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Cosmopolitanism and the sonic imaginary in Salman Rushdie

Mishra, V.ORCID: 0000-0002-0193-9736 (2015) Cosmopolitanism and the sonic imaginary in Salman Rushdie. In: Anjaria, U., (ed.) A History of the Indian Novel in English. Cambridge University Press, pp. 177-192.

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Like a ghostly specter, modernity's greatest art form, cinema, haunts and invades Salman Rushdie's critical as well as creative corpus. The haunting presence is not limited just to cinema's visual presence; it is there through its sonic style as well. No better proof of this is available than in Rushdie's own notes and papers. In the Emory University Salman Rushdie archive, ten great films are mentioned on a single typed sheet (written quite possibly at the time Rushdie had finished a first draft of The Satanic Verses [1988] – that is, in February–March 1988). The films noted on Rushdie's list were made between 1954 and 1965 – a period marked by a modernist, cosmopolitan, art-house aesthetics that pushed the European avant-garde (with its surrealist foundations) to the limit. One of the striking features of these films, which include Fellini's 8½(1963) and Godard's Alphaville (1965), is the space given to cities. But their representation is not simply visual; there is a symphonic architecture about them, as music both mediates and provides extradiegetic acoustics for the mechanical sounds of the city (cars, trains) and the organic sounds of the human world. Visual literalism works with sonic literalism as cities reconfigure cinema aesthetics. Rushdie's Emory list, with its avant-garde, city bias, resurfaces in The Satanic Verses as it receives near replication in Saladin Chamcha's list of his favorite films. Responding to Gibreel Farishta, Saladin Chamcha (“Spoono”) offers a list of films that are all “conventional cosmopolitan”: “Potemkin, Kane, Otto e Mezzo, The Seven Samurai, Alphaville, El Angel Exterminador.” Gibreel is critical of Saladin's choices (“You've been brainwashed…. All this Western art-house crap,” he says) because his own “top ten of everything came from ‘back home,' and was aggressively lowbrow. Mother India, Mr India, Shree Charsawbees.” In a curious reversal of aesthetic judgment, Gibreel tells Saladin that his conventional cosmopolitan choice reflected a head “so full of junk… you forgot everything worth knowing” (454)...

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Copyright: © 2015 Cambridge University Press
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