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8.2.11

À mon chevet: Haroun and the Sea of Stories

book cover
À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.
"Am I right?" Haroun asked his father. "Is this the place the story was about?" It made sense: Rashid was sad, so the Mist of Misery enveloped the swan-boat; and Snooty Buttoo was so full of hot air that it wasn't surprising he'd conjured up this boiling wind!

"The Moody Land was only a story, Haroun," Rashid replied. "Here we're somewhere real." When Haroun heard his father say only a story, he understood that the Shah of Blah was very depressed indeed, because only deep despair could have made him say such a terrible thing. [...]

Haroun decided there was nothing for it but to put his Moody Land theory into practice. "Okay," he shouted into the mist. "Everybody listen. This is very important: everybody, just stop talking. Not a word. Zip the Lips. Dead silence is very important, on the count of three, one, two, three." A new note of authority had come into his voice, which surprised him as much as anyone, and as a result the oarsmen and Buttoo, too, obeyed him without a murmur. At once the boiling breeze fell away, the thunder and lightning stopped. Then Haroun made a conscious effort to control his irritation at Snooty Buttoo, and the waves calmed down the instant he cooled off. The smelly mist, however, remained.

"Just do one thing for me," Haroun called to his father. "Just this one thing. Think of the happiest times you can remember. Think of the view of the Valley of K we saw when we came through the Tunnel of I. Think about your wedding day. Please." A few moments later that malodorous mist tore apart like the shreds of an old shirt and drifted away on a cool night breeze. The moon shone down once more upon the waters of the Lake. "You see," Haroun told his father, "it wasn't only a story, after all."

Rashid actually laughed out loud in delight. "You're a blinking good man in a tight spot, Haroun Khalifa," he said with an emphatic nod. "Hats off to you."

-- Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, pp. 48-50
This was the book that Salman Rushdie dedicated to his oldest son, following suit with a recently published book for his younger son, Luka and the Fire of Life. A son, Haroun, sees his storyteller father -- Rushdie's stand-in -- lose the narrative gift when his wife runs off with a neighbor. To save him, Haroun goes on an improbable voyage to the legendary source of all stories, places that he thought existed only in his father's tales. The sense of a child's adventure story is encoded within a literary framework, where words matter and brilliant wordplay and puns are part of the territory.

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