30 July, 2021

Newest Man From La Mancha

Rushdie borrows Cervantes’s many-mirrored structure to portray our post-truth world of leaky realities; it ends up as a mildly engaging treatise on exculpation

Newest Man From La Mancha

Salman Rushdie’s author-hero in Quichotte, Sam Duchamp, spawns Ismail Smile, modelled after Don Quixote—whose adve­n­tures Miguel de Cervantes said were substantially translated from an Arabic text by the Moorish aut­hor Cide Hamlet Benengeli who did not ever exist—who travels the post-truth US with his young but imaginary and wayward son, Sancho, in search of a TV hostess, Salma. He carries out his ambiguous but painful transactions in a world of “increasingly prevalent psychological disorder in which the boun­dary between truth and lies bec­ome smudged and indistinct….” You see the complexities of the plot?

Cervantes wrote his novel to bring back chivalry into a world that he thought could no longer tell it if it came tilting at it in full armour. Chivalry is not much if it is not a tragicomic individualistic ethic left to work its set of phantasmal worship-­rites in a society that ignores it if only because it could be seen as an arbitrary largesse of male patronage.

The individual in the world...

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