Thursday, May 14, 2009

The New Yorker: "In the South" by Salman Rushdie

This is a terrific story, possibly my favorite of the year so far. Senior and Junior are two old men with the same name who have come to the same place by taking very different routes. Junior is alone in the world, but Senior is crowded by his second wife and her family as well as hundreds of family members of his own. The groundwork that Rushdie lays is beautiful and intricate.
“Neither man slept well anymore. At night they lay on hard beds without pillows and, behind their closed eyelids, their unsettled thoughts ran in opposite directions. Of the two men, V. Senior had lived by far the fuller life.”
And so it is no surprise that Senior is the one who is ready to pack it in. It is the end of the year and the New Year approaches. He tells Junior that either he will die in the next five days . . . or “else a year will begin in which my end will surely come.” Junior scoffs. And in fact Senior does not die.

Without giving too much of the story away, what happens is that the devastaing Christmas Tsunami that crippled so much of Indonesia, Thailand and South India strikes. Senior survives but is left to wonder, “Why not me?”

It’s a powerful story that I look forward to reading again.

May 18, 2009: “In the South” by Salman Rushdie


RocK said...

A good read

Right now I'm in Chennai so its like reading a story of your own city and that feels good
and i like those painting too :)

Paul Epstein said...

Not sure this is relevant but the age of the author is exactly the same as the age of D'Mello. Rushdie was born in 1947, so at time of writing he was probably 61. And D'Mello was 20 years younger than Junior who was 81.

81 - 20 = 2009 - 1(to allow for publication time etc) - 1947 = 61.

Paul Epstein

Clifford Garstang said...

Interesting observation, Paul. I wonder if there's a case to be made that D'Mello somehow is Rushdie and, if so, what that means. D'Mello in the story is a Christian and he is presumed to have died in the tsunami (or at least disappeared). Care to make an argument as to what Rushdie might be saying there?

Seaurchin said...

I am ambarrassed to say I didn't appreciate "In the South". I think it has to do with the fact that I felt as if the story was too evident, too obvious. I knew that the old men bickered and took jabs at each other, thinking they couldn't live with eachother, when in realty, like an old couple, they couldn't live withought each other, and even without the bickering.

Seniors erroneous judegement of the moped girls and his inabilty to change his judgement even as he learned it was flawed was interesting.

However overall, I had trouble becoming involved with the story and I really had to prod myself to get to the end. In fact, I felt much like the two old men, wobbling persistently and stubbonly in my pursuit of the last phrase.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the story but was unclear why it is titled "In the South" Any thoughts?

Clifford Garstang said...

The story is set in South India (where the tsunami hit), of course, and there's a fairly distinct culture there, but other than that I don't know that the title has any particular significance.

Buffy said...

I just read this last night...every time I read something Rushdie, I'm reminded of how much I love his words.