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Salman Rushdie’s Transgressive Heroines

By: Arpa Ghosh

"Once a year, my mother Aurora Zogoiby liked to dance higher than the gods . . . Her white hair flying out around her in long loose exclamations . . ., her exposed belly not ond-bad-fat but fitcat-flat, her bare feet stamping, her ankles a-jingle with silver jhunjhuna bell-bracelets, snapping her neck from side to side, speaking incomprehensible volumes with her hands, the great painter danced her defiance, she danced her contempt for the perversity of humankind . . .." The Moor’s Last Sigh

In almost all his major novels Salman Rushdie has depicted transgressive heroines who have flouted sexual, ideological and political conventions, giving primacy to desire over decorum. For him literature is not about portraying reality, but about disrupting and subverting it. The paper deals majorly with two novels: The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995) and Shalimar the Clown (2005). Both novels have heroines who refuse to live by the rules and pay for their nonconformism with their lives. Aurora Zogoiby is an artist, while Boonyi is a folk dancer. Aurora expresses herself through her palimpsest art, while Boonyi’s transgression is sexual. If there is a line Boonyi and Aurora make it a point to step across it and, by doing so, lay open certain key issues about multiculturalism that is in the process of gradually and systematically getting destroyed by Bombay (currently Mumbai) and Kashmir. Aurora and Boonyi are lively women, greedy in their zest for life. At the same time, they are heavily allegorized characters. The paper explores how women become the repository of Rushdie’s blasted dreams, aporias of his relentless interrogation of lines and boundaries across communal, religious and political lines.

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