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The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie
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The Moor's Last Sigh (original 1995; edition 2006)

by Salman Rushdie

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2,803212,081 (3.87)117
Member:PaulCranswick
Title:The Moor's Last Sigh
Authors:Salman Rushdie
Info:Vintage (2006), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library, Modern Fiction, To read
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The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie (1995)

  1. 00
    Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (wrmjr66)
    wrmjr66: I think The Moor's Last Sigh is Rushdie's best book since Midnight's Children.
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English (20)  Dutch (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
My first Rushdie - and what a book! The man gushes creativity!
The first half of the book is just about flawless - a wonderful family history of the most vivid characters - not all good or all bad, but good and bad in very believable ways; not constant, but very humanly inconsistent. And the story line woven from these characters is just as compelling as the characters themselves, with a weaving of the current characters into a backdrop of historical references.
The second half of the book isn't quite as good. The word play and flourishes become a little undergraduate - the Cashondeliveri family, and the four siblings named in accordance with eeny, meenie, mynie and mo. And the story line goes a little overboard - the Moor's life is lived at double speed - his bood is 40 years old when he turns 20; the patriarch extends his successful business career into drug smuggling and nuclear weapon proliferation.
But even with flaws this was a wonderful read.
Read March 2016 ( )
  mbmackay | Mar 12, 2016 |
The Moor's Last Sigh is a novel about modern India. Its hero is Moraes Zogoiby of Bombay, nicknamed by his mother "the Moor." But the famous sigh to which the title refers was breathed five centuries ago, in 1492, when Muhammad XI, last sultan of Andalusia, bade farewell to his kingdom, bringing to an end Arab-Islamic dominance in Iberia. Fourteen ninety-two was the year, too, when the Jews of Spain were offered the choice of baptism or expulsion; and when Columbus, financed by the royal conquerors of the Moor, Ferdinand and Isabella, sailed forth to discover a new route to the East.

From Sultan Muhammad a line of descent, partly historical, partly fabulous, leads to Moraes, the narrator, who in 1992 will return from the East to "discover" Andalusia. In a dynastic prelude occupying the first third of the novel, Moraes's genealogy is traced back as far as his great-grandparents, the da Gamas. Francisco da Gama is a wealthy spice exporter based in Cochin in what is now Kerala State. A progressive and a nationalist, he soon disappears from the action (Rushdie gives short shrift to characters whose usefulness has ended), but his wife Epifania, faithful to "England, God, philistinism, the old ways," survives to trouble succeeding generations and to utter the curse that will blight the life of the unborn Moraes.

Their son Camoens, after flirting with Communism, becomes a Nehru man, dreaming of an independent, unitary India which will be "above religion because secular, above class because socialist, above caste because enlightened." He dies in 1939, though not before he has had a premonition of the violent, conflict-riven India that will in fact emerge.

The Moor's Last Sigh is a novel about modern India. Its hero is Moraes Zogoiby of Bombay, nicknamed by his mother "the Moor." But the famous sigh to which the title refers was breathed five centuries ago, in 1492, when Muhammad XI, last sultan of Andalusia, bade farewell to his kingdom, bringing to an end Arab-Islamic dominance in Iberia. Fourteen ninety-two was the year, too, when the Jews of Spain were offered the choice of baptism or expulsion; and when Columbus, financed by the royal conquerors of the Moor, Ferdinand and Isabella, sailed forth to discover a new route to the East.

From Sultan Muhammad a line of descent, partly historical, partly fabulous, leads to Moraes, the narrator, who in 1992 will return from the East to "discover" Andalusia. In a dynastic prelude occupying the first third of the novel, Moraes's genealogy is traced back as far as his great-grandparents, the da Gamas. Francisco da Gama is a wealthy spice exporter based in Cochin in what is now Kerala State. A progressive and a nationalist, he soon disappears from the action (Rushdie gives short shrift to characters whose usefulness has ended), but his wife Epifania, faithful to "England, God, philistinism, the old ways," survives to trouble succeeding generations and to utter the curse that will blight the life of the unborn Moraes.

Their son Camoens, after flirting with Communism, becomes a Nehru man, dreaming of an independent, unitary India which will be "above religion because secular, above class because socialist, above caste because enlightened." He dies in 1939, though not before he has had a premonition of the violent, conflict-riven India that will in fact emerge.


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The Moor's Last Sigh is a novel about modern India. Its hero is Moraes Zogoiby of Bombay, nicknamed by his mother "the Moor." But the famous sigh to which the title refers was breathed five centuries ago, in 1492, when Muhammad XI, last sultan of Andalusia, bade farewell to his kingdom, bringing to an end Arab-Islamic dominance in Iberia. Fourteen ninety-two was the year, too, when the Jews of Spain were offered the choice of baptism or expulsion; and when Columbus, financed by the royal conquerors of the Moor, Ferdinand and Isabella, sailed forth to discover a new route to the East.

From Sultan Muhammad a line of descent, partly historical, partly fabulous, leads to Moraes, the narrator, who in 1992 will return from the East to "discover" Andalusia. In a dynastic prelude occupying the first third of the novel, Moraes's genealogy is traced back as far as his great-grandparents, the da Gamas. Francisco da Gama is a wealthy spice exporter based in Cochin in what is now Kerala State. A progressive and a nationalist, he soon disappears from the action (Rushdie gives short shrift to characters whose usefulness has ended), but his wife Epifania, faithful to "England, God, philistinism, the old ways," survives to trouble succeeding generations and to utter the curse that will blight the life of the unborn Moraes.

Their son Camoens, after flirting with Communism, becomes a Nehru man, dreaming of an independent, unitary India which will be "above religion because secular, above class because socialist, above caste because enlightened." He dies in 1939, though not before he has had a premonition of the violent, conflict-riven India that will in fact emerge.


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Camoens's daughter Aurora falls in love with a humble Jewish clerk, Abraham Zogoiby. Neither Jewish nor Christian authorities will solemnize their marriage, so their son Moraes is raised "neither as Catholic nor as Jew,...a jewholic-anonymous." Abandoning the declining Jewish community of Cochin, Abraham transfers the family business to Bombay and settles in a fashionable suburb, where he branches out into more lucrative activities: supplying girls to the city's brothels, smuggling heroin, speculating in property, trafficking in arms and eventually in nuclear weapons.

In Rushdie's hands Abraham is little more than a comic-book villain. Aurora, however, is a more complex character, in many ways the emotional center of the book. A painter of genius but a distracted mother, she suffers intermittent remorse for not loving her children enough, but prefers finally to see them through the lens of her art. Thus Moraes is worked into a series of her paintings of "Mooristan," a place where (in Aurora's free and easy Indian English) "worlds collide, flow in and out of one another, and washofy away.... One universe, one dimension, one country, one dream, bumpo'ing into another, or being under, or on top of. Call it Palimpstine." In these paintings, with increasing desperation, she tries to paint old, tolerant Moorish Spain over India, overlaying, or palimpsesting, the ugly reality of the present with "a romantic myth of the plural, hybrid nation."

Aurora's paintings give a clear hint of what Rushdie is up to in this, his own "Palimpstine" project: not overpainting India in the sense of blotting it out with a fantasy alternative, but laying an alternative, promised-land text or texturation over it like gauze.


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But The Moor's Last Sigh is not an optimistic book, and the paintings of Aurora's high period become darker and darker. Into them she pours not only her unexpressed maternal love but also "her larger, prophetic, even Cassandran fears for the nation." Her last painting, which gives the book its title, shows her son "lost in limbo like a wandering shade: a portrait of a soul in Hell."

Moraes is born under the curse of two witch-grandmothers, so it is no surprise that he is a prodigy, with a clublike right hand and a metabolism that dooms him to live "double-quick," growing—and aging—twice as fast as ordinary mortals. Kept apart from other children, he receives his sexual initiation at the hands of an attractive governess and soon discovers he is a born storyteller: telling stories gives him an erection.

Venturing into the world, he is caught in the toils of the beautiful but evil rival artist Uma Sarasvati. A pawn in the war between this demon mistress and his mother, Moraes first finds himself expelled from his parental home and then—after some complicated stage business involving true and false poison capsules—in jail, accused of Uma's murder. Released, he joins the Bombay underworld as a strikebreaker and enforcer in the pay of one Raman Fielding, boss of a Hindu paramilitary group whose off-duty evenings sound like Brownshirt get-togethers in Munich, with "arm-wrestling and mat-wrestling...[until] lubricated by beer and rum, the assembled company would arrive at a point of sweaty, brawling, raucous, and finally exhausted nakedness."

Moraes's grandfather Camoens had faith in Nehru but not in Gandhi. In the village India to which Gandhi appealed, he saw forces brewing that spelled trouble for India's minorities: "In the city we are for secular India but the village is for Ram... In the end I am afraid the villagers will march on the cities and people like us will have to lock our doors and there will come a Battering Ram." His prophecy begins to fulfill itself in Moraes's lifetime when the doors of the Babri mosque at Ayodhya are battered down by crowds of fanatical Hindus.

Camoens is prescient but ineffectual. Aurora, an activist as well as an artist, is the only da Gama with the strength to confront the dark forces at work in India. When the annual festival procession of the elephant-headed god Ganesha, a show of "Hindu-fundamentalist triumphalism," passes by their house, she dances in view of the celebrants, dancing against the god, though, alas, her dance is read by them as part of the spectacle (Hinduism notoriously absorbs its rivals). Every year she dances on the hillside; dancing at the age of sixty-three, she slips and falls to her death.


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  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
The word play in this novel was so funny; I remember laughing out loud while reading in the bathtub. Some of the female characters were just delightful. ( )
  KathyGilbert | Jan 29, 2016 |
A pretty entertaining story -- some truly unlikable characters, but that was part of the point. Many of the books I read shortly after 9/11 had things that reminded me of that day. This one had Muslims, buildings being destroyed -- it's jarring. One thing that he said, that really stood out for me and was a good thing to hear at that time, had to do with getting past fear. "I stopped being afraid because, if my time on earth was limited, I didn't have seconds to spare for funk ... I must live until I die." ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 22, 2014 |
I enjoyed Salman Rushdie's "The Moor's Last Sigh" -- and since it's the only Rushdie novel I've ever read it didn't suffer by comparison to his much-lauded prior book, "Midnight's Children," which apparently has a similar setting and appears to be generally preferred over this one.

"The Moor's Last Sigh" is the story of the Zogoiby family -- ruled over by a self-involved matriarch Aurora, an artist of some importance in her corner of India. The narrator of her book is her son Moor, who tells the story of several generations of his family, who are all pretty hell-bent on destroying themselves.

I really enjoyed Rushdie's use of language- he is a clever and entertaining writer. The story is mostly compelling too. I also felt it was a little too sprawling at times and wished it would wander back on over to the point. I definitely will read more books by Rushdie, based on my experience with this one. ( )
  amerynth | Jul 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
So, another brave and dazzling fable from Salman Rushdie, one that meets the test of civic usefulness -- broadly conceived -- as certainly as it fulfills the requirements of true art. No retort to tyranny could be more eloquent.
 
'Such surreal images, combined with the author's fecund language and slashing sleight of hand make it easy, in Mr. Rushdie's words, "not to feel preached at, to revel in the carnival without listening to the barker, to dance to the music" without seeming to hear the message in the glorious song.'
added by GYKM | editNew York Times, Michiko Kakutani (Dec 28, 1995)
 

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Salman Rushdieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dabekaussen, EugèneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maters, TillyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I have lost count of the days that have passed since I fled the horrors of Vasco Miranda's mad fortress in the Andalusian mountain-village of Benengeli; ran from death under cover of darkness and left a message nailed to the door.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679744665, Paperback)

In The Moor's Last Sigh Salman Rushdie revisits some of the same ground he covered in his greatest novel, Midnight's Children. This book is narrated by Moraes Zogoiby, aka Moor, who speaks to us from a gravestone in Spain. Like Moor, Rushdie knows about a life spent in banishment from normal society--Rushdie because of the death sentence that followed The Satanic Verses, Moor because he ages at twice the rate of normal humans. Yet Moor's story of travail is bigger than Rushdie's; it encompasses a grand struggle between good and evil while Moor himself stands as allegory for Rushdie's home country of India. Filled with wordplay and ripe with humor, it is an epic work, and Rushdie has the tools to pull it off. He earned a 1995 Whitbread Prize for his efforts.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:21 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Winner of England's prestigious Whitbread Ward, Rushdie's first novel in seven years is a peppery melange of genres: a deliciously inventive family saga; a subversive alternate history of modern India; a fairy tale as inexhaustibly imagined as any in The Arabian Nights; and a book of ideas on topics from art to ethnicity, from religious fanaticism to the terrifying power of love.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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