|Salman Rushdie's 1975 "science fiction" first novel Grimus found neither a critical nor popular audience when it was published initiatlly, rather, recognition came after the crticial success of 1981's Midnight's Children.|
by Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie's second novel, Midnight's Children, won the Booker Prize and catapulted Rushdie to international fame. Grimus was Rushdie's first novel, and it was published as "science fiction" and roundly ignored AND when not ignored, ridiculed. Rushdie's combination of source material ranging from 11th century Sufi poems to cutting edge academic French post-structuralist literary theory to the bildungsroman is well in evidence, but a novel that is difficult to understand even with full knowledge of Rushdie's subsequent work must have been especially baffling to the genre/literary critical audience in 1975, let alone a popular audience.
It is difficult to really give the flavor of Grimus in a plot description. Basically, there is a young Native American hermaphrodite who gains immortality. He travels the world for 777 years, before he becomes bored and ends up going into a parallel dimension where there is an island for disaffected immortals, presided over by a mysterious presence known as Grimus. None of this is stated in anything resembling a traditional narrative format.
Within the narrative Rushdie encloses some sophisticated discussions about the nature of the Rousseau-ean led enlightenment in the 18th century. Grimus is also a proper place to look for glimmerings of the "post-colonial" view point. Again, it's easy to see how one might miss the genius that is enfolded within the "science fiction" label. As science fiction or fantasy, Grimus is very much not either.