midnight masterfully tied in the events of the family into Indian history, the events of the Zogoiby line are simply actions of amoral characters that never take on the high drama Rushdie is aiming for. And while Rushdie does allow us to sympathize with the narrator, I felt that the lackluster plotline had me reading Moor for the sake of reading it. For the first time, I was unable to truly delve into the world that Rushdie was presenting to us.
Another problem lies with the formulaic tying-up of plot threads. Rushdie presents some intriguing religious dynamics early on (a man caught between several conflicting religions), but fails to pay it off, prefering to concentrate on a surprisingly formulaic stint with the underworld.
There are some interesting metaphors for the Western cultural invasion of India (Abraham in the COD tower reminded me of Howard Hughes). But ultimately Rushdie is too convinced that his story is of the utmost importance and it prevents his characters from becoming as organic as his previous works.
However, given some of the larger-than-life characters, it will be interesting to see how this develops in his future books.
Recommended for Rushdie fans only. Others should check out Rushdie's best work, Midnight's Children.
on July 15, 2000
In a careful and calculated manner, The Moor's Last Sigh leaps across four generations of a rich and demented Indian family, weaving an exquisitely-crafted tapestry of murder and suicide, atheism and asceticism, affection and adultery.
The first person narrator of this cynical yet mischievous book is Moraes Zogoiby, aka "Moor," who, seemingly unaffected by his asthma, spins his tale sitting atop a tombstone within sight of the Alhambra in Spain and pursued by a policeman named--like the holy city of Islam--Medina.
The centerpiece of this captivating and gorgeous novel is Moor's highly dysfunctional family, a Grand Guignol of good and evil, the deformations of the spirit wrought by love withered or love withheld and the beauty and violence of art, all representative of the tortured history of twentieth century India.
Moor, himself, is the champion of miscegenation and cultural melange, bastards and cross-breeds. Standing six and one-half feet tall, Moor has a withered right hand and, like India, he grows too fast, twice the rate of a normal human being. A thirty-six year old elderly man, still in love with a deceitful (and deceased) woman, Moor exhibits the body of a none-too-healthy seventy-two year old. His bloodline, too, is as crowded and diverse as India, herself.
Moor is the son of Abraham Zogoiby, a South Indian Jew who is probably the illegitimate descendant of Boabdil, the last Muslim Sultan of Granada and the celebrated artist, Aurora da Gama, a Christian claiming descent from the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama.
Abraham and Aurora's love first carries them to the dizzying, hyperbolic heights of fame and power, then plunges them into depths reminiscent of Lucifer's expulsion from Paradise. The blood of the Zogoiby family is indeed tainted--with murder, adultery and lies--and they, in turn, infect everyone they encounter.
A tragic figure, Moor nevertheless reveals a wickedly comic streak, as Rushdie combines high art with gaudy jags that refer to the pop cultures of India, America and Britain. Although most Rushdie readers are well-versed in multi-cultural sociology, even the most erudite may have to struggle with this book's obscure, inside jokes and satire.
Disorientation also can occur as Rushdie leaps across time zones, from present to recent past to near future to ancient history. These time shifts, however, play an integral role in explaining each of Moor's vignettes and relating their importance to the story as a whole.
Among the many dualities threading their way through The Moor's Last Sigh, is the one of good art versus bad. The book's title actually refers to two paintings entitled, The Moor's Last Sigh. One is painted by Aurora, the other by her one-time-admirer-turned-nemesis, Vasco Miranda. Aurora's work is a masterpiece, the last in a series of allegorical paintings in which her son serves as subject. It becomes the symbol that finally gives Moor the humanity he so desires. Miranda's, on the other hand, is a sentimental kitsch of Sultan Boabdil's final departure from Granada. Which one best typifies Moor? In a sense, both do.
The narrative, as can be expected from a Rushdie novel, is filmy but faultless: a magical mixture of fact and fable, fantasy and absurdity, comedy and tragedy. Despite its brilliant touches of comedy, the tone remains dark, solemn and sober. Peopled with a wide range of characters, even when parodic and allegorical, they retain their essential humanness.
In the end, Rushdie really does paint Moor as a prophet, though one whose messianic calling looks not to the arrival of God but of the better self in all of us, the reconciliation of our mongrel ethics and spirituality.
A timely and compelling novel full of contradictions and complexities, The Moor's Last Sigh begs the reader to look beyond its impeccably composed plot to the discordant richness that typifies postcolonial India today.
on July 10, 2000
Mr. Rushdie is very emphatic through the novel about the wickedness off all its characters, and how the concept of morality and respect are somehow alien to all of them. However, it is very difficult to feel any kind of animosity towards those beings, or to internalize their anguish, because all their actions are simultaneously justified so you have the feeling that eventhough the events of the novel are dramatic, in the end actions do not matter, because those who suffer the consequences are not worthy of any pity.
I guess that the book also demands a great knowledge of Indian XX century history, particularly after its independence, in order to capture and enjoy the irony and sort of black humor that runs parallel with the Zogoisby's family saga.
Finally, it is advisable to read this book with a good English dictionary by your side, even your native language is English ,because the author will demand form the reader to be immersed in the story as well as its idiom.
on June 13, 2000
Opinion Rating: Your opinion Sighing...
by: beoram (Sat Dec 18 '99)
Pros: very well written, wonderful characters Cons: may be too complicated for some readers, especially those unfamiliar with India
'Moor' Zogoiby, the protagonist, is very reminescent of Salman Rushdie himself. Like Moor, Rushdie knows about a life spent in banishment from normal society--Rushdie because of the fatwa that followed The Satanic Verses, Moor because he ages at twice the rate of normal humans. Yet Moor's story of travail is bigger than Rushdie's; it encompasses a grand struggle between good and evil while Moor himself stands as allegory for Rushdie's home country of India. Filled with wordplay and ripe with humour, it is an epic work, and Rushdie has the tools to pull it off. Moor is only son of a wealthy, artistic Bombay family, finds himself at crisis point. After a tragic love affair, 'Moor' plunges into a life of depravity in Bombay before leaving for involvement in financial scandal in London and, in the end, violence in Spain involving a childhood friend. Rushdie has received some heavy criticism from Indian reviewers for not 'being true' to the image of India. However, one suspects Rushdie does not intend to give a journalistic account of India, or anything else for that matter, but rather to create a possible world, which resembles this one, in many important respects. Furthermore, this 'fantasy' world can be more meaningful for its having been simplified in some respects and complicated in others. Salman Rushdie revisits some of the same ground he covered in his greatest novel, Midnight's Children. He earned a 1995 Whitbread Prize for his efforts.
on January 27, 2000
Even if you only read the first chapter I think you can grasp half of what it is to read Salman Rushdie. His artistic and compelling prose... the story aside is quite compelling even if you never finish the book. I did finish the book and admittedly I am fairly new to Rushdie and have little overall critical sense of his work (possibly a good thing) but I have many good things to say about this particular book. But the most interesting thing I can say is that it messes with your mind. I have yet to grasp the full meaning of Rushdie's intentions but I actually found myself overwhelmed by the books closing chapters. Arranged as a folk story type historical myth the book contains a sense of destiny and propriety. I was always expecting the narrator Moraes Zogoiby (Moor) to reach his fulfillment in some greater plot somehow tying up his uncanny double-speed rate of growth. But in the end the book apparently closing not happy but satisfying and destined ending becomes a bloodfilled tragedy. The scale of which is startling. It is this seeming transformation that I find most striking and hence positive in the book. In my opinion anyway... you are welcome to disagreeafy with me.
on June 28, 1999
Being not only a reader but believer in the supernatural, I found The Moor's Last Sigh to be an extraordinary lesson in the power of the sublime. Rushdie's masterful manipulation of the English language is so amazingly poetic and unparalleled that it was hard to stray from its magical grasp. He is a master of metaphor and colour capable of carrying the reader into active participation in the dream. If you have read previous Rushdie novels, Arundhati Roy, Carlos Casteneda, Ana Castillo, etc... read this. The heart of Moraes Zogoiby is one of a tormented child X 2. The world surrounding the Moor is one of hatred, envy, madness, and betrayal. The Moor reminds me of Dr. Frankenstein's creation who is gentle and intelligent, spurned from society due to his double deformity, and capable of loving but driven by those around him into a life of predicaments and turns beyond his control. This is no doubt an inspirational novel of triumph over life's undue cruelties. Remember your compassion. God bless the Moor.