The Wink of the Simurg (in progress)

Preface & Contents


This section focuses on Salman Rushdie's early novels. Much of the material is reworked from my Ph.D thesis (UBC 1996) and from my book Stranger Gods (McGill-Queen's 2001). I'm still in the process of simplifying the language, adding graphic elements, increasing the coverage of his later (21st century) novels, and adding 'plot boxes' or plot summaries. I cover the novels chronologically, so the 'plot boxes' are in sequential order, although they are also collected in Plot Boxes & Maps

Throughout, I focus on Rushdie's use of cosmology, mythology, and mysticism, or what I call otherworldy paradigms. Examples of these include cosmic settings such as Purgatory or Eden, mythic figures such as djinns or Odin, and mystical situations such as the flight of Attar's thirty birds to Mount Qaf or the union of Shiva and Parvati on Mount Kailasa. I argue that Rushdie uses such paradigms not so much in a consistent way, but with a consistent aim. He may respect paradigms or may turn them on their heads; they may clash or they may fuse. Yet his aim is almost always the same: to promote a creative, open, secular, iconoclastic, democratic, liberal, humanist view of the world.


Timeline A: 2500 BC - 1300 AD Timeline B: 1300 BC - 2020 AD 

Plot Boxes & Maps Bibliography 


❧ An Inaccessible Circumference - Other Worlds - Cosmology, Mythology, & Mysticism in the Sundarbans - Fusion & Clash

❧ The Rise of the Simurg - The Huge Scenic Background - Attar's Valley - 4 Points - GrimusSimurg with the Letters All Mixed Up

❧ The Return of the Simurg - The Simurg Eclipsed - The Simurg Returns

❧ Four Points - Secularism - The Road to Hell - A Noticeable Shift - A Disturbing Conflation

❧ When Worlds Collide - Iconoclasm - Doubt & Belief - Spiritual Flight  

❧ Disruptions of the Sacred - Hierophanies - Polysymbolism - Hinduism & Daoism


Introduction - Multiple Journeys - Attar's Qaf

Beginnings - The Chameleon Flies the Coop — Virgil & Eliot — Iconoclastic Initiations


Introduction: History & Myth - A Different Type of Novel - Racing Against Time - Family Lines & Mythic Cycles

❧ The Road from Kashmir - Attar & the Loss of Eden - Plot Box: An Anxious Saleem Writes about his Grandfather's Return to Kashmir - Plot Box: Attar's Journey & Midnight's Children - Mystical Gems

❧ Amina & the Silver Spittoon - Plot Box: Amina & Nadir - Lapis Lazuli and the Free Islam Conference - Amina & the Monsters -


 The Layers Beneath - Repression & Revolt - The Double-bill of Mahmoud’s Destruction - Covering Up History- Cosmic Horror - Omar & the Weird Sisters - ❧ 

The Satanic Verses  

Haroun and the Sea of Stories