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Rushdie-Wushdie: Salman Rushdie’s Hobson-Jobson

From: New Literary History
Volume 40, Number 2, Spring 2009
pp. 385-410 | 10.1353/nlh.0.0087



Claims made on Salman Rushdie’s behalf about his use of language are commonplace, and often occur as variations on a standard refrain: Rushdie gives a new voice to India; he creates a language which captures in a dramatic fashion the semiological complexities of Indian vernaculars; his “bilingualism is different from that of all his predecessors”; his use of texts ranging from the Qur’an, The Thousand Nights and A Night , and Attar’s The Conference of the Birds to the Mahābhārata and The Ocean of the Rivers of Story , creates an insider’s world view not available, say, to a Forster or a Kipling, and so on. What has not been discussed at all seriously are the links between Rushdie and colonial discourses as well as his use of numerology. In locating one of the sources of Rushdie’s linguistic creativity in a colonial hobson-jobson, this essay suggests ways in which what has been referred to as Rushdie’s compact with the Western reader may be critically examined.

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