Book #10

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

Haroun's father is the greatest of all storytellers. His magical stories bring laughter to the sad city of Alifbay. But one day something goes wrong and his father runs out of stories to tell. Haroun is determined to return the storyteller's gift to his father. So he flies off on the back of the Hoopoe bird to the Sea of Stories - and a fantastic adventure begins.

This is a gorgeous little children's tale. All the elements are there - the good, the bad, the funny, the frightening, the magical, the logical, the sheer force of adventure. 

Haroun’s father is the greatest storyteller in the city of Alfibay and beyond. He’s relied upon to bring cheer to the mostly miserable inhabitants, and his success is abundant. After a heartbreak, Haroun’s father loses the ability to tell stories, and Haroun heads out on a quest to refill his father with all of the engrossing stories he’s lost.

Rushdie’s use of language here is masterful and profound. His engaging structure, and ability to weave stories within stories, with both references and imagination, is utterly glorious. He employs humour and tragedy in equal measure, both with success, in order to create this tale of bravery and resilience.

There’s a lot of love in these pages. The love between father and son is mainly apparent, and as Rushdie dedicated this story to his son, it’s clear to see his experience with familial love. Yet it’s more than just that - we have love of language and stories, love of another which can’t be understood, love allowing characters to commit acts they never would have dreamed of without that passion. It’s really beautiful.

Rushdie is commenting here on the importance of stories, and the importance of their telling. That the antagonist is someone who is entirely against language, and who lobbies for the eradication of speech, is telling in itself.

I read Midnight’s Children some years ago and loved it, but with Haroun, I can now see Rushdie’s diverse talent for prose. This is a very important and delightful story which I know I’ll come back to again.