Women and the Subject of Rushdie's Shame

[Added by George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University]

Once upon a time there were two families, their destinies inseparable even by death. I had thought, before I began, that what I had on my hands was an almost excessively masculine tale, a saga of sexual rivalry, ambition, power, patronage, betrayal;, death, revenge. But the women seem to have taken over; they marched in from the peripheries of the story to demand the inclusion of their own tragedies, histories and comedies, obliging me to couch my narrative in all manner of sinuous complexities, to see my 'male' plot refracted, so to speak, through the prisms of its reverse and 'female' side. It occurs to me that the women knew precisely what they were up to -- that their stories explain, and even subsume, the men's. Repression is a seamless garment; a society which is authoritarian in its social and sexual codes, which crushes its women beneath the intolerable burdens of honour and propriety, breeds repressions of other kinds as well. Contrariwise: dictators are always -- or at least in public, on other people's behalf, -- puritanical. So it turns out that my 'male' and 'female' plots are the same story, after all.

I hope it goes with out saying that not all women are crushed by any system, no matter how oppressive. It is commonly and, I believe, accurately said of Pakistan that her women are much more impressive than her men . . . their chains, nevertheless, are no fictions. They exist. And they are getting heavier." [189]

How do you relate this characteristically postmodern, self-consciously humorous comment to Rushdie's explanation of the origins of of the story in a London murder because of shame?

Postcolonial Web Pakinstan OV Rushdie OV Shame OV

Last Modified: 18 March, 2002